There were two events which we missed due to the timing of our trip which we would like to highlight in the blog. First is the Open Engagement conference, held annually, but unfortunately the last one this year, held this year at the Queens Museum. It will resurface next year in an array of new formats.
Open Engagement is an artist-led initiative committed to expanding the dialogue around and serving as a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. We highlight the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time. Since 2007, OE has presented ten conferences in two countries and six cities, hosting over 1,800 presenters and over 7,000 attendees. In addition, OE managed a publishing arm, and assembled a national consortium of institutions, colleges, and funders all dedicated to supporting artists engaged in this necessary and critical work.
In 2019 Open Engagement is embarking on a research year to re-assess and evaluate the needs of the field. This will take the shape of a survey, residencies, retreats, and a series of public conversations across the US and beyond.
Students attending a Freedom School, Mississippi,1964. Photo: Ken Thompson
Then there is one exhibition we wish we could have seen in its full bloom at the New Museum, which opened just a couple of days after we left NYC. As IDA is also very interested in education and how to activate spaces of learning within art institutions, and also as autonomous spaces of engagement within our vision of decolonization of the art field in Sweden, (with diaspora cultures in mind).
We share the wonderful exhibition and project of The Black School x Kameelah Janan Rasheed.
“The Black School (Joseph Cuillier and Shani Peters) and Kameelah Janan Rasheed will explore the pasts and futures of black critical pedagogies.
The Black School and Rasheed share a longstanding commitment to education and art-making practices, and an investment in surfacing the diverse histories of black social movements in the US. Within the Museum’s education department, they consider self- and community-determined knowledge production, learning, and dissemination in their many forms. Education is posited as a right and as a means to social justice—both of which have been challenged by legacies of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and present-day systemic racism.
Looking to diverse examples of learning structures from throughout US history, the artists realize two unique environments for facilitated and self-directed learning. The Black School imagines a classroom for art-making workshops rooted in creative activist tactics. The environment they have built is inspired by the historic organizing of programs responsive to urgent and ongoing community-identified needs, such as Freedom Schools (free alternative schools for black youth that sprang out of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s) and the Black Panthers’ Liberation Schools. Meanwhile, Kameelah Janan Rasheed draws from the local histories of her hometown of East Palo Alto, CA, as well as those elsewhere in the US, to offer a hybrid resource room. Here, the artist presents an installation with text, objects, and video, as well as a library equipped with a Xerox machine for the public to use. The materials collected in the library represent Rasheed’s own research into black traditions of independent schools, publishing, and radical imagination. Working with the New Museum’s Teen Apprentice Program, the Black School and Rasheed will facilitate newly developed public and private workshops, programs, and classes for youth and adults throughout the residency.
Also check out the New Museum’s Summer R&D residency with the theme Social justice here.
Hiwa K – Blind as the Mother Tongue, exhibition shot from video installation.
Two of our favorites at the New Museum as well: Anna Boghiguian and Hiwa K.
We knew Anna Boghiguian’s since it was first shown in Stockholm at Index Foundation last year, but it was great to see her works in a larger space, very impactful and thought provoking narratives of coloniality and its aftermaths through paintings, installation and tens of sketches and collages in addition to her writings on the exhibition walls. The wall for Boghiguian is a sirface for writing while most of her works are presented in space, in The Loom of History we circulate amidst an ocean of narratives both big and small in the space controlled by the colored walls that function like a horizon line.
In the next room, a wonderful exhibition Blind as the Mother Tongue by Hiwa K (b. 1975, Kurdistan-Iraq), with careful and precisely placed videos, photographs, sculptures and wall pieces commenting on travel, migration, habitation and the political situation in Iraq, as well as dealing more abstractly with concepts of decoloniality using a precise conceptual vocabulary and extremely human at the same time. There is a critical sharpness and a warmth in K’s work which we enjoyed very much.
From the New Museum website:
“Blind as the Mother Tongue,” his first solo exhibition in the US, gathers a selection of works that address experiences of estrangement and alternative modes of seeing, learning, and remembering. The exhibition will include the artist’s recent video Pre-Image (Blind as the Mother Tongue) (2017), which debuted at documenta 14 in Athens and presents a powerful allegory for the experience of exile. The exhibition also includes several video works that take up the political histories and trauma specific to Sulaymaniyah, the artist’s hometown in Kurdish Iraq. For his New Museum exhibition, Hiwa K will debut a new sculpture that gives shape to his recent inquiries into early colonial encounters between the Inca and Spanish Empires, and reflects on misperception and misinterpretation in the circulation of culture.
