Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies Into Darkness

Closing Convening & Performance Fri 20 Sep 2019 6.30PM - Sat 21 Sep 2019 1.30PM The New School/Vera List Center
University Center, Starr Foundation Hall
63 Fifth Avenue
New York City

Friday, September 20, 6:30-8pm
Saturday, September 21, 1:30-5pm, followed by reception

Admission is free but advance registration is requested HERE.

This is the closing convening for a series of six seminars on Freedom of Speech. Each was accompanied by suggested readings, seminar program with speaker biographies, a summary and video documentation. Please check links below to each individual seminar.
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Over the past year, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics has partnered with ARTICLE19, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the New York Peace Institute, and Weeksville Heritage Center to address the perennially contested right to free speech. The effort stems from an invitation by artist and filmmaker Amar Kanwar, and his artwork, Such a Morning (2017), which can be seen as an allegory for retreating into darkness to consider ideas and realities that require profound reorientation. In the context of today's fraught political climate in the U.S. and internationally, the partner organizations came together to present public seminars from each of their particular perspectives as well as those of artists, writers, and poets. This two-day Closing Convening assembles both the partners in this project as well as presenters from the original seminars to engage in a public discussion of where this in-depth series of conversations has led us.

The Closing Convening is organized around a letter that the professor featured in Such a Morning pens. Letter number 7 suggests three phases to create a curriculum for studies into darkness. The first, Arrival and Anticipation, addresses legal and psychological frameworks of individual bodies, and the body politic, in relationship to freedom of speech. It includes formative uses of free speech ranging from poetry to manifestoes, addresses physical space as a site of expression and invites imagining how we might make ready or prepare for desired futures. Then comes Order and Disintegration, and here existing structures and their logics are examined alongside strategies for interruption and subversion. Finally, Silence and Transformation, the state wherein withdrawal and silence create a generative space for thinking and future action, where transformation might be possible.

The Closing Convening kicks off on Friday evening with this final state, Silence and Transformation. Renowned artist Amar Kanwar provides a reflection on the seminars and their meanings, and distinguished poet and language activist Natalie Diaz reads from her work.

On Saturday, the afternoon begins with a roundtable discussion including all the partner organizations, moderated by Svetlana Mintcheva, programs director at NCAC. Next, Arrival and Anticipation features presentations by poet and criminal defense lawyer Vanessa Place and artist Shawné Michaelain Holloway followed by responses by cultural historian Kazembe Balagun and sociologist Aleksandra Wagner. Artist and educator Kameelah Janan Rasheed contemplates Order and Disintegration, with responses by artist Chloë Bass and writer and critic Aruna D'Souza. Each discussion is followed by a Q & A.

The Convening closes with "In The Mouth of This Dragon," a newly commissioned sound work and performance by Mendi and Keith Obadike, featuring the writings of Audre Lorde. A reception will follow.

6:30 - 8pm: Silence and Transformation
Amar Kanwar, artist and filmmaker, New Delhi
Natalie Diaz, Mojave poet, language activist, and educator

1:30-2:30pm: Partnering on Freedom of Speech
Amar Kanwar, artist and filmmaker, New Delhi
Anna Keye, Development and Outreach Officer, New York Peace Institute
Gabriela López Dena, Vera List Graduate Student Fellow, Art & Social Justice
Obden Mondésir, Oral History Project Manager, Weeksville Heritage Center
Moderated by Svetlana Mintcheva, Director of Programs, National Coalition Against Censorship

2:30-3:30pm: Arrival and Anticipation
Kazembe Balagun, cultural historian, activist, and writer
Shawné Michaelain Holloway, new media artist
Vanessa Place, artist, writer, and criminal appellate attorney specializing in sex offenders and sexually violent predators
Aleksandra Wagner, Assistant Professor of Sociology, The New School
Moderated by Carin Kuoni, Co-curator, Freedom of Speech

3.45-4.30pm: Order and Disintegration
Chloë Bass, artist
Aruna D'Souza, writer and art historian
Kameelah Janan Rasheed, artist and educator
Moderated by Laura Raicovich, Co-curator, Freedom of Speech

4:30-5:00 pm: In The Mouth of This Dragon
Performance by artists Mendi and Keith Obadike
Julie Brown -- vocals
Shanelle Gabriel -- vocals
Sharae Moultrie -- vocals
Shoko Nagai -- accordion
Keith Obadike -- keyboard and guitar
Mendi Obadike -- vocals
Onome -- vocals
Endea Owens -- bass
Satoshi Takeishi -- percussion

The seminar series Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics as part of the center's 2018–2020 curatorial focus If Art Is Politics. It is directed by Carin Kuoni, Director/Chief Curator, Vera List Center, and writer and curator Laura Raicovich, with assistance by Gabriela López Dena. Partner organizations for the seminars are ARTICLE 19; the National Coalition Against Censorship; New York Peace Institute; and Weeksville Heritage Center.

This is the concluding event for Freedom of Speech. A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness, which featured the following seminars:

Seminar 1: Mapping the Territory
Monday, November 12, 2018
Partner organization: The National Coalition Against Censorship

Seminar 2: Feminist Manifestos
Monday, December 3, 2018

Seminar 3: Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online
Monday, February 11, 2019
Partner organization: ARTICLE 19

Seminar 4: Say It Like You Mean It: On Translation, Communication, Languages
Monday, March 11, 2019

Seminar 5: A Time for Seditious Speech
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Partner organization: Weeksville Heritage Center
@ Weeksville Heritage Center

Seminar 6: Going Towards the Heat: Speaking Across Difference
Monday, June 10, 2019
Partner organization: New York Peace Institute