What Now? 2017
The Politics of Land

Freya Powell, The Silence of the Unsaid, 2017 (video still). Courtesy of the artist.


Apr 1, 2017–Aug 31, 2017
Public Program
What Now? 2017
The Politics of Land
Public Program

What Now? 2017
The Politics of Land

Organized by Art in General

Program Booklet: Download PDF

Further program details, related content, and participant biographies can be found at whatnowsymposium.org.

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street (Map)
Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY 11201

What Now? 2017, presented by Art in General, was a series of discussions, workshops, screenings, and talks featuring a number of scholars, writers, artists, and historians that investigated present-day land politics through various sociopolitical lenses. The programs addressed environmental issues and public health concerns, including access to and the preservation of cities, settlements, and natural resources; shifting governmental and institutional relationships with borders, indigeneity, and migration; and a renewed interest in the earth as a gendered and dynamic archive of global cultures and histories.

What Now? 2017: The Politics of Land developed multiple lines of inquiry, each illuminating the core geographical and geological influences of political situations worldwide. Ultimately, the events and programs together focused on revisiting the prefix of the word “geopolitics” from the points of view of gendered, racial, stakeholding political subjects.

What Now? 2017: The Politics of Land continued and advanced the long-term lines of inquiry and research that began with the previous 2014, 2015, and 2016 symposia. 2014 saw the importance of ‘listening’ emerge from What Now? 2014: Collaboration & Collectivity, 2015 elicited discussions surrounding ‘self-determination’ through 2015 elicited discussions surrounding ‘self-determination’ through What Now? 2015: The Politics of Listening, and 2016 revolved around contemplations of the construction of the self, queer theory, self-determination, mutability, the body, technology and social media, and the ever-evolving relationship between the digital and the material in What Now? 2016: On Future Identities.

2017 participants: Dineo Seshee Bopape, Juanli Carrión, Ieva Epnere, Postcommodity, Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, Kade L. Twist, Don’t Follow the Wind, Chim-Pom, Kenji Kubota, Ryuta Ushiro, Jason Waite, Eva and Franco Mattes, Kota Takeuchi, Slought, Ksenia Golubovich, Evangelos Kotsioris, Aaron Levy, Oleg Nikiforov, Xenia Vytuleva, Duane Linklater, Bryan Cockrell, Malik Gaines, Alan Michelson, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Jackson Polys, Maya Valladares, and Freya Powell.


Thursday, August 31, 7:00-9:00 PM

Art in General’s final event of the What Now? 2017 series presented Omaskêko Ininiwak artist Duane Linklater along with artists, scholars, and theorists Bryan Cockrell, Malik Gaines, Alan Michelson, Nicholas Mirzeoff, Jackson Polys, and Maya Valladares. Together, they negotiated complex questions around landscape histories and representation, visual cultures, and indigeneity.

Using a specific Cree object—a beaded hood from the mid-1800s on public view in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art—as his starting point, Linklater explored the physical and theoretical structures of the museum in relation to current and historical conditions of Indigenous people’s cultures, landscapes, objects, and forms. Conceived as an open letter to the Met, his talk considered the hood, physical distances, object origins, and other concerns. As a response, the various artists and theorists contributed to the talk by offering their respective perspectives.

Thursday, July 6, 7:00-9:00 PM

Disjointed Territories was a public program exploring the politics of adaptation in disruptive eras. The starting point for the discussion was Walter Benjamin’s Moscow Diary from 1926, which explores “straying” as a mode of survival for life lived on the margins. Benjamin’s diary of his travels through the streets of Moscow reveals the complex interplay between self, territory, and national identity, and documents a sense of struggle to adapt to a complex socio-political moment. His experience mirrors our current time of crisis, and raises crucial contemporary questions surrounding political subjects’ experiences of landscapes.

The conversation brought together Moscow-based visiting scholars Ksenia Golubovich and Oleg Nikiforov in dialogue with scholar and designer Evangelos Kotsioris and curators Xenia Vytuleva and Aaron Levy. The talk was organized by Slought in collaboration with Art in General.

Sunday, April 16, 5:00-8:00 PM

Curatorial project Don’t Follow the Wind, in collaboration with Art in General, presented an intimate event featuring screenings of the 360 degree video A Walk in Fukushima, as well as a reception with artists and curators from the international collaboration.