The exhibition is curated by Natalie Bell, Associate Curator.”
Even though the title and press text Songs for sabotage of the fourth New Museum Triennal (February 13–May 27, 2018) maybe gives too much promise of power structures and neoliberal market dismantled, we very much enjoyed the exhibition with almost only newly commissioned work by 26 young artists/art collectives from 19 countries.
As a whole Songs of sabotage addresses the connection of images and culture with social, political, and economic issues – both in local and international contexts, and reveal the built systems that construct our reality, images, and truths. Here’s a few of the memorable and surprising works (that I could photograph before my phone died) (and also recommend you to look at better images for example here ) .
Manolis D. Lemos, still from the video dusk and dawn look just the same (riot tourism) (2017) that shows a group of people (with a sunset painted over their coats) running through Athens.
Daniela Ortiz, four out of six proposals for replacements of monuments of Columbus in New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Barcelona, and Lima, Peru : On the shoulders of the oppressor our pain will weight (Sobre los hombros del opresor pesará nuestro dolor) (2018), This land will never be fertile for having given birth to colonisers (Esta tierra jamás será fértil por haber parido colonas) (2018), Columbus (Colón) (2018), and Burn el hielo (2018)
Exquisite paintings by Chemu Ng’ok.
Clan Dayrit, Landlessness in the Islands (detail) and Mapa de lo que ahora se como Las Islas Pilipinas (2017) with my phone before it died.
Wilmer Wilson, staples and pigment print on wood!
From the website:
“Songs for Sabotage” explores interventions into cities, infrastructures, and the networks of everyday life, proposing objects that might create common experience. The exhibition takes as a given that these structures are linked to the entrenched powers of colonialism and institutionalized racism that magnify inequity. Through their distinct approaches, the artists in “Songs for Sabotage” offer models for dismantling and replacing the political and economic networks that envelop today’s global youth. Invoking the heightened role of identity in today’s culture, they take on the technological, economic, and material structures that stand in the way of collectivity.
These artists are further connected by both their deep engagements with the specificity of local context and a critical examination—and embrace—of the internationalism that links them. Their works range widely in medium and form, including painted allegories for the administration of power, sculptural proposals to renew (and destroy) monuments, and cinematic works that engage the modes of propaganda that influence us more and more each day. Viewed in ensemble, these works provide models for reflecting upon and working against a system that seems doomed to failure.
“Songs for Sabotage” is curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari.
We were lucky to be in New York when such an important exhibition for us with Latin American background is showing in a major art museum. Radical Women: Latin American Art 1960-1985, curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta and currently on view at Brooklyn Museum showed 120 women artists from Latin America and the intersections between politics, the body and society, and groundbreaking ways of seeing. All these aspects are intertwined both formally and conceptually with the narratives of women in the continent in the stormy decades from the 60s through the 80s.
The exhibition shows a wide array of artists from Latin America, including North American artists with Latina background (such as Ana Mendieta, for instance), which expands the notion of Latin American identity to those in diaspora and even of double national identity throughout the exhibition. Seeing narratives of women artists in Latin America is not so common in the northern hemisphere whilst for us having studied, lived in and being brought up with narratives of female resistance and contemporary art in Latin America, it was a welcome opportunity to engage with these artists as we live in a nordic context far from our second homes and homelands (in our case Brazil, Chile and Peru).
Victoria Santa Cruz (1922-2014), Me gritaron negra (They shouted black at me), 1978. Video documentation of performance, excerpted from the documentary Victoria – Black and Woman (1978). Courtesy of OTA-Odin Teatret Archives and the Hammer Museum.
