Whitehot Magazine

VITAL INFORMATION presents: Nothing dared, nothing gained

Sean Waltrous, “Black Trans Liberation March, West Village, Manhattan, NY, July 4th, 2020”, Digital photograph, 2020, Courtesy of the Artist.

Nothing dared, nothing gained: Raphael Barnes, Andrece Brady, James Brooke, Huascar Miolan, Nina Raquel, Sailor Boom, Corinne Spencer, Synead, Sean Waltrous


May 3rd through May 16th, 2021 

By DARYL KING, July 2021

Art has become the hottest new asset to add to a growing portfolio. It is also a way of life, a means of self-expression and identification. Anyone can purchase a piece of art, ranging from work bought on the street, to something bought at a gallery. Because it is rooted in European systems of economic exchange, most of the wealth derived from art is outside of the hands of marginalized groups and ethnicities outside of the category of cisgender white men. VITAL INFORMATION proposes an idea to use art activism and the production of informational zines to allow advocacy.  The collective is based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Before Manhattan residents flocked to Hamptons during the summer, wealthy Manhattanites owned vacation homes in Crown Heights. After more African American and Caribbean people moved into the neighborhood, residents of European descent fled the community for less diversified habitats. Less than a century later, Gentrification soon became a new challenge, as Millennials and college graduates discovered apartments with affordable rent. Yet, COVID-19, and subsequent quarantines, showed everyone that not everyone can afford even the most affordable rent. Lack of financial resources could never prevent a creator from having an idea, but s/he is forced to learn other skills to support their practice. The collective’s first show, Nothing dared, nothing gained, truthfully questioned whether these artists, and others like them, would be able to receive any realized gains from their artwork. Although the show was up for a brief moment in the Spring, the surrounding dialogue will be relevant for years afterwards.

Huascar Miolan, Untitled (Gentrification series). Acrylic on canvas, 2016.

DARYL KING: Can you provide more details about VITAL INFORMATION and how the collective was started by service industry workers?  I normally work as a chef so I am excited to hear how others are approaching art and activism, from the perspective of someone with a background in the culinary industry.

LUKE MANNARINO: Emily (Addison) and I (Luke Mannarino) are both service industry workers or former. I am a bartender and Emily worked for many years up until a few months ago in wine retail. We started the collective in August 2020. We were protesting in the streets last summer, but wanted to find a more sustainable relationship with activism. Being confronted by cops, multiple times a week, was very taxing (We have to upmost respect those on the front lines, as they are doing the hardest work.) I was supposed to return to work last August, when people became to test positive for COVID at my old restaurant. This was caused by bad management and oversight (maskless parties and firing people asking to quarantine). With Emily being a graphic designer and myself being an artist, we decided we wanted to share our resources. Our first zine, a pocket zine for safety resources related to covid, was born! We wanted to work with and include other artists, who, like us, lost their jobs or needed a platform to share their work and that has remained our mission.  

DARYL KING: Can you explain his lexicon and how you notice when it evolves? 

RAPHAEL BARNES: I embarked on this project ten years ago as a high school freshman when I began to construct a lexicon and a corresponding script. At the time, it was a mere experiment– spurred on by a growing interest in foreign languages. I had studied Spanish previously and was learning Latin and Japanese. While I created the individual words, the grammatical structures of these preexisting tongues were adopted.  Additionally, as a visual artist, I found myself crafting a complex writing system– primarily influenced by the Arabic alphabet and Japanese hiragana, as well as looped cursive script. It was only a few months into the endeavor, however, that I realized: language can not exist in a vacuum. And so, I began to create a whole culture. This process is much akin to that of J.R.R. Tolkein’s in inventing Middle Earth, who highlighted that “If you invent a language yourself, you can’t cut it in half. It [has] to come alive– so really the languages came first and the country after” (41). As time went on, I became more ambitious. I started studying Russian and Arabic in addition to the two other languages which I was learning previously. It further impacted the construction of my own, reflected mostly in the grammar. It grew to be significantly more complex, inspired by the morphological intricacies of the new languages I took on. 

Raphael Barnes, “Annals of Creation (installation view, from left, ‘rebirth’, ‘foundation and substance’, ‘union’)”, Sumi and archival ink on paper, 2021, Courtesy of the Artist, Photo by VITAL INFORMATION.

DARYL KING: Why are you trying to control your sense or degree of chaos?

HUASCAR MIOLAN: If I do not control the chaos, who else will? 

DARYL KING: What are some of the other things that the Black feminine body contains?

CORINNE SPENCER: When I wrote that the Black feminine body is the container of the universe, I was talking about the primacy of my experience, as a Black woman in a world which denies my humanity. I am asserting myself and my perspective and my form as the central figure, the foundation, and the eyes through which the world looks. It is a call to move beyond the limitations of what a White imagination of Blackness is and into the vastness, the complexity, spiritually, and transcendent essence which is the true core of Blackness. I am speaking of that essence. I am saying I am the Allness, I am that which is indivisible from all things known and unknown. I am speaking, unabashedly, of my sacredness and the profundity, the sacredness, of all Black people.

DARYL KING: What provoked your sense of self-awareness?

SYNEAD: I started a journey in 2018 which forced me to re-examine the way I functioned and valued myself when it came to romantic relationships. I decided, after 14 years of seriously committing myself to partners, that I would stop living through this "ride or die" narrative. That I would take some time to get to know who I was. It sparked within me a ferocity; a deep desire to figure out when am I the strongest. Where am I the happiest? What is the best version of myself? I was so tired of society telling me that I was the best when I was with men, when in my realm of existence... that was a complete lie. I had to unlearn two decades of information and programming. I went through several deaths just to get here today, and I couldn't be prouder, more on fire, with fervor for the passion that I have for my life. It's a very new feeling and I am so excited to see what this brings about in my new world. WM

Daryl Rashaan King

Daryl Rashaan King currently works as a Teaching Artist with Leap NYC; a Chef de Partie at CUT by Wolfgang Puck, The Four Seasons Tribeca; and the Vice President of the Asian American Film Lab. He is the founder/ principal of kokuoroi, a multidisciplinary creative studio. The studio focuses on problems derived from urban living, viewed through the perspective of King, a Brooklyn native. A graduate of Columbia University, who originally specialized in painting, some of King’s goals include obtaining both an M. Arch and an Expert Diploma in Culinary Arts. He would also like to pursue various art and design programs and to live abroad. King has already earned certificates from Parsons in Streetwear; completed part of the Sustainable Design Foundation at Pratt Institute; and volunteered in Cusco, Peru at the construction site of a new Lower School. His work has greatly evolved since taking an Information Architecture course focused on Future Cities, hosted by the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. A former varsity wrestler, King has hopes of learning and practicing new martial arts. When he isn’t working, enjoying music, or playing video games, King’s focus is on the future.

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