IF I RULED THE WORLD by Press Press, an Introduction by Kimi Hanauer
Last summer in Baltimore, just a few months following the Baltimore Uprising, I started reaching out to possible collaborators for a project that has now become If I Ruled The World. At that time, it felt like the most important thing I could do was to be present with other people who cohabitate the city, to be as aware as possible of the people around me and the vastly different experiences of this city that we all have.
I’m not sure that I was able to discreetly identify this at the time; I didn’t know exactly why I was starting this project, but somehow this collection of works and conversations came out of an attempt to be fully present. Starting at that moment, and over the past couple months in Baltimore, for me, to be fully present has meant having conversations, or listening in on conversations, that investigate where freedom and joy exist in Baltimore and where freedom and joy could, but does not yet, exist in Baltimore.
The prompt for this project, taken from Nas’ song “If I Ruled The World” (It Was Written, 1996) featuring Lauryn Hill, is a contradiction itself; on one hand, it asserts that everyone has the right to take up space and envision the world as they want it, but on the other, it claims an old-school, hierarchical way of structuring life.
However outdated this question might be, it provoked a series of collaborative, artistic responses and conversations by Baltimore-based creatives and activists, who attempted to find a contemporary way of asking the question itself. Artistic collaborators who stepped into this project did not only contribute content but also defined the direction of the entire project and identified new collaborators to pull in.
Thus, this collection of unique voices, works and conversations grew organically over the past few months and will continue to exist in various forms: as an ongoing series on BmoreArt, on a digital platform, as a printed publication and as a conference at this year’s Publications and Multiples Fair.
Contributors include: Khadija Nia Adell, Jared Brown, Person Ablach, Amy Reid, Greydolf, Bonnie Jones, students of the Baltimore City Community College Refugee Youth Project, Kursten Pickup, Besan Khamis, Rahul Subhash Shinde, Bryanna Jenkins, Get Your Life! Production, Loring Cornish and Kate Khatib.
When starting this project, my hope was that the prompt would inspire collaborators to imagine their most positive visions of the world, and through that positivity, would be able to thoughtfully and critically investigate the nuances within the struggle for social equity in our city. However, this collection of works evolved to approach art and activism much more broadly, touching on subjects such as health, education, language, public space and more.
These themes that emerged in reaction to the on-going threads I set up, questions such as, What makes you feel free? What is special to you about Baltimore? What do you say 100% yes to? ground this investigation in the idea that activism can take many different forms, and is, at it’s root, something that is strongly tied to the ways we live our lives every single day.
Instead of being a call for imagination, this project evolved to investigate and exemplify the concrete actions that can grow out of the audacity and the courage that it takes to imagine the world as you want it to be.
This is a call for more than imagination.
What if you ruled the world?
Kimi Hanauer, Press Press
Image caption: Image by Gaia, quote by Jared Brown, printed by Press Press.