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Art and Decolonization: Afterall MASP Symposium

20 may 2019
Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London.

This two-day symposium is part of the research project ‘Art and Decolonization’ jointly led by Afterall and the Museu de arte de São Paulo (MASP) and funded by the British Academy Newton Fellowship. It has been convened by Yaiza Hernández Velázquez and students of MRes Art: Exhibition Studies.

Tiago Gualberto, Pay Per Doll, 2012, two-color Lithograph, 19 x 25 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Monday 20 May, 10:30–18:00
LVMH Theatre, E003

10:30 Welcome to Symposium (Yaiza Hernández Velázquez) and Introduction (Cemile Zeynep Eryilmaz).

10:40 Screening of Rehad Desai’s Everything Must Fall, an unflinching look at the #FeesMustFall student movement that burst onto the South African political landscape in 2015. This protest over the cost of education morphed into the most militant national revolt since the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. The story is told by four student leaders at Wits University and their Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, a left-wing, former anti-apartheid student activist. When Habib’s efforts to contain the protest fail, he brings 1000 police on to campus. The students won’t back down until they achieve the kind of social transformation that previous generations had long given up on. At the heart of the film sits an intergenerational conflict connecting us to contemporary discourse on the conceptualisation of higher education and decolonizing the university.

12:20 Q & A with Shaeera Kalla of #FeesMustFall (via Skype), Anita Israel, education officer, Arts NSU and a member of the #EndOutsourcing campaign.

12:45 IDeA Lunch and Open Meeting, provided by the Institute for Decolonizing Art (IDeA), registration required.

14:00 Welcome Back and Introduction (Maribelle Bierens).

14:15 Prof. Nicholas Mirzoeff, ‘Devisualizing The Deep Contemporary’
In this talk, I will think about tactics for devisualizing, meaning undoing the technology of coloniality that is visualizing. I situate this work in the ‘deep contemporary’, an alignment of the perspectives of racial capitalism, coloniality and the Anthropocene.

15:15 Q & A, chaired by Yaiza Hernández Velázquez.

15:30 Prof. Gurminder Bhambra introduced by Manqiao Fang, ‘Decolonizing our Places’
My place is the university. And the university, as the art gallery, can be seen, as John Dewey argues, as one of the vital repositories of the common learning of communities. If we accept this understanding, then we should also recognise that as the communities that constitute these institutions change, so our understandings of the present and the past are also transformed. In this talk, I discuss the movements to decolonize such places and outline what there is to gain in learning from others.

16:30 D ecolonizing the Arts Curriculum zine, with Rahul Patel, Zina Monteiro, Abbas Zahedi, Anita IsraelE. Okibi, Eva He, Lucy Panesar, Maureen Salmon, Murad Khan, Samboleap Tol and Shannon Bono.

Indian tabla played by Sat Sehmbey.

Tuesday 21 May, 14:00–17:00
Room D119

14:00 Welcome and Introductions (Gianina Ivodie).

14:10 Lecture performance by FaceintheHole (Joanna Mamede and Ana Luiza Rodrigues).

14:45 André Mesquita and Amanda Carneiro, Public Programmes, Museu de Arte de São Paulo, introduced by Wenchun Chen ‘Bringing Afro-Atlantic Histories to MASP’
‘Afro-Atlantic Histories’, one of the most ambitious exhibitions we have brought to MASP, was contextualized by a series of monographic exhibitions, seminars, talks, workshops, publications and film screenings, all of which were centered in Afro-Atlantic histories and focused on artists of African Descent. The year-long programme combined geographies, displacements and temporalities. It pushed discussion inside and outside of the museum about plurality, decoloniality and the canon. The museum saw its audience increase not only in numbers but also in diversity. Communities expressed their concerns, sometimes questioning, at other times supporting the museum programme. The power structure and its (in)visibilities became part of the discussion, broadening the reflexions on the role of a museum like MASP. In this conversation, Amanda Carneiro and André Mesquita will share the experience of working with the Afro-Atlantic Histories programme.

16:00 Live responses by David Dibosa, Mark Lewis and Isobel Whitelegg plus Q&A.

Gurminder K Bhambra is Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex. She is author of Connected Sociologies (2014, open access) and the award-winning Rethinking Modernity: Postcolonialism and the Sociological Imagination (2007). She co-edited Decolonising the University (2018) and speaks regularly on the crisis for refugees in Europe and on questions of citizenship in the light of Brexit. She set up the Global Social Theory website and is co-editor of Discover Society. Her website is here.

Amanda Carneiro holds a master’s degree in Social History at USP, with research on the iconography of women’s participation in anti-colonial struggles in Mozambique. She has worked at the Afro Brazil Museum as an Assistant Coordinator and has received a scholarship of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation to work with the collection of the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. She was the founder of the project ÍRÈTÍ – providing training in Afro-Brazilian art and history for educators, financed by the São Paulo Department of Culture – and is a 2016 fellow of UN Decade to People of African Descent. Currently, she is Assistant Curator of mediation and public programmes at MASP, where she also curated the exhibition ‘Sonia Gomes: still I rise’.

