Center for Art,
Research and Alliances
July 17 – September 03, 2023

bloom how you must, wild until we are free

Exhibition Cover

bloom how you must, wild until we are free is an invitation to the visionary organizations The Octavia Project and Voluminous Arts. Over nearly two months, CARA will become a host for these two projects, amplifying their study and creation, and co-creating critical practices of community building. Voluminous Arts, founded by Gavilán Rayna Russom, is a transgender liberation project and record label which creates space for trans people to explore expansiveness through music, sound, community and experimental art. Voluminous Arts operates a community resource hub in New York, and provides employment for trans people in a supportive environment. The Octavia Project is an educational non-profit and summer camp for women and non-binary and trans youth to envision new futures, inspired by the work of science fiction author Octavia E. Butler. Both organizations cultivate environments of joyful speculation, building supportive infrastructures for dreaming.

Inspired by a lineage of queer kinship and reciprocity, bloom how you must, wild until we are free draws from trans poet and scholar Cameron Awkward-Rich’s poem  “Cento Between Ending and the End.” Composed entirely of the words of his friends and those he calls “friends of [the] mind,” the poem reminds us that who we are in solitude and who we are in shared space are fundamentally intertwined. In this summer program, shared dreaming and experimentation become conduits for more just and free worlds, where a single heart always beats in tandem with another.

In bloom how you must, CARA will transform into an experimental residency program for the two organizations. Co-developed by Voluminous Arts’ Director Russom and the CARA team, the Voluminous Arts residency will nurture the practices of six artists from the label's roster: Mercury Symbol, Anka Raczynska, Omari Love, Rat Porridge, Ris Gumpert, and Yvonne LeBien. For these artists the building’s second floor will function as a site for research, experimentation, and conversation. Artists will participate in regular seminars with a small group of Visiting Faculty composed of musicians, scholars, queer historians, and interdisciplinary artists, including Victoria Cruz, Anaïs  Duplan, devynn emory, Silvia Federici, Che Gossett, Isadora Neves Marques, S.J Norman, and McKenzie Wark. Learn more about the study program here. On Fridays during the residency the second floor space will be open for visitors and casual conversations. For the final two weeks of the program CARA's second floor space will remain open to the public presenting material traces of the artists-in-residences' research.

On Monday evenings, CARA will host Cooler Nights, inspired by Gavilán Rayna Russom's memories of the free artist curated “Monday Nite” series which took place between 1993 and 2001 at The Cooler, a club in the pre-gentrification meatpacking district, not far from CARA. While active, the Monday Nite series became an important site for artists and musicians including Amiri Baraka, Debbie Harry, Peaches, Christian Marclay, and Russom herself. Cooler Nights at CARA will be experimental sonic, noise and performance programs co-curated by Russom, the artists-in-residence, and CARA’s Curator of Public Programs, Emmy Catedral which will work to complement the research elements of Voluminous Arts' study program. These programs aim to revitalize the legacy of this celebrated West Village institution while inviting in the voices of contemporary experimental artists including Ikue Mori, Pauli Cakes, Gyna Bootleg, Naija Couture, Jodi Lin, Many Many Girls, Lucy York, and more. Learn more about The Cooler Nights here.

In parallel, students in The Octavia Project’s annual Summer Institute, which CARA is partially financially supporting, will spend five weeks in Brooklyn learning and creating across disciplines. The free summer program for youth in grades 9-12 focuses on STEM, writing, art, and digital media, facilitating student’s intellectual and emotional growth. The youth’s work spans urban planning, experimental fiction, computer programming, group work, and more, with an ethos of experimentation and play. The Summer Institute culminates in a Showcase hosted at CARA where students will present their work and discuss their creative projects.

For the duration of bloom how you must CARA will host a library and film screening series that works symbiotically with the Summer’s pedagogical sessions, expanding to include reading lists about speculative fiction curated by the Octavia Project, materials and media connected to Voluminous Arts's work, and research offerings curated by CARA’s team.

bloom how you must hopes to move towards care based partnerships within arts institutions, extending the reach and scope of the work of Voluminous Arts, The Octavia Project, and CARA to create conditions for rest, alternative scholarship, play, and symbiosis.

Through historical conjurings and invitations for creation, we will think expansively about what is to come—making and sustaining work in communities of the past, present, and future.

And so, as we return to the beginning, we remind ourselves:

bloom how you must, wild until we are free.

The summer program was made possible through the collective work of CARA, Voluminous Arts, and Octavia Project.

CARA: Emmy Catedral, Curator of Public Programs; Marian Chudnovsky, Program and Administrative Assistant; Rahul Gudipudi, Senior Curator; Manuela Moscoso, Executive Director and Chief Curator; Maya Piergies, Deputy Director; and Agustin Schang, Producer. Voluminous Arts: Gavilán Rayna Russom, Founder and Director with María Rivera Felizardo and Crystal Peñalosa. Octavia Project: Meghan McNamara, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Ananya Garg, Program Manager. Design by Studio Manuel Raeder and Rodolfo Samperio, and The Rodina Studio.

Images by Emmanuel Abreu.