The immersive film features footage of the project, which takes form in an exhibition located inside the radioactive area surrounding the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. Started on March 11, 2015 inside the uninhabited exclusion zone caused by the nuclear catastrophe of 2011, the collaboration with 12 Japanese and international artists—including Meiro Koizumi, Trevor Paglen, Kota Takeuchi, Ahmet Ögüt, Taryn Simon, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Nikolaus Hirsch, and others—includes new commissions spread over three sites of homes and workplaces lent by former residents. As the zone is closed to the public, the artworks remain inaccessible and largely invisible for years or decades to come until the area is safe to reinhabit. The only mode of experiencing the exhibition is virtually, through video and photo documentation, which is screened at Art in General via sculptural headsets that were made in collaboration with families who currently live just outside of the exclusion zone.

Prior to A Walk in Fukushima, the collective responsible for organizing the exhibition—comprised of Chim↑Pom (the project’s initiators), Kenji Kubota, Eva and Franco Mattes, and Jason Waite—were hosted for three days at an intensive “camp” by Art in General in collaboration with Brown University, where they worked on future plans of their project. The full video of a talk about the project featuring organizers and artists Franco Mattes, Kota Takeuchi, Kenji Kubota, Jason Waite, and Ryuta Ushiro can be found on the David Winton Bell Gallery website linked here.

Saturday, March 25, 12:00-1:00 PM

Artist collective Postcommodity, comprised of Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, and Kade L. Twist, led a tour of their installation Coyotaje at Art in General. Their multidisciplinary practice considers indigeneity and how it relates to broader social, political, and economic dialogues and actions. The tour highlighted the contentious dynamics and relationships between the U.S. Border Patrol, communities living in the San Pedro River Valley region, and individuals moving across the border.

The collective further discussed the use and meaning of visual and audio decoys within Coyotaje—along with night vision surveillance—as tools that Border Patrol agents use to apprehend or misguide migrants. For the exhibition and talk, Postcommodity consider the role that mythology and folklore play for migrants and locals—in particular, the mythological figure of the chupacabra—and how they encounter decoys in the darkness. Coyotaje then becomes a set of interactions that place the viewer in a peculiar, semi-fictional landscape containing within it issues of national identity, cultural history, and federal policy.

Thursday, February 23, 2017, 6:00-8:00PM

Art in General presented Freya Powell’s New Commission exhibition, The Silence of The Unsaid, which prominently featured two video works. Her titular video, The Silence of the Unsaid, revolves around Powell’s trip to a desert landscape known as the “Zone of Silence,” infamous as Mexico’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. It made headlines in 1970 as the crash site of a failed American missile test; the seven-ton missile was carrying two containers of Cobalt-57, a dangerous radioactive element, but was quickly, quietly, and comprehensively cleaned up. This project traces the history of the missile, the silence surrounding its aftermath, and the mythologies that have since built around it.

The second portion of the exhibition featured a three channel video, Our Disappearance is Already There (2015). This silent video brings forward the issue of distance between New York City’s public, and Hart Island in the Bronx, an island with a potter’s field that is seldom visited, despite holding over a million deceased. Powell also had word lists on view, with the repetition of language to trigger sentiments that echo the inevitable feeling of separation. She states, “It is through the incorporation of forced distancing that disassociation is evoked, and one’s ability to empathize is often diminished.”

Through these video works, Powell invigorated Art in General’s programmatic inquiry into social, political, and literal distance; landscape politics; and unresolved geographical histories.

Wednesday, February 1- Saturday, February 11, 2017

For Zea, artist Juanli Carrión hosted a series of four culinary workshops revolving around the consumable resources, defining and defined by specific cultures, that landscapes have to offer. Commissioned by Art in General, the project manifests as a series of workshops embodying performance, artist lecture, and participatory sculpture. It engages the recipe as both a type of choreographic instruction as well as a intergenerational record of historical and cultural significance. Focusing on corn as both a key resource and cooking material, Zea reflected on modern economic shifts in the Americas, and the subsequent transformation of corn from food to commodity.

Participants were invited to prepare dishes made from ground maize, each dish a variation of flatbread from Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, and El Salvador. During these workshops, Carrión sought to clarify confusion among pupusas, arepas and gorditas in the United States, and addressed how Latin American cultures and foods tend to be homogenized in extranational contexts. In each workshop, the artist utilized the tradition of cooking and mealtime as an occasion for collectivity, knowledge-sharing, and collaborative creation across borders, with food as an important nexus for geographic difference and exchange.