At the entrance of the exhibition, we were directly confronted with a video-performance by Afro-Peruvian choreographer, composer and activist Victoria Santa Cruz (b. 1922) “Me gritaron negra!” from 1979, filmed by the Odin Teater, a nordic experimental theatre company founded in 1964 and currently based in Denmark. The video shows a performance by the artist, who is well-known for starting the first black theater company in Peru in the late 1950s, recounting a personal narrative of racism and discrimination of her awareness of being black as a child. This piece sets the tone for the first room of the exhibition dealing with the issue of identity, public and private. The artworks and artists shown provide a portrait of an era where they “protested the dictatorships across the South American continent, made plain the monotony of domesticity, and expressed their sexuality in intimate self-portraiture, exposing breasts, vaginas, and tongues.” – Read a review here
As a reflection of the extraordinary experimentation in several media typical of this period, the exhibition includes many works in photography, film, multimedia installations, as well as more traditional mediums like sculpture and painting. The exhibition at the outset introduces us not only into the political struggles of the period marked by political instability with several dictatorships beginning exactly on these decades in most countries – except the USA (but many works being critical of USA’s involvement in many of the coups throughout the continent in the period) – but also into the women’s liberation movements in the West which challenged many conceptions of womanhood, motherhood and the body especially in reaction to the conservatism which pervades Catholic societies. Throughout the exhibition it becomes clear that the body is reconceptualized during this period, and through most artworks, as a political process. Violence is an ongoing theme, best exemplified in Ana Mendieta’s performance Rape Scene (1973) recreating the aftermath of a violent assault, where the artist represents defenselessness and invites the viewer to take a stand.
Sonia Gutierrez, b. 1947, Y con unos lazos me izaron, 1979. Acrylic on canvas.
In the revolutionary spirit of these decades, in which many of the artists features in the exhibition took part, leading many into exile for their oppositional stance towards the régimes, we see artworks that challenge traditional roles and expose the difficulties endured by populations in Latin American populations at large while also challenging the canons of visual form. We see for instance, multiple references to the coup in Chile and the Pinochet era in Chile, echoes of the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, the plight of the indigenous in the Amazon in the works of Claudia Andujar (BR) and the decolonial critique by Anna Bella Geiger (BR), the questioning of domesticity in the works of Letícia Parente (BR) and the radicality of Marcia X (BR), the neo-concrete and geometric explorations of Liliana Porter (AR, living in NYC since 1964), the performances of Ana Mendieta (d. 1981), the reference to torture in Sonia Gutiérrez’s (CO) paintings inspired by a Pop Art aesthetic, and the intense photography of the New York-born Puerto Rican photographer Sophie Rivera, a relatively unknown photographer from the Bronx we were happy to discover. Other names are Judith Baca, a central figure of the Chicano art movement, and the Chilean-American performance artist Sylvia Palacios Whitman. And so many others.
It is not usual to group together artists from Latin America and artists from Latina background in an art exhibition, but it made sense. While these divisions may seem artificial constructs that tend to separate North American Latina or Chicana artists from the rest of the continent, it can be said the struggles and critiques of patriarchy and the response towards second wave feminism – especially in terms of issues for minority women during those decades – are some of the themes shared by artists with Latin American background throughout the exhibition.
Gloria Camiruaga (1941-2006), Popsicles (1982-84). Video, color, sound 6′, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC, Facultad de Artes de Universidade de Chile.
In the middle of the exhibition, there was a room which provided the viewer with an overview of events in every Latin American country represented, with key dates in terms of women’s history and political turning points. It was interesting to compare the different decades in which women acquired the right to vote in each country (in the 1930s and 40s in most country, but as late as the 60s in some), to the dates when divorce became legal (astonishingly as late as the 1980s as in Argentina), to the timeline of political coups and changes of power. The timelines themselves varied in content greatly, some shorter than others, and the USA having the longest list of events. Perhaps a bias towards the hosting country and financers of the exhibition? Some woman politicians were named, but not for example, any statistics on the presence of women in politics. Also sorely missed were dates related to the emancipation and rights of minority women, figures which would also have been nice to observe against the relatively large colored and mixed populations in all countries. Nevertheless, what made this room with factual information powerful was its combination with a video piece by Gloria Camiuraga (Chile) projected above, showing close-ups of women and girls’ mouths sucking popsicles shaped like soldiers, as we listen to a choir of women mumbling hail marys to the images.
All in all, we also realized that this generation of artists is also de generation of our mothers and their struggles. While all of us at IDA are daughters of this generation, some of us even having grown up and studied art under the influence of these artists and artists of this time period. What was interesting to compare is how many of the struggles depicted in the works in this exhibition remain in the political fragility of the region at the moment, but also in how the politics of the body and of identity have evolved since then. It was disheartening to realize, however, that even though dictatorships of the 60s-80s have been dissolved and countries have become established democracies where women’s political presence have increased significantly, the region still beckons women artists to require audiences to take a stand in issues of women’s rights in the face of a renewed religious conservatism, the connection between environmental issues and women (tangentially touched upon in this exhibition), and more representation of women artists with diverse backgrounds within Latin America, in an effort to give an even more complex image of this continent of sharp contradictions.
Carmen Lomas Garza, Quinceañera, from the serie The Chicano Collection, 2005.
