Black In Design: Opening Keynote, Hamza Walker

Good evening and welcome Just since you all went quiet, as you saw Hamza and Ken walk by, I thought, why not? We should just get up I think there are other people who are still coming in, so, really, this is my opportunity to just say a few words My name is– because there are a lot of people from outside, I should say who I am My name is Moshen Mostafavi I’m the dean of the Graduate School of Design here at the GSD And it’s a real honor and pleasure to welcome you all to what I know will be an important, exciting, and very productive few days here at the GSD As you probably know from the material and the title here– Black in Design, Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions– that we’re here to, on the one hand, celebrate, and on the other to really discuss new possibilities, new discourses, new ways in which we could collaborate and come together to really construct a different kind of agenda for action The celebration is focusing on the contribution of the African diaspora to the design fields The mission, if you like, of the conference of Black and Design, which is organized by the GSDs by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design– African-American Students Union, known as GSDAASU recognizes the contributions of the African diaspora to the design fields and promotes discourse around the agency of the design profession to address and dismantle the institutional barriers faced by our communities Some of you might be familiar with the work of a Caribbean British cultural theorist called Stuart Hall, who worked a lot in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s in the UK, and was really a very significant, important contributor to the field of cultural studies in the UK– but also really influential on a number of other cultural theories such as Paul Gilroy that, maybe, some people would know He wrote a book called, There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack, and other very important books But Stuart Hall, talking about culture from his perspective– from the position of what– in the UK, at that time, was sort of the Birmingham School of Critical Thinking– focused on the importance of culture as the critical site for social action and intervention, where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled I think Stuart Hall’s description of culture, in some way, resonates with the aspirations of this event, with the aspirations of this conference, where we could almost say that design, or architecture, or the design fields together are the critical sites of social action and intervention where power relations are both established and potentially unsettled And in a sense you could say they are reestablished They are unsettled through new formations, new kinds of imaginary projects Within the context of the Graduate School of Design– for those of you who are not familiar with our school, but you do know that we’re involved with architecture, and landscape architecture, and urban planning, urban design, design studies more broadly We’re constantly engaging with this project of understanding power structures but the manner in which through our reimagining of new kinds of design projects we are also unsettling, and at the same time, redesigning, reimagining alternative possibilities and alternative social economic structures through the way in which we utilize design

as the agency of social transformation This is done through, what we call, design studios with a dozen or so students and two or three faculty working for three months during one semester to sort of imagine these projects Now you know that this conference is also the second of what I know and hope will be a series of ongoing conferences building on a very important event here in 2015, and some of the organizers of that event are here with us– where, what I found as one of the most exciting and important aspects of that– talking about the agency of design to establish and potentially unsettle is the way in which the conference has really put as its mandate to find new ways to construct new organizational structures And by that, I mean the fact that there is such an incredible diversity of speakers here It is not just simply focusing on design within a conventional sense, but it is saying that it requires new collaborations, which is much, much broader At the end of the last conference I was genuinely moved by how the conference managed to show that the combination of these various individuals, who were at the conference, could really not only speak of new friendships, new affiliations, new collaborations, but it really opened up a very different way of conceiving of contemporary design practice This, I think, is one of the really significant aspects of the conference, and I really want to thank the organizers for pursuing this particular direction, in a way, and not seeing the conference as something that’s too narrow And I think the spirit of the conference is much broader and very important in that sense So, in terms of the thematics of design resistance and building coalition, while the political climate we face today is tenuous, the forces of systemic injustice are obviously something that is not new, and it is with that in mind that we want to explore design as resistance and show how designers are advocates and activists We want to highlight the contributions made by leaders across nontraditional fields In creating spaces for actions and representations of resistance, through this exploration we will broaden the definition of design, understanding it through the lens of these visionaries in their work, which we hope will become much more engaged also with our school as we move forward So for us, this is very much a learning process I want to thank our student organizers, Amanda Miller MDes ’17, Natasha Hicks, MUP and MDes ’19, Marcus Mello, MArch 1 and MUP ’18, Armando Sullivan MUP ’18, Chanel Williams, MUP ’18 Our sponsors for this event are the Graham Foundation I’m really delighted that Sarah Herda, the head of that organization, is present and representing the foundation I also want to thank the Hideo Sasaki Foundation here in Watertown, and I think Patrick Bassett is present and representing that foundation here tonight Also, our collaborators for this conference are the Black in Design Advisory Cohort, the Deans Diversity Initiative, Office of Communications and Public Programs, The Just City Lab, Loeb Fellowship, Office of Student Services that have all contributed to this event So without any further delay, would you please welcome Natasha and Marcus, who will introduce the conference? Thank you Thank you, Mohsen Hello and welcome again to the Black in Design Conference My name is Natasha Hicks And my name is Marcus Mello

