How to Throw Yourself a DIY Retrospective

(as an artist with a community-based live art practice and a side of polymath)

Hadassah Damien
13 min readJul 12, 2019

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I curated a DIY retrospective of my artwork, and it was awesome. Here’s how you can do it too.

June 21–23, 2019 I showed a retrospective of my creative cultural production to date. I’m newly 40 and I wanted to take stock of the output of my community-based practice, as a live performing artist, and as a writer. I hoped to find patterns and perhaps another part of my story. And, crucially, I had the time and resources to make it happen.

Photo of Lair Fera gallery installation by the artist

So many friends said “I’m taking this idea!” — Good! Do yourself the favor of an introspective retrospective time. Below are the steps I took, takeaways, and photos of the process. Keep scrolling to see the curatorial statement and, of course, community thank-yous!

To see documentation of the shows: Retro-speculative/spectacular/spective, check out the archive here, or check out the Catalog at this link with a Full CV To Date, at itself is a mini archive of LGBTQ art and activism.

Photo of Lair Fera gallery installation by the artist

STEP 1: Make stuff and keep it.

This might be obvious, but in our increasingly digital age it might be difficult to produce actual artifacts of your work, unless you’ve kept a lot of things like ephemera, costumes, notes, and/or are meticulous about organizing documentation afterwards.

Photo by the artist

TAKEAWAY:

For those of us in community practice, we’re often working at the edges of subcultures and our documentation is important. We may well be THE ones to tell our stories, and to lift up the voices around us. That alone is worth the time of archiving, to me. I don’t want some historian to get it wrong later: we’ve been creating our stories ourselves this whole time.

STEP 2: Identify the time and place for the retrospective.

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Hadassah Damien

design strategist & facilitator // economics researcher @rffearlessmoney // progressive technologist // performer