Since La Galerias at El Museo del Barrio are close until fall 2018 due to renovation we went to see the off-site exhibition Queenie: Seleceted artwroks by female artists from El Museo del Barrio’s Collection at the Hunter East Harlem Gallery.
With a particular focus on female artists from the Caribbean, Latin America, and the larger Latinx diaspora, QUEENIE explores the roles women have played in El Museo del Barrio’s history and its impact on the local East Harlem community. Including works from Anonymous female artists from Chile, Tania Bruguera, Margarita Cabrera, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Melba Carillo, Marta Chilindron, Alessandra Expósito, Iliana Emilia Garcia, Dulce Gomez, Cristina Hernández Botero, Carmen Herrera, Jessica Kairé, Carmen Lomas Garza, Evelyn López de Guzmán, Anna Maria Maiolino, Ana Mendieta, Marina Núñez del Prado, Liliana Porter, Raquel Rabinovich, Scherezade, Nitza Tufiño.
It was quite emotional to see arpilleras from anonymous Chilean artists that depicted the oppresive dictatorship during the 1970s – 1980s as part of the exhibition and the collection.
It was also great to experience a painting by the great Carmen Herrera!
Anonymous female artists from Chile, Arpilleras, 1970s-1980s.
Tania Bruguera, The Burden (La carga del pecado), Performed 1997-1999, Photographed 1998.
At the end of a hectic day we sat down at Art Bar in West Village, where Prerana Reddy kindly met us for a drink and a chat. We contacted Prerana since she has been the director of Public Programs & Community Engagement at the Queens Museum (QM), but found her just switching to the hyperinteresting non-profit organization A Blade of Grass (ABOG). ABOG funds and nurtures socially engaged art nationwide through fellowships, public programs and a series of short documentary films on artists and art-practices in the field.
Prerana shared with us her experiences and learnings from many years of work with community engagement in film, arts, programs and collaborations and how to find sustainability within those forums. It was very interesting to hear about different positionalities when you are an independent organization and when you are working from within an established institution. How do we get prepared to face the establishment with radical ideas?
We discussed the importance of social practice within the arts and how Prerana’s work at the Queens museum is a pioneering long-term project in this sense, focusing specifically in social practice. Of note is Tania Bruguera’s residency at QM and the long-term community initiative called Immigrant Movement International that evolved from an artist-led community project and now is an autonomous community initiative in Queens where the museum acts as an adviser. This led us to consider what does social engagement mean in a borough with 3.1 million people where more than 500 languages are spoken? What is the role of the museum within this community and what does “reaching out” mean in this context? How do we understand “local impact” from the perspective of arts initiatives? This was especially significant for us in the context of IDAs vision of a future diaspora arts space and how to best listen to and cater to needs from the communities themselves.
We talked about the relevance of museums in places like Queens and belabored questions like: Who does the museum serve, and what is the museum a medium for? Prerana shared with us both how the program she established at QM functions internally with different departments for education and for programming and the advantages and disadvantages of that structure. How can we think of organizational models that sustain long-term community engagement? At Queens, there are several programs working in partnership with local organizations, like the program New New Yorkers, and other initiatives that occur both inside and outside the museum. What methods can we bring to the community from the art world?
In A Blade of Grass, Prerana will be Program Director with an exciting initiative focusing more specifically on social practice and socially engaged art with focus on a fellowship program for artists, but also in different media and program initiatives that document practices in communities, which altogether provide a visibility mechanism for the aims of such practices. Content production is thus focused on creating a media channel for social practices also to act as a basis for research and insight into communities and methods. ABOG has both an internal documentary team and a researcher on staff. With documentary film and a media channel, the vision is to change the power dynamics by aiming for a more equitable power structure in society.
It was an extremely rich conversation with much to think about in IDA’s future. We hope to be able to visit Prerana at ABOG next time we visit NYC!
The Queens Museum is located next to one of the most diverse and fast growing neighborhoods in New York City: Corona. To talk about the work the museum does “inside” as well as its impact outside of the boundaries of the physical building we met with Community organizer Monica Carrillo and Public Programs Coordinator Catherine Grau.
We learnt that the museum actively leverages their resources to help build the leadership capacity of Corona residents to participate actively in civic institutions, through the support of the Community organizers, and really engages in the issues of neighborhood development. One project is the Immigrant Movement International Corona (IMI Corona), an immigrant education, arts, and activism center, that is now growing into its own independence from the museum. Another fascinating project in partner with Queens College’s Art Department is Social Practice Queens, a graduate program in socially engaged art.
