Alumni Profile:
Quinn Latimer

Class of 1996

After I graduated from Oak Grove, I moved to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College to study writing and contemporary art, among other things. SLC was a really transformative experience—the friends I made there, the breadth of my studies in art and the humanities, New York itself—and likely shaped so much of what I have done and experienced since. After I graduated I moved to the city and worked as an editor at Art21 and various places, and then I attended Columbia University, where I received my MFA in poetry. But both before and after I worked in the contemporary art world as a writer, editor, and curator, and this has predicted my life since: my main medium is language, this is how I see and mediate the world, and yet I am most often working in the visual art world, among images and objects.

I eventually left New York and moved to Basel, Switzerland, where I began working more seriously as an art critic and editor of art books, as well as began publishing books of my own: collections of poetry and essays, mostly, but also more hybrid forms of writing that move between the performance and the page, between ideas of the score and the script. I was appointed editor-in-chief of publications for documenta 14, the international art exhibition that occurs every five years, and this brought me to Athens, Greece, where I now spend part of my time. In Basel, I am Head of the MA program at Institute Kunst Gender Natur, which is the school for fine arts in the city. In addition to heading the Master program there, I teach seminars on feminist and decolonial poetics and performance, as well as on the relationship between moving-image practices and literatures, and I co-curate a biannual symposia series on recent movements in artistic practice, gender, and social justice. I’ve also recently curated exhibitions in New York and Vienna that continue my interest in how literature and visual culture folds into each other: SIREN (some poetics) was on view at Amant, in New York last year, and Perpetual Language just closed at Galerie Croy Nielsen in Vienna.

My time at Oak Grove was brief, just the last two years of high school, but I think its emphasis on living in coexistence with what we often call the natural world really impressed itself on me, as well as the school’s sense, received from Krishnamurti, of a more international and philosophical sense of being in and with the world. I could tell even then, as a teenager, that many of the teachers at Oak Grove were there because they were searching for something outside of the normative way of working and living. Their personal searching seemed palpable to me, even as a kid. And I feel some sympathy with that now. Also, I am aware now of the strange responsibility of teaching, of passing on forms of knowledge and histories, and the way it opens up one to the world. I think my best memories of Oak Grove were outside the classroom, though, in our trips in Anza-Borrego, staring at the stars after long days of hiking, or in Matilija, when we were asked to go out alone and record our thoughts. I think about those landscapes often, and how they felt to be within them. I often think of a line by Ailton Krenak, in which he said (I paraphrase): “Nature only exists if you think of yourself outside of it.” I really feel that.

Rumored Animals Book

Rumored Animals

Winner of the 2010 American Poetry Journal Book Prize
In her debut, Latimer draws on sources from contemporary photography and art–Diane Arbus, Francesca Woodman, Donald Judd–to develop a complex engagement with constructions of self and prevailing cultural determinations of the female and feminine. In rich, robust sounds and rhythms, the poet strives to recognize herself within surface and image (“silver mirrors of ice,” “a water pale body miming my own”), attempts to identify with the object of an outside gaze, figured as the looming presence of a brutally defining camera, and a discomfort at the fraught relation between herself as body and represented sign. More often than not, illusory, elusive reflective surfaces prove dangerously isolating (“Blue mirrors/ of lakes linger like glittery apprentices…. In their reflection, I stumble…”) while the poet’s consciousness of being seen and fixed by another is spiked with mistrust: “all borders are defined by/ a body and the water lapping against it./ Whose hands hold this picture?/ Whose eyes?” Negotiating contradictory urges to conceal and reveal identity, Latimer allows a quiet refusal to come fully into view. This is an impressive debut. –Publishers Weekly

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Are you an Oak Grove alumni? We’d love to hear from you! Please make sure you visit the alumni page and we’ll keep in touch with an occasional update about what’s new at Oak Grove, alumni events and opportunities to stay connected.

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