This weekend I attended my first Machete seminar. I traveled to the warehouse at 319 N. 11th Street Saturday night not to better understand how to cut;  I went to sharpen a blade.

Is Machete a group of Amazonian tour guides? Are they a nonprofit advocating for the implementation of mazes in Philly’s overgrown vacant lots? Well, no. But they are in the business of trailblazing. Machete is a collection of philosophers, artists, and thinkers of all kind who come together under the mantra “theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.” Their focus is the critical engagement of aesthetic practice. They are finding new ways to navigate through art and the universe.

Machete is manifested in two primary forms: a discussion group and a newsprint publication. The discussion group meets about once every two months to discuss the philosophy, history, and politics of art, with a focus on 20th century and contemporary works. They provide a suggested reading list for all attendees (and post convenient PDFs of all materials on their site) so as to ground the conversation. Each meeting begins with a talk by two or three of the Machete leaders, typically Gabriel Rockhill, Avi Alpert, and a resident artist/thinker. From there, a question & answer portion ensues. Beer is provided.

The publication/zine is a collection of critical essays and interviews with local men and women with new ideas. It varies from one to five pull-out sheets and is one-hundred percent free. Copies of the newsprint, as well as back-issues, can be picked up outside the Marginal Utility gallery space at the address listed above (while you are at the warehouse, be sure to make a stop at Vox Populi on the third floor).

Saturday’s meeting was a great way to start the night. I will most certainly be heading back for the regular discussions. To read an interview with founders Yuka Yokayama and David Dempewolf, head over to Roberta Fallon and Libby Rosof’s ArtBlog.

Heather Sincavage

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