And we are the co-presidents of the Harvard Graduate School of Design African-American Student Union and two of the organizers of this year’s edition of Black in Design We’re excited that you’re joining us after the groundbreaking conference in 2015, and are so grateful to the organizers of the inaugural event, including the co-chairs from 2015, Courtney Sharpe and Carol Michel Thank you for inspiring us and for providing the platform from which we envision this year’s Black in Design Conference, Designing Resistance, Building Coalitions This conference continues to recognize the contributions of the African diaspora to the design field and promote discourse around the agency of the design profession to address and dismantle the institutional barriers faced by our communities We are excited for you to join us on this year’s exploration of designers as advocates and activists This weekend, we’re broadening the definition of design We’ve invited a diverse set of individuals that identify with design ranging from artists to policy makers By bringing this group together in conversation around these themes we hope to reveal how design is creating spaces for action and representations of resistance The conference would not be possible without the support of our generous sponsors, and we want to extend a special thanks to the Graham Foundation for advance studies in the fine arts We are also grateful for financial support from the Graduate School of Design’s various programs and departments, as well as the countless discussions with the school’s administration, staff, and gracious faculty who encouraged us throughout the planning process and are recognized in the program We are also appreciative of the Hideo Sasaki Foundation, and specifically from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Loeb Fellowship, as well as The Just City Lab, who is supporting and facilitating Sunday’s workshop We would now like to introduce Hamza Walker, our keynote speaker for this evening Since September 2016, Hamza has been the executive director of LAX Art in Los Angeles, one of the city’s most important platforms for emerging and under-recognized contemporary art Prior to joining LAX Art, Walker served as associate curator and director of education at the Renaissance society at the University of Chicago and co-curated with Aram Moshayedi, the 2016 edition of the Hammer museum’s Made in LA Walker continues to teach at the Art Institute of Chicago as an adjunct professor Walker is also the winner of both the 2004 for Walter Hopps award for curatorial achievement and the 2010 Ordway prize Recent exhibitions Walker has organized include reconstitution at LAX Art with Catherine Taft– A Painting is a Painting isn’t a Painting at San Francisco’s KADIST– Wadada Leo Smith, Ankhrasmation, The Language Scores 1967 to 2015 at the Renaissance Society with John Corbett– Teen Paranormal Romance and Suicide Narcissist– two group exhibitions also at the Ren– and Black is, Black ain’t at the Renaissance Society The last exhibition, Black is, Black ain’t will be the subject of Hamza’s talk The show opened at the Renaissance society in Chicago, now, nearly 10 years ago in 2008, and what was a landmark exhibition at the time, is relevant to our present moment– could not be more immediate and urgent Bringing together works from an incredible range of artists, including Mickalene Thomas, Glen Lygon, William Pope El, Hank Willis Thomas, Janet Jackson, and many others– the exhibition, as Hamza writes in the introduction to the catalog, surveys a moment in which race is retained yet is simultaneously rejected That dynamic, which is what the show’s title draws on, Black is, Black ain’t, is as fundamental and crucial to 2017 as it was in 2008 And we’re still looking forward to his talk serving as a point of departure for the rich conversations about identity that will unfold over the next day and a half So please extend a warm welcome to Hamza Walker Thank you so much for the really, really warm welcome I’d like to thank Amanda, Natasha, Marcus, and Ken for the invitation And I’m deeply honored at having the chance to engage with my siblings not simply in the colloquial sense, brothers and sisters, but in the professional sense My host’s consideration of design in the expanded field allows for my presence here today

And I’m really glad knowing that I have a colleague in the audience, Dan Byers, who will, I think, sympathize with a lot of the things I’m about to say about the field Curators, what do they do? Why do they do? The job is relatively simple, survey cultural production and mount exhibitions I’m a curator of contemporary art The divide between myself and other museum curators is hardly a stylistic one In a nutshell, I work with the living as opposed to the dead But the question as to what we ask of art is the same The art and artifacts, whose care with which we are entrusted, are a mirror It is through them that we say things about ourselves to ourselves Who are we as individuals, as a society, as a species? On the one hand, there is the object of study, and its attendant questions– the who, what, when, where, how, and why kind of materialist facts On the other hand, there are the more philosophical questions about the nature of the arts experience and the institutions responsible for mediating that experience How do we make meaning around art and artifacts? This entails not so much thoughts about the objects themselves, but thoughts about them as the objects of contemplation In other words, thinking about how they are thought about When it comes to the past, the art and artifacts have substantial purchase on our imaginations insofar as that’s all that survives But just as we ask these things, say, about what life was like in some distant then and there, what if those questions were posed to the present? In short, what does contemporary art say about now? Can contemporary art be used as a means of theorizing the present in a manner reserved for history? I would never assume the present could achieve that kind of legibility, not because it can’t, but because it robs the idea of its power, which is as a question So can the present be made legible through contemporary art? That’s the question that drives what I do If contemporary art is illegible, maybe it’s because the present is illegible– or illegible insofar as there are no answers This is contemporary art as the object of contemplation turn speculation, a series of maybes and what if’s couched in an artist historically discursive chain of conditionals extending back from our own flat, monochromatic picture plains with dates painted on them to a Renaissance past when there were horizon lines which to speak Sometimes contemporary art is where the road bottoms out– the last stop on the museum’s subway ride– as far as this train goes And that’s Daniel Buren That’s when the art’s experience gives way to life, or Life Savers, as the candies Felix Gonzalez Torres would want Maybe contemporary art is where we witness the birth of subjects with newfound sociopolitical agency Or maybe contemporary art is where art fakes its death only to begin again a la the Rites of Spring Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe Maybe Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg’s wedding, Oldenburg had a stamp produced for everybody’s tongue I love this picture

