[-empyre-] [–empyre–] Refiguring the Future, Week 1: Exhibition as Ecosystem

Sarah Watson sarahawatson at gmail.com
Mon Mar 11 09:56:08 AEDT 2019

I have been thinking about Heather's question "What does a radically
inclusive future look like?" And as a response, I'd like to pose a question
back, one that come from the text “On Slow Institutions” by Nataša
Petrešin-Bachelez, published in the book "How Institutions Think: Between
Contemporary Art and Curatorial Discourse." I recently re-read this text
and it's call for slowing down has been on my mind. In this essay,
Petrešin-Bachelez proposes a slowing down of the ways curators and
institutions operate. Her proposition for the slow institution is developed
in relationship to Isabelle Stenger's call to slow down research in social
and hard sciences to elevate the quality of research, but also its
relevance to today's concerns.

In transcribing this call to slow down for the art institution and the
cultural worker, Petrešin-Bachelez invites curators "to slow down their
ways of working and being, to imagine new ecologies of care as a way of
naming a continuous practice of support, listening, attention, feelings,
that arise from encounters with objects and subjects. To radically open up
an institution's boundaries and show how it works––to render it palpable,
audible, sentient, soft, porous, anti-patriarchic––what could be the
strategies that the institutions's staff could develop?"


On Wed, Mar 6, 2019 at 5:13 PM Heather Dewey-Hagborg <stigmergy at gmail.com>

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello everyone,
> It is a pleasure to join you in this discussion, and share a bit about
> REFRESH, the collective Dorothy and I participate in, as well as
> "Refiguring the Future" our inaugural exhibition and conference, and some
> of my personal thoughts and reflections.
> https://refreshart.tech/
> http://www.eyebeam.org/rtf/
> came out of a social media campaign some might be familiar with #KissMyArs
> which started around 2015 and called attention to 3 decades of sexism in
> the awarding of Ars Electronica's top prize, the golden nica. We wrote in
> detail about this in the Guardian in 2016
> https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2016/sep/12/ars-electronica-festival-gender
> The campaign caught on, the article was shared thousands of times - but
> Ars Electronica did not respond.
> After 2 years of calling attention to the problem we wanted to do
> something proactive, to show them just what they were missing. REFRESH
> collective was born out of this ambition to develop sustainable and
> inclusive curatorial practices.
> For the next 2 years we fundraised and shopped around our idea, which
> developed from the seed of wanting to highlight underrepresented artists
> working with science and technology, to tackling the topic of narrative
> around "the future."
> This curatorial theme came about in the wake of Brexit and Trump, with
> this overwhelming feeling that there was a need for new narratives,
> different visions of what and how the future could be, that weren't
> dominated by cis white male perspectives, as science fiction in particular
> has so much been.
> Long story short, we partnered with Eyebeam, who connected us with Hunter
> College Galleries (shout out to Sally Schwed!)
> and the plans began to come together.
> The artists included: Morehshin Allahyari, Lee Blalock, Zach Blas, micha
> cárdenas and Abraham Avnisan, In Her Interior (Virginia Barratt and
> Francesca da Rimini), Mary Maggic, Lauren McCarthy, shawné michaelain
> holloway, Claire and Martha Pentecost, Sonya Rapoport, Barak adé Soleil,
> Sputniko! and Tomomi Nishizawa, Stephanie Syjuco, and Pinar Yoldas.
> To briefly quote our curatorial statement, the artists we curated together
> for "Refiguring the Future":
> "provide a starting point for conversation and future-making. They offer
> a view of both the present and the future that is not ordinarily
> visible—one that is inclusive, diverse, and filled with a multitude of
> bodies and vantage points. Their views are neither utopic nor dystopic, but
> rather engaged with the complexities of lived experience. With this, we
> begin to move beyond a discourse of despair and inevitability, beyond a
> discussion of the end of history or the end of novelty. *Refiguring the
> Future* aims to inspire new avenues for thought and encourage the
> collective construction of new paths forward, ones that are inclusive,
> forward-thinking, and unexpected."
> For me personally, it is this last point that is most exciting and
> important - I want to be surprised.
> To this end we commissioned new works from almost every artist in the show
> and indeed did not know before opening night how it would all turn out! We
> had a deep trust in the community we had assembled and believed, whatever
> it would be, it would be good.
> And, I would say, it was :)
> I was deeply moved by the intersection of communities that came out, on
> opening night and to the next two days of conference activities. It wasn't
> just the usual suspects, or the same old nyc art & tech folks, but so many
> people I met for the first time, people traveling from Chicago, California,
> the south. It was such an open and generous group, everyone eager to talk
> about the issues we are facing, and how we can move forward.
> I don't have any conclusions exactly, but I feel very inspired to continue
> the conversation, and I hope we can pick that up a bit here.
> So, with that, I would perhaps end with a question.
> What does a radically inclusive future look like?
> Looking forward to the conversation.
> Heather
> On Tue, Mar 5, 2019 at 9:28 AM Lola Martinez <lola.martinez at eyebeam.org>
> wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> First and foremost, many thanks to Sarah for inviting me to
>> co-moderate and to Renate who gave us this platform to continue our
>> conversations around Refiguring the Future.
>> As the Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow, I am involved
>> in most aspects of Refiguring the Future, from assisting with the
>> exhibition to co-curating the conference alongside REFRESH member
>> Maandeeq Mohamed and organizing public programming.
>> Refiguring the Future’s overarching frameworks and thematics have served
>> as a departure point for my thinking around these various components,
>> particularly in the conference which expanded upon the ideas
>> interwoven in the exhibition. The Refiguring the Future conference
>> acted as a platform for collective engagement, which brought together