Saturday, November 19, 2016, 1:00-3:00PM

For this artist talk, South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape led a tour of her newly commissioned exhibition at Art in General, presented on the occasion of Art in General’s season-long inquiry into landscape. Bopape’s practice considers land to be a host and archive for both the tangible and the ephemeral, including memories, histories, death and so on. In sa ____ ke lerole, (sa lerole ke ___)—partly inspired by her recent project for the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo—Bopape explores the political complexities of land from perspectives of gender and maternity, leading into questions of history and memory, the politics of place, and the metaphysics of self, material, and presence.

In this exhibition, Bopape utilized soil, clay, charcoal, flowers, herbs, crystals, and ash in conjunction with projections of her hands interacting with the materials. She sees these materials as archives of self and politics; her discussion thus invoked the questions, “What is remembered and what is forgotten? What matters and what does not? What is visible and what is invisible?” These concerns arise in her intimacy with the clay, and the manner in which she uses soil as both a void and a conduit for sound. The clay is also described as something that can be made into an object, but also dissolved back into dust. This reflects the title of the exhibition, which can be translated into that which is of ___is dust, (that which is of dust is____).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016, 6:30-7:30PM

Ieva Epnere’s body of work, Sea of Living Memories, commissioned for Art in General, addresses the impermanence of national and social identity in response to the physical and social ruins of Soviet Society in the artist’s native Latvia. The installation elements served as material reminders of the Soviet legacy, while internalized, psychological imprints of a restrictive past seep through her videos in the form of landscape narratives. Here, the geopolitical and personal collide, creating situations in which land and identity change along with nationalist sentiments of “belonging” to an ever-shifting nation-state.

On October 25, during a free public talk, Epnere addressed questions about past projects and discussed details of her newly created film, Sea of Living Memories. The talk further delved into discussion surrounding her solo show A No-Man’s Land, An Everyman’s Land at kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, Latvia, which also explored the theme of landscape and identity.

A new book series relating to the What Now?; symposia from 2015 through 2017 will be produced with Black Dog Publishing Ltd., a project that was made possible in part by the the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-10-14-0304-14). Read more about the previous symposia below:

What Now? 2016: On Future Identities
Symposium Booklet: Download PDF

What Now? 2015: The Politics of Listening
Symposium Booklet: Download PDF

What Now? 2014: Collaboration & Collectivity
Symposium Booklet: Download PDF

Art in General would like to extend special thanks to the key funders of What Now? 2017: the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-10-14-0304-14), the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and Humanities New York for their generous support of this initiative. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Support has also been provided by: Commissioners’ Circle leaders Elaine Goldman, Richard Massey, Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters David Solo, John and Andrea Nylund; and Commissioners’ Circle members Nader Ansary, Rob Colangelo, Don Erenberg, Taymour Grahne, Roya Khadjavi-Heidari, Mary Lapides, Eric Nylund, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, and Diana Wege.

Special thanks go to Duane Linklater, Omaskêko Ininiwak artist from Moose Cree Nation; Lize Mogul, interdisciplinary artist and counter-cartographer; and Sandi Hilal, co-founder of Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency for providing early advisement for the program, as well as our institutional partners Slought at the University of Pennsylvania and the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University.

Art in General was founded in 1981 and supports the production of new work by local and international artists primarily through its New Commissions Program and its International Collaborations program. Art in General also produces an annual symposium What Now? on critical and timely issues in artistic and curatorial practice.

Slought is a non-profit organization on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania that engages publics in dialogue about cultural and socio-political change in Philadelphia, the world, and the cloud. It is a new form of institution that builds relationships and social trust through collaboration and the exchange of ideas. For over fifteen years, Slought has worked with artists, communities, and institutions worldwide to develop projects that encourage inclusiveness, advocacy, and the sharing of knowledge.

The David Winton Bell Gallery is Brown University’s contemporary art gallery and home to an important part of the university’s permanent art collection. The gallery hosts four to five major exhibitions each year, as well as annual exhibitions of student artwork and a triennial exhibition of artwork by Brown faculty members. Broadly concerned with the exhibition of exemplary work by artists living today, the gallery takes pride in showing artwork irrespective of media, content or subject and makes special efforts to support and show the work of emerging or under-recognized practitioners locally, nationally and internationally.

General Support of Art in General is provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the Toby D. Lewis Donor Advised Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland; and by individuals. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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