Monica Carrillo is also the founder of LUNDU, a peruvian human-rights organization that works to improve conditions for Afro-Peruvians, as well as a poet and an artist. Catherine Grau is, besides her work at the museum, also an artist, facilitator and curator, see her fascinating work here.
Corona Plaza Es Para Todos: Making a Dignified Public Space for Immigrants is a publication on the programming and re-design of Corona Plaza, a public plaza in Corona, Queens that can be downloaded here. The project was made in collaboration with Cuban artist Tania Bruguera.
The Queens Museum is placed at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park where The New York World´s Fair took place in 1939 and 1964. In the museum’s shop you can find merchandise connected to the World Fair. We found several postcards that reveals the matter of whiteness and nationality construction at the World Fair.
On our way to Brooklyn Museum we saw to beautiful murals from the Groundswell Community Mural Project on Washington Avenue. We didn’t have the opportunity to meet the organisation, so we were delighted to see two murals from the project just passing by on the street.
Where I Seek, I Find Myself is the title of the exhibition at MoCADA – Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. Curated by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Adama Delphine Fawundu, and James E. Bartlettwhere, seven women photographers explore the concept of Home in the intimate space that is the gallery, including the 14-year old Fanta Diop who has investigated her family’s West African heritage.
“Home…Is it a building? A city? A state of mind?…”
Outside on the museum’s wall the artist Joana Choumali is exhibiting a selection of the photographic works Hââbrè, the last generation, a serie of portraits about the disappearing practice of scarification in the human skin. “Hââbré is the same word for writing/scarification in Kô language from Burkina Faso,” and the photo serie raise questions about link between past and present as well as the development of a tradition having a high social value in society to being something that excluded the ones with scarification in their faces. “They are slowly becoming the last generation of scarified african people, living in the same city/Abidjan. They are the last witnesses of an Africa of a bigone era.”
Joana Choumali, Hââbré, the last generation, 2013-2014.
At the Studio Museum Harlem we got the opportunity to talk at length with Community Engagement Associate
Rachell Morillo from the Studio Museum’s public programs & community engagement and fellows Anaïs Duplan, Charmaine Branch, and Nectar Knuckles. The visit on this rainy afternoon began with the group telling us that the the Studio Museum is closed since January this year due to the preparation for a brand new building designed by star architect David Adjaye on the same location as the current facility.
The museum will continue its activities in satellite locations in the neighborhood and elsewhere while the new building is in construction for the next three years, which naturally poses several challenges ahead for the curatorial team. This was also perceived as an opportunity to engage more closely with the communities and strengthen the museum’s future presence in the area.
Our conversation started around how to work with the audience and community and giving them a sense of ownership without the actual space – but still using the museum as a resource. The Studio Museum’s exhibitions, conversations, and workshops will continue at a variety of satellite locations in Harlem, including New York Public Library branches. An interesting find was that not only do the library visitors stumble upon the art, but also the art-seeking public are discovering the facilities of public libraries.
“Libraries are recognized as public spaces, while art spaces are not,” says Rachell whose job is to make sure that community engagement is part of “everything that we do – before it was superficial.” We all agreed that to engage does not necessarily mean to respond to whatever is hanging on the walls as in traditional guided tours or activities held in the museum’s spaces. We were shown the Derrick Adams exhibition guide which included questions and encouraged multiple ways of looking at exhibitions.
The Studio Museum has been working with hanging works from the permanent collections in libraries and other community spaces. In schools, for instance, the museum develops lesson plans and works closely with artists where the children are aiming to not only present the artist’s work but also to develop visual literacy in the community, a skill that is an essential but often overlooked part of general education. We also discussed the issue of formats for events and ways in which we can imagine new ways of engaging the community beyond the traditional artist-curator talk and going into more performative formats as in for instance poetry readings activated by artworks and the inclusion of different subjectivities within the museum’s discursive spaces in-house or outside.
We also had an interesting discussion around how to work within a museum or institution, which are about stabilization per se while still trying to remain flexible and listen to what the audience needs. Anaïs stated that “to program is asking people and understanding what they need – and listening closely.” What types of spaces do people appreciate? According to Rachell Morillo, “today, the establishment is being questioned by the coming generation, trust is being created through intimacy between artists and institutions,” where artists feel a sense of ownership of institutions who in turn should be quicker to react to what is happening in the communities, aiming for more connectedness.