>> an array of artists, educators, writers, and cultural strategists to
>> envision a shared liberatory world-building politic. By generating a
>> speculative space which went against technological forces, we asked
>> what possibilities could arise when accelerating technologies are
>> paused and world-building is privileged anew?
>> During my initial engagement with Refiguring the Future, I was drawn
>> to ecological concerns through the works of Abraham Avnisan, micha
>> cárdenas, and Claire and Martha Pentecost. The exhibition speculates
>> that, “to refigure the future requires acknowledging our existence in
>> an unsustainable present.” Claire and Martha Pentecost‘s young adult
>> novel, "The Spirit the Water Bear",  a 15-year-old activist urges her
>> community to acknowledge the devastation already caused by climate
>> change in coastal South Carolina. In Sin Sol, micha cárdenas and
>> Abraham Avnisan use augmented reality to allow gallery visitors to see
>> from the perspective of a transgender Latinx artificial intelligence
>> character as they navigate a landscape transformed by climate change.
>> These artists provided a starting point for research which led to a
>> panel discussion, Symbiotic Ecologies. The discussion was prompted by
>> narratives of colonial legacy, migration, and extinction which have
>> shifted our cultural imagining of ecologies. Beginning by
>> acknowledging our existence in unsustainable climates, this panel
>> brought forth artistic and activist practices which provoke and foster
>> symbiotic relationships, for new understandings within environmental
>> predicaments. Participants included: Sofía Córdova, who complicates
>> narratives on the athropocene through science fiction; Jaskiran
>> Dhillon who foregrounds the leadership of Indigenous youth at Standing
>> Rock in the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline; and Sofía
>> Unanue on the La Maraña collective which dared to imagine a
>> community-driven alternative to Puerto Rico's future in reaction to
>> the bleak aftermath of hurricanes Irma and María.
>> To learn more of the conference and view video documentation:
>> https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBez-U3NPcCu2THKggOiS4kJWGOsEi0C1
>> On Mon, Mar 4, 2019 at 10:27 PM Sarah Watson <sarahawatson at gmail.com>
>> wrote:
>> >
>> > ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> > Since "Refiguring the Future" opened on February 8 at the Hunter
>> > College Art Galleries' 205 Hudson Gallery, I have more or less been
>> > living with the exhibition: turning it on and off, tending to
>> > misbehaving technology, spending focused time with each work, and
>> > caring and tending to the show. Having this sustained time in one of
>> > our exhibition is rare. Usually the shows goes up and then I have to
>> > turn my attention to the next exhibition. This constant pace of
>> > exhibition making can sometimes feel like being on a hamster wheel.
>> > I'm sure others who work at small or perhaps not so small institutions
>> > can relate to this feeling.
>> >
>> > In part, I am afforded the opportunity to spend so much time in
>> > "Refiguring the Future" since I am teaching a Graduate Curatorial
>> > Methods course centered around the exhibition. As a class we meet,
>> > discuss, and move through the show every Tuesday afternoon. The class
>> > is an experiment, as I have never structured a curatorial class within
>> > an exhibition––both thematically and physically.  It is through this
>> > ongoing time in "Refiguring the Future" that I started to think of the
>> > exhibition as an ecosystem.
>> >
>> > Taking this week to focus on the creation of this ecosystem, we have
>> > invited the co-curators of "Refiguring the Future" Heather
>> > Dewey-Hagbog (US) and Dorothy R. Santos (US) to share how the idea for
>> > "Refiguring the Future" came to be and how certain works and artists
>> > influenced the curatorial direction of the exhibition and conference.
>> > Together we will think on what shifts when we identify the exhibition
>> > not as static, but rather as an evolving complex and interconnected
>> > system.
>> >
>> > Heather Dewey-Hagborg
>> > Dr. Heather Dewey-Hagborg is a transdisciplinary artist and educator
>> > who is interested in art as research and critical practice. Her
>> > controversial biopolitical art practice includes the project Stranger
>> > Visions in which she created portrait sculptures from analyses of
>> > genetic material (hair, cigarette butts, chewed up gum) collected in
>> > public places. Heather has shown work internationally at events and
>> > venues including the World Economic Forum, the Daejeon Biennale, the
>> > Guangzhou Triennial, and the Shenzhen Urbanism and Architecture
>> > Biennale, the Van Abbemuseum, Transmediale and PS1 MOMA. Her work is
>> > held in public collections of the Centre Pompidou, the Victoria and
>> > Albert Museum, and the New York Historical Society, among others, and
>> > has been widely discussed in the media, from the New York Times and
>> > the BBC to Art Forum and Wired. Heather has a PhD in Electronic Arts
>> > from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
>> >
>> > Dorothy R. Santos
>> > Dorothy R. Santos is a Filipinx American writer, curator, and
>> > researcher whose academic interests include digital art, computational
>> > media, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco,
>> > California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology
>> > from the University of San Francisco and received her Master’s degree
>> > in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts.
>> > She is currently a Ph.D. student in Film and Digital Media at the
>> > University of California, Santa Cruz as a Eugene V. Cota-Robles
>> > fellow. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Rhizome,
>> > Hyperallergic, Ars Technica, Vice Motherboard, and SF MOMA’s Open
>> > Space.
>> > _______________________________________________
>> > empyre forum
>> > empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> > http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
>> --
>> Lola Martinez | they/them
>> Eyebeam/REFRESH Curatorial and Engagement Fellow
>> Visit Refiguring the Future: Exhibition Feb 8 - Mar 31
>> 199 Cook Street
>> Suite 104
>> Brooklyn, NY, 11206
>> M. +1 305 586 4728
>> www.eyebeam.org
>> _______________________________________________
>> empyre forum
>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> --
> Heather Dewey-Hagborg
> www.deweyhagborg.com
> @hdeweyh
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
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