David Dibosa is co-investigator for Black Artists and Modernism (BAM). Dibosa is co-author of Post-Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum (Routledge, 2013). He trained as a curator, after receiving his first degree from Girton College, Cambridge. He was awarded his PhD in Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London, for a thesis titled, ‘Reclaiming Remembrance: Art, Shame and Commemoration’. During the 1990s, he curated public art projects, including ‘In Sight In View’, a billboard project in Birmingham, England, as well as a sculpture park in the West Midlands. From 2004–2008, he was Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Theory at Wimbledon College of Arts. He is also a member of University of the Arts London’s Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN).

Yaiza Hernández Velázquez is a lecturer at CSM-UAL, where she leads MRes Art: Exhibition Studies as an associate member of Afterall. Previously she worked as Head of Public Programmes at the MACBA (Barcelona), director of CENDEAC (Murcia) and curator of contemporary art at CAAM (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria). Recent publications include ‘Imagining Curatorial Practice after 1972’ in Curating after the Global (MIT, 2019); ‘Who Needs “Exhibition Studies”?’ in El Museo Foro (UNAM, 2019) and ‘Cortocircuitos del Museo y la Autonomía’ in ¡Autonomia! ¡Automatización! (TEA, 2019).

FaceintheHole is a project created by Joanna Mamede and Ana Luiza Rodrigues. Introduced by a common friend in Brazil, the two artists met at Central Saint Martins and shared the same concern regarding the current political situation in Brazil. Ana Luiza Rodrigues is an artist whose work explores everyday life, seeking to interweave a dialogue between the real and the surreal around her, sometimes with a political emphasis. She has exhibited in collective shows in São Paulo, where she was born, and in London where she has lived since 2012, and is now completing the MA Photography. Joanna Mamede is a visual artist, filmmaker and former television director from Rio de Janeiro, currently completing the MRes Art: Moving Image. Her work explores language, culture and the understanding of difference. Using text, forms, images and colours, she aims to deconstruct discourses and traditional narratives to find the spaces in between elements which might aid or prevent communication.

Mark Lewis is co-founder and co-director of Afterall, and a professor at Central Saint Martins. Lewis is an artist whose works exhibit internationally. In 2009 he represented Canada at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Solo exhibitions include Casa do Povo (São Paulo, 2019), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, 2017), Austin Contemporary (Texas, 2017), Le Bal (Paris, 2015), The Power Plant (Toronto, 2015), Musée du Louvre (Paris, 2014) and Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, 2013). His 2015 feature film Invention premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, touring to festivals in Berlin, Chicago, London and others world wide. In 2016 he was awarded The Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Fine Art. Lewis initiated the current Afterall collaboration with MASP in São Paulo.

André Mesquita is based in São Paulo and conducts research on the articulations between art, politics and activism. He is the author of Insurgências poéticas: arte ativista e ação coletiva(Annablume/Fapesp, 2011), Esperar não é saber: arte entre o silêncio e a evidência (2015), Mapas dissidentes (TBA), and co-author of Desinventario: esquirlas de Tucumán Arde en el archivo de Graciela Carnevale (Ocho Libros, 2015). As a member of the Red Conceptualismos del Sur, he was one the curators of Perder la forma humana (MNCARS, 2012). He was the co-curator of the exhibition ‘Politicization of Friendship’ (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, 2014). Currently, Mesquita investigates the theme of secrecy and its relationships with contemporary societies and artistic practices. André is Curator of mediation and public programmes at MASP.

Nicholas Mirzoeff is a visual activist, working at the intersection of politics, race and global/visual culture. Among his many publications, The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) won the Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies in 2013. How To See The World was published by Pelican in the UK (2015) and by Basic Books in the US (2016). It has been translated into ten languages and was a New Scientist Top Ten Book of the Year for 2015. His new project, The Appearance of Black Lives Matter was published in 2017 as a free e-book, and in 2018 as a limited edition print book with the art project ‘The Bad Air Smelled Of Roses’ by Carl Pope and a poem by Karen Pope, both by NAME Publications, Miami. Since Charlottesville, he has been active in the movement to take down statues commemorating settler colonialism and/or white supremacy and convened the collaborative syllabus ‘All The Monuments Must Fall’. A frequent blogger and writer, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Time and The New Republic.

Rahul Patel is an alumnus of MRes Art: Exhibition Studies. He is now an Educational Developer (Attainment) and Lecturer on the PgCert programme with UAL’s Teaching and Learning Exchange and Associate Lecturer on the MACCC. He co-leads the sessions on Reading Collections: The African-Caribbean, Asian and African Art in Britain Archive and has co-curated the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education zine.

Isobel Whitelegg is Director of Postgraduate Research, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester. After completing her PhD, she developed the collaborative research projects ‘Latin American Art & the UK’ and ‘Meeting Margins, Transnational Art in Europe & Latin America’. Her current research focuses on the relationship between art and institutional histories in Brazil.

Cemile Zeynep Eryilmaz, Maribelle Bierens, Manqiao Fang, Gianina Ivodie and Wenchun Chen are first year students of the MRes Art: Exhibition Studies. With thanks to Rosie Halford, Hyejin Jee, Dahye Lee and Zsuzsanna Zsuró.