No. 1 Gold does things with books.
That’s right. Right now (about now) the No. 1 Gold collective works under the clunky and wonderful banner of: doing things with books. We are grounded in the love of books, reading and writing and in the joy of doing things with people who love books, reading and writing. We are small and plan to remain small (and slow) as a way to think big. We want to hold on to and encourage what we love, and bring together people and things that normally don’t come together.
Meeting minutes from our 2018 relaunch:
as for we who love to be astonished/ we do things because we want to do them/ how to turn a monument into a surprise/ I don’t know what this is but I want to follow it/ errands, dreams/ you are walking up a mountain and you can listen to these words/ long tables: the dinner is the performance/ look, I want to show you this beautiful thing, here’s what we find beautiful/ amplitude/ oddities/ doing things with books/ a practice that gathers all of my rivers/ black, brown & of the colors/ staying small as a way to think big (& be free)/ eros/ that freaked me out, but I loved it so much/ ways of being together/ what is it possible to do together (with books) that is distinct from what we do alone/ spark and fire– super smart and super warm / elastic time/ many, many languages/ look, listen, here/ drop everything and read
Madhu H. Kaza was born in Andhra Pradesh, India, and lives in New York City, where she writes Mexican essays in English and experiments as an artist, writer, translator, educator, and collaborator.
Gabrielle Civil is a black feminist performance artist, poet, and writer, originally from Detroit. She currently lives in Southern California. The aim of her work is to open up space.
No. 1 Gold:
No.1 Gold was founded in 1997 as an artistic collaboration of three women of color artists and writers, Gabrielle Civil, Madhu H. Kaza, and Rosamond. S. King (aka “those black girls and that Indian one”). Active in the late 1990s through the mid 2000s, No 1. Gold was a creative laboratory for race, creative writing, conceptual and performance art. The founding statement declared:
writing urban travel labor No. 1 Gold = space aesthetics represent dilettante astonishment
These keywords informed a series of conceptual, literary, dissemination and mail-art projects as well as three live performance events. Inspired by Félix González-Torres, Coco Fusco, and Fred Wilson (mad props!), No.1 Gold served as a means of the members’ collective self-education and development as writers, performance and conceptual artists, teachers, thinkers and bodies in public space.
With no formal visual art background or the help of the internet, No 1. Gold members used the collective to explore and embody new possibilities for creative writing, race and art in New York City and beyond.
No. 1 Gold was relaunched with new areas of emphasis (“doing things with books”) in 2018.
No. 1 Gold originally emerged as the art-making wing of Witness Tree, a non-profit literary arts education organization founded in 1996 by Gabrielle Civil and Rosamond S. King, and joined a few months later by Madhu H. Kaza as co-director. Witness Tree’s mission statement read:
Witness Tree is dedicated to revealing the liberatory force of literature in diverse communities. For students and teachers of all levels, as well as social organizations and book clubs, Witness Tree offers literature exploration workshops and curriculum planning sessions. We conduct interactive literary events and disseminate bibliographic information on lesser-read books and genres, mainly poetry, play writing and fiction created by people of color and women. Witness Tree also offers creative writing workshops to groups that serve many communities including youth, those in correctional facilities, and those served by public assistance programs. Creative writing workshops allow participants a supportive space in which they can express their experiences and hopes in writing.
Witness Tree’s activities create and enhance people’s interest in literature, encouraging participants to allow poetry, plays, and fiction to enter and alter their lives. Witness Tree believes the written word provides stimuli to the mind, and sustenance and survival of the spirit. We hope that our workshops and other activities, enhanced by suggested lists of books and relevant publishers, will motivate participants to make the reading, and perhaps the writing, of literature an integral part of their lives.
Since 1996 Witness Tree has created programming for constituencies including adopted youth, incarcerated individuals, cancer patients, New York City public school teachers, corporate employees and high school students of color. We have conducted literary events and sponsored activities in NYC parks, bars, hotels, laundromats, museums and other non-conventional places as well as in sites in Minnesota, Maryland, Trinidad, South Africa, Gambia, Haiti and India. Organizations that we have created programming for include PEN America, Literacy Partners, the Police Athletic League and the New York City Ballet.