Program Dates

Cooler Nights: July 17, July 24, July 31, August 7, August 14

Octavia Project Showcase: August 3rd

Film Screening Program: During CARA's open hours. Duration: 1 hour and 52 minutes (Repeats every two hours). Films included:

Kang Seung Lee (in collaboration with Joshua Serafin and Nathan Mercury Kim), The Heart of A Hand, 2023

Chitra Ganesh, How We Do, 2018-2020

Jodi Lin, Borte, Queen of Tibet, 2011

Isadora Neves-Marques, Tornar-se um Homem na Idade Média [Becoming Male in the Middle Ages], 2022

Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S.), Collective Hum, 2019

Evan Ifekoya, Undercurrent 528, 2021

More about the contributors

The Octavia Project offers summer programs which use speculative fiction as a lens through which to envision new futures and greater possibilities for our world. Their free Summer Camp for middle schoolers and Summer Institute for high schoolers bring together young women and trans and nonbinary youth to build new worlds.

Voluminous Arts is a trangender liberation project based in Glendale, Queens that creates space for trans people to explore expansiveness and agency through music, sound, community and experimental art.This entirely trans-led organization operates a community resource hub for trans artists and provides employment to trans people in a respectful environment. The project is supported through donations and sales of music and merchandise.Voluminous Arts seeks to nurture deep relationships between trans experience and experimental creative forms through mentorship, increased access to resources, and community building.

Gavilán Rayna Russom is an artist based in New York City. Over the past two decades she has produced a complex and compelling body of work that fuses theory with expression, nightlife with academia,and spirituality with everyday life. Rayna’s renowned prowess with analog and digital synthesizers as composing instruments locates itself within her larger vision of synthesis—an artistic method of weaving together highly differentiated strands of information and creative material into cogent expressive wholes. The central thread of this practice is the exploration of liminality as a healing agent, a phenomenon she has been engaged with since childhood and has researched at an astounding depth. Her work is cumulative and experiential. It requires time and attention to take in, and it powerfully rewards those who bring their time and attention to it. In March of 2020, Rayna founded Voluminous Arts, a creative network for trans artists experimenting with electronic music and sound.

Rat Porridge is an outsider, no-discipline artist from Queens, New York. She plays with sound, video, found object, and performance, simultaneously reflecting and reshaping her surroundings. She has performed across the “Americas” using sound as a portal to access ancestral wisdom and open up dimensions beyond our currently programmed realities. She released her debut full-length album, Live from the Plant, in 2021 with Voluminous Arts and is toying with a follow-up. These days she’s mostly hanging out with her loved ones, resting, exploring plant medicine, collective healing, and slowly forming new worlds out of dense noisescapes.

Omari Love is a multidimensional artist who grew up in the cold city of St. Paul, Minnesota, and now resides in Brooklyn, New York. Their sound is a direct reflection of their story, and for them, lyrics and poetry are a focal point within the musical realm that they paint for their listener to indulge in. Their sound is similar to the human spectrum of emotions, as it fluctuates from dark, heavy, and electronic, to soft, light, and acoustic. From refined and structured to chaotic and distorted. Omari doesn’t conform to any specific genre and incorporates elements from different chapters of their life in order to encompass the feelings they’re looking to convey.

Yvonne LeBien has published books with GenderFail, including Word Dysphoria and Queer and Mumbling: Fragments of Philosophical Faggotry, as well as the poetry book cumflower with Wendy’s Subway. Their music can be found at An album of vocal improv performances, Do You Really Like it When the Bad Thoughts Don’t Come, was published with Voluminous Arts.

Ris Gumpert is a musician, performance artist, and interdisciplinary wordsmith who has been performing and producing shows in countless venues across Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, Queens, and beyond, since 2011. Ris’s passion resides primarily in queer community building, group facilitation, and the exploration of movement-based healing modalities as methods to end our dependence on structures that continue to harm and oppress us. Ris believes firmly in the power of imperfection and leans into the occasional-to-frequent chaos that is inevitably intertwined in the collective human experience. In addition to Voluminous Arts, Ris has been integral to the formation of various New York City-based art collectives including, but not limited to, Stigma Unbound and The Cake Boys.

Mercury Symbol/Adonis Staten is a musician, artist, and educator living and working in New York City. With an acute interest in noise music and DIY culture, Adonis performs across the underground circuit of Brooklyn and Queens under the moniker “Mercury Symbol,” creating in-situ compositions using sampling, field recordings, and mixer feedback. With multiple releases under this name—and most recently a feature in the critically-acclaimed People of Eternity: BDS Mixtape Vol 1—Adonis showcases mastery and deep curiosity in improvisational and experimental techniques across his work.

Anka Raczynska is a musician and improvisationalist based in Providence, Rhode Island. Classically trained in viola performance and composition, music has always been deeply ingrained in Anka’s life. Anka has performed and released work under an array of aliases—most recently using EAR. Pervading each EAR record is a desire to find an immediacy: “what you hear is what you get.” The records contain juxtaposed found sounds and voice memos, pointing toward the transcendent in the overlooked. Her work is influenced by her politics, as well as video games, choreography, radio shows, and public access television. Anka has spent the past several years committing to a liberatory world vision: “If I can’t dance (or play games) you can keep your revolution.”