The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018: International Biennial Prize Conference, Day I

Conference Fri 3 Nov 2017 12.00PM-4.30PM The New School
Theresa Lang Community and Student Center
55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, Room I-202
New York, NY
Admission is free to all events. Please register here.

Day I: Friday November 3, 2017
Day II: Saturday November 4, 2017
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The Vera List Center Prize Conference in November looks at the urgent and necessary work of the recipient of the third Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves, and the five Prize Finalists: the London-based interdisciplinary research agency Forensic Architecture; the artist coalition Gulf Labor; House of Natural Fibers (HONF), a new media arts laboratory in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; IsumaTV, a collaborative multimedia platform for indigenous filmmakers and media organization in Canada; and MadeYouLook, an artist collective based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Friday panels are centered on Maria Thereza Alves' prize winning project Seeds of Change and culminate in a keynote conversation between her and Saidiya Hartman. This is followed by the presentation of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018 to Alves and the opening of her exhibition Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization. On Saturday, the focus is on the projects of the Finalists, and the ways theirs resonate with Alves' Seeds of Change.

Maria Thereza Alves Panel Discussion I
The Ground We're Standing On: 12:00-2:00pm

Unpacking the co-production of land, plants and peoples in the research for Seeds of Change, this conversation challenges our assumptions about how and what we think we know about a site. In Maria Thereza Alves' words: "The earth you think you're on is not, it is someplace else. The only way you would know the place is from the flower." By looking at human-instigated histories of soil movements – and plants as evidence thereof – we examine radical forms of geography that help uncover obscured histories of sovereignty and oppression, and consider the potential of interspecies co-operation. In this talk we reframe our relation to place as well as what we risk when we do so when the "local" or so-called native is elsewhere. The New School faculty who guides this conversation considers who and what can call a place home and the means necessary of elaborating on that definition in order to move it beyond exchange.

Seth Denizen, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Geography
J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology, Wesleyan University
Tomaz Mastnak, Institute of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana
Moderator: TJ Demos, Professor, History of Art and Visual Culture
Director, Center for Creative Ecologies, University of California Santa Cruz

Maria Thereza Alves Panel Discussion II
Seeds as Storyteller/Witness: 2:30-4:30pm

In their narrative and expository role seeds collude with human actors and fertile ground to tell a story, sometimes a different story than expected, about the history of a place. Alves' work takes up the narratives carried by dormant seeds that endure in ballast, i.e. the soil that was used to balance trade ships as they crossed the ocean. These dormant seeds have the potential to activate alternative ways of knowing buried and obscured histories of oppression that are "flashing up," as Walter Benjamin wrote, in the present. As such, it is our, very necessary, job to grasp these stories in those moments. An environmentalist, a political scientist and an anthropologist guide this investigation about the illustrative agency of seeds, and elaborate on and bolster the conceptual tools Alves has developed in regards to their own research and practices. The New School respondent elaborates on these interpretations to further consider how the sciences, humanities and design collaborate to imagine tangible alternative pasts and futures, and what is lost when we choose not to consider them in concert but select one over the other.

Jane Bennett, Professor, Department of Political Sciences, Johns Hopkins University
Marisa Prefer, artist, Gardener, Pioneer Works; Horticultural Advisor, VLC
Radhika Subramaniam, Assistant Professor, School of Art and Design History and Theory, Parsons
Moderator: Lara Khaldi, Curator, Palestine

The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018: Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change New York—A Botany of Colonization is organized by Carin Kuoni, director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and Amanda Parmer, curator of the Vera List Center, and is made possible by Prize Founding Supporters: James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth R. Hilpman and Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack and The New School.