Gay Pompeii 79 A.D.
by Legacy Russell

Gay Pompeii 
by Legacy Russell
Designed by Be Oakley
1st Edition of 1000
Co-published with Pompeii Commitment
Risograph and Digital
February 2024


Pompeii Commitment’s Digital Fellowship programme endorses and encourages experimental methodologies and open-ended approaches. It was created with the goal of providing a space to carry out expanded research – remotely or in situ – over a period of several months, focusing on Pompeii or aspects related to its symbology and significance. Testament to this spirit, 2023 Digital Fellow Legacy Russell is using this framework as an opportunity to generate new thinking and writing, which will culminate in a printed chapbook of new poems published in collaboration with Be Oakley / GenderFail (New York)  in 2024. To mark the conclusion of the inaugural cycle of Digital Fellowships, the development of the upcoming new publication is announced to the public.

In 2020, Legacy Russell’s first book Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto engaged with topics related to gender, race, and technology, quickly becoming a milestone text in contemporary discourse. In particular, the book reflects on how glitches, which are typically considered errors or malfunctions, can be seen as opportunities for resistance and subversion. Russell connects these ideas to broader discussions about identity and power structures. She mixes academic writing with personal anecdotes, employing an exploratory style that involves a degree of fragmentation and describes Internet’s opportunities for nurturing pixelated personae, from the early online years of the Web 1.0 to the present. In a conversation with Lynn Hershman Leeson published in 2020, Russell explained that the glitch can be productive because it pushes in alternative directions. It allows us to observe where systems succeed, and where they fail, and it generates possibilities for building worlds differently: “Most of my important work happened on the cusp of some disaster. The glitch occurs when something goes completely wrong. It resides inside the anatomy of something that failed, and in looking at that anatomy, you often come up with a completely new strategy for survival.” 1

When reading Glitch Feminism, we wondered if the 79 AD Vesuvius’ eruption – and Pompeii too – could be read through the lens of the glitch. Pompeii Commitment. Archaeological Matters looks back to the paradox of the eruption as a moment of destruction as catalysing new possibilities and perspectives, transforming the landscape and challenging established narratives. Borrowing from the index of Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto, one may say that Pompeii also “refuses, it is cosmic, it throws shade, it ghosts, it is error, it encrypts, it is skin, it mobilises, it remixes, it survives”. Pompeii is a trans-temporal passage, a portal rooted in natural catastrophe which brought destruction, preservation and re-generation all at once. As discussed by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Hans Ulrich Obrist on Pompeii Commitment in 2021, evoking Glissant’s tremblement, Pompeii is comparable to the volcanic trembling transcending the established system of thought. These ideas feel pertinent in drawing hypothetical parallels between Glitch Feminism and Pompeii both as a symbol and a physical manifestation of time and space. In such an in-between state, Pompeii escapes dualisms, many worlds coexist, and Russell’s approach to the digital space as a world-building dimension and tool strongly resonates.

The unique collaboration with the independent, “imperfect”, queer publishing platform GenderFail further adds to the proposition of understanding failure from an intersectional perspective. Established in 2015 by Be Oakley in Brooklyn, New York, GenderFail’s published projects have included volumes such as Radical Softness as a Boundless Form of Resistance (2019) and the more recent essay Failure as Futuremaking (2023) in which Oakley identifies various forms of failure – personal, public, and political – as an unlimited source of creative potential. In their essay, Oakley states: “The very structure of success in a white cis male dominated society necessitates that we deny our true desires, incessantly defer them. It necessitates a constant, hyper-masculine drive for dominance – the very thing radical queerness is trying to destroy – in order to attain even a barely adequate standard of living. [...] Do we become failures in order to preserve a measure of autonomy? Or do we embrace success to live?



Legacy Russell (b. 1986, New York City, USA) is a curator and writer. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen, New York. Formerly she was the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Russell holds an MRes with Distinction in Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London with a focus in Visual Culture. Her academic, curatorial, and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry, and new media ritual. Russell’s written work, interviews, and essays have been published internationally. Recent exhibitions include: Matthew Lutz-Kinoy: Filling Station, Samora Pinderhughes: GRIEF, and Sadie Barnette: The New Eagle Creek Saloon, all at The Kitchen, New York (2023-2022); The New Bend, Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles and Somerset (2023-2022); The Condition of Being Addressable, ICA, Los Angeles (2022); Projects: Kahlil Robert Irving, Projects: Garrett Bradley, and Projects: Michael Armitage all at The Studio Museum in Harlem in partnership with The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2022-2019); (Never) As I Was, This Longing Vessel, and MOOD at The Studio Museum in Harlem in partnership with MoMA PS1, New York (2021); Thomas J Price: Witness, Dozie Kanu: Function, Chloë Bass: Wayfinding, and Radical Reading Room all at The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2021-2019). She is the recipient of the Thoma Foundation 2019 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, a 2020 Rauschenberg Residency Fellow, a recipient of the 2021 Creative Capital Award and a 2023 Center for Curatorial Leadership Fellow. Her first book is Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020). Her second book, BLACK MEME, is forthcoming via Verso Books.

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