Going the Distance: Cultural Work in Far-flung Political and Geographical Spheres

Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor
Free admission; space is limited and registration required at vlc@newschool.edu. Participants are strongly encouraged to make use of the event Resource Guide
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The third in a series of seminars investigating political engagement through various artistic and cultural practices including dis-engagement, boycotts, or other modes of withdrawal, Going the Distance delves into cultural and political work over great distances – physical, political, philosophical, social, financial, or cultural. In a world in which the technological innovations characteristic of late capitalism have collapsed time and space to diminish distance, how do we connect with other geographies and people via artistic production? In locations where the political situations on the ground are unclear, complex, dangerous or unstable, and information and news are unreliable and nuanced, how do cultural workers contend with knowledge-gathering, research, communication, and production? What methodologies do artists and cultural producers employ to activate the power of digital communication when the power of in-person human contact has been paralyzed?

The Back Room's Ava Ansari and Molly Kleiman kick off the seminar at 5:30 pm with the screening of a short film featuring architectural historian Craig L. Wilkins and Ava Ansari's joint reading of the Remix Section of Wilkins's Aesthetic of Equity, in English and Farsi respectively. A discussion follows with Ansari and Kleiman on the translation process and Wilkins's notion of "code switching" from academic to vernacular black register; the politics and challenges of translating vernacular speech; and specific examples of "untranslatables" in the English and Farsi text.

From 7 to 9 pm Ansari and Kleiman present their work more broadly, connecting their specific practices to the larger problematics of cross-border engagement. They are joined by artists Melanie Crean and Yevgeniy Fiks in this conversation on modes of engagement that transcend borders of geography, culture, language; on disentangling abstract notions of working across great distances from the specific practicalities of realization; and on the importance of deconstructing cultural assumptions.

5:30–6:30 pm Film Screening and Discussion
7–8 pm Presentations by Participants
8–9 pm Discussion with Questions & Answers, moderated by Laura Raicovich

Ava Ansari is an artist, educator, and curator and co-director of The Back Room. She is the associate curator of The Edge of Arabia US Tour, where she recently co-curated the Culturunners Storytelling Symposium at MIT's Art, Culture and Technology Program. As an artist, Ansari has presented work at ISEA2014, Dixon Place, La Mama, Eyebeam, the AC Institute, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, among others. She has previously worked at Aperture Foundation, New York; Shirin Gallery, New York; Basement Gallery, Dubai; and Silk Road Gallery, Tehran. She holds a B.A. in Public Relations and Journalism from Allameh Tabatabaei University in Tehran, and an M.A. in Art Politics from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Melanie Crean is an artist and teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an Assistant Professor of Media Design at Parsons' School of Art, Media and Technology, teaching production and theory classes in experimental time based work, interactive design, mobile media and urban intervention. Her art work explores relationships between media, speech, history, and the social structures of control. Recent projects have focused on location-based narratives and the nature of histories encoded in urban landscapes through architecture and design. Often working collaboratively, Crean and her partners experiment with narrative form to explore who has the authority to be heard, and what happens when these voices are silenced.

Previously, Melanie was Director of Production at Eyebeam, where she founded and managed a cooperative studio that supported the creation of socially based media. She produced documentaries in Nepal, India and the United States, on subjects that include women trafficking and the spread of HIV/AIDS along trucking routes in South Asia. Crean has received commissions from Art in General, the Bronx Arts Council and Rhizome; fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, Harvestworks, NYFA and NYSCA; and participated in group exhibitions with Creative Time, Performa 11 and No Longer Empty.

Yevgeniy Fiks was born in Moscow in 1972 and has been living and working in New York since 1994. Fiks has produced many projects on the subject of the Post-Soviet dialog in the West, among them "Lenin for Your Library?" in which he mailed V.I. Lenin's text Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism to one hundred global corporations as a donation for their corporate libraries; "Communist Party USA," a series of portraits of current members of Communist Party USA, painted from life in the Party's national headquarters in New York City; and "Communist Guide to New York City," a series of photographs of buildings and public places in New York City that are connected to the history of the American Communist movement.

Fiks's work has been shown internationally. This includes exhibitions in the United States at Winkleman and Postmasters galleries (both in New York City), Mass MoCA, and the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art; the Moscow Museum of Modern Art and Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow; Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, and the Museu Colecção Berardo in Lisbon. His work has been included in the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011, 2009, 2007 and 2005), the Biennale of Sydney (2008) and the Thessaloniki Biennale of Contemporary Art (2007).

Molly Kleiman is deputy editor of Triple Canopy, a magazine that has advanced a model of publication that encompasses digital works of art and literature, public conversations, exhibitions, and books. She is co-director of The Back Room and teaches at New York University's Gallatin School for Individualized Study.

The Back Room is a curatorial and pedagogical project that facilitates exchanges between artists and scholars in Iran and the U.S. Recent projects include, Open Relationship, an eight-week workshop developed in collaboration with CultureHub, New York, Sazmanab Center for Contemporary Art, Tehran, and Mani Studio, Isfahan; I Am Only a Reporter, an exhibition of later works by Ardeshir Mohassess, Modern Section of Art Dubai, 2014; A Call, a project conceptualized with Wafaa Bilal and eighty participating performers, which opened concurrently at Aaran Gallery, Tehran, and White Box, New York.
    • Going The Distance Cultural Work In Far Flung Political And Geographical Spheres Film Screening And Discussion
    • Going The Distance Cultural Work In Far Flung Political And Geographical Spheres Presentations And Discussion
      • K Going The Distance Resource Guide Download - pdf (74 kB)
      • K Going the Distance: Event Program Download - pdf (465 kB)
Going the Distance is seminar IV of the series Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency and Cultural Production. Other seminars in this series are

The Legacy of the Cultural Boycott in South Africa
Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Cultural Production During BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel)
Monday, October 20th, 2014

Going the Distance: Cultural Work in Far-flung Political and Geographical Spheres
Monday, December 1, 2014

Considering Palestine/Israel. What Does the Boycott Mean?
Saturday, February 7, 2015

Who is Silencing Whom? Censorship, Self-Censorship, and Charlie Hebdo
Monday, February 23, 2015

Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production
Saturday, April 11, 2015

The program is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics as part of the center's 2013–2015 curatorial focus on Alignment. It is curated by Carin Kuoni, director/curator, Vera List Center, and Laura Raicovich, President and Executive Director, Queens Museum.