Maybe So that was just all shit I really like– inspires me Ending with this iconic work, In the Hood by David Hammons, which is from 1993– well in advance of the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the rise of Mark Zuckerberg, for that matter But it’s through exhibitions that I try to contextualize contemporary art both socially an art historically What does work by living artists say about now? And how and to what extent is that is the work of art– and how and to what extent is the work art historically discursive? How, if at all, does it build upon the last canonical movements? So I’ve been asked to speak about Black is, Black ain’t, an exhibition fast approaching its 10 year anniversary It was mounted in 2008 I thought I would walk you through the exhibition, open up the files, and maybe use it as a point of departure to talk about then versus now, but first things first It was mounted at the Renaissance society at the University of Chicago, where I served as associate curator for 22 years from 1994 to 2016 And I think– is there a laser pointer on this? There should be a laser pointer There we go So this is downtown Chicago This is the campus of the University of Chicago And the Renaissance Society is right there It’s in Cobb Hall So here’s another view of the main quadrangle And it’s here It’s in that building, the Historical Quadrangle of the UsC So it occupies the top floor of what was the first building built on the historic quadrangle of the University of Chicago, Cobb Hall It’s a multipurpose classroom facility, and it still has that same function today from when it was built. So the Renaissance Society occupies the gallery, proper occupies this section here for the whole run of the fourth floor And it occupies– it’s 30 feet from the floor to the ceiling, so although there is a fifth floor, which is all in here, that’s all basically mechanical There a couple of offices up there It stops here, and then the Renaissance society goes up for 30 feet all the way up to the ceiling So this is the interior And it’s symmetrical Right now we’re facing east So east, west is symmetrical And it’s any photograph of the Renaissance society, it’s pretty much telltale If it’s an older photograph, you’ll see the truss work, and you’ll also see these corners, these bays, which are kind of a signature giveaway of the gallery It’s this really crazy, neo Gothic, origami-like space It’s very funny, one critic once accused it of being a chilly white cube Clearly, I do not trust this critic, because he does not know how to look at the space itself Why would I trust what he has to say about art It is not a cube And here’s the floor plan, and I’ll go back to the floor plan in a second And this grid actually marks where the truss work that’s since been taken out It was very handy in terms of locating walls But I thought I would include this since it’s an audience of architects and designers So Black is Black ain’t was conceived as part of a trilogy of group exhibitions that had their genesis in my thinking about the nature of thematic exhibitions, how they’re developed Black is was the second of the three The first was titled Meanwhile in Baghdad, and the last was titled Several Silences There were three exhibitions, and they were about between a year and a year and a half apart And there were three exhibitions that I could distill down to one word themes, namely, war, race, and silence So I thought I would go through the two shows that bookended Black is first Here we go So this is Meanwhile in Baghdad And it’s a group exhibition, and it had eight artists total

So, Jonathan Monk, this is Jenny Holzer Collages by Maryam Jafri Some details in there Photographs are by Walead Beshty And these photographs are of the– the show was 2007, and that was just on the eve of the surge, as it was called, led by General Petraeus And it was the peak, in terms of bloody events and car bombings, of our incursion into Iraq These photographs were actually taken before we went into Iraq in 2003 by Walead Beshty, who was spending time in Berlin And I believe he may have had a DAAD grant at the time He photographed the Iraqi consulate, which had been abandoned– the Iraqi consulate in Germany, which had been abandoned in 1992, when the first round of sanctions due to the Gulf War– around the time of the Gulf War with the Iraq’s invasion into Kuwait– when those went into effect So that the council, it had been abandoned, Walead went in, and he photographed a building that had fallen into ruins over the course of the 1990s He then forgot to take the film out of his bag when he went to the airport, and it got X-rayed, so the film got completely bleached out, so it produced this really grainy, kind of washed out veil, kind of, over the picture So the question as to like just when these photographs were taken– they kind of are out of time And I took them as reference to basically deluding that it had taken place in Baghdad So these pictures actually function as a reference, kind of a portal– or a reference back to the first Gulf War There’s another one Jenny Holzer This is a series of redacted letters largely about torture Jonathan Monk, Dead Man The figure was made by the same craftspeople who worked for Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum The figure is modeled on Chris Burden when he– a very young Chris Burden I think it’s 1973, ’74– actually maybe before that It maybe ’72 Chris Burden did the performance where he requested that he be shot It was with a 22 caliber pistol that he shot in the arm as his performance So this is a 22-year-old Chris Burden that’s modeled And he has a green– he would often wear a green army jacket, an olive green army jacket from the ’70s It’s just called Dead Man This is Ann Messner This is a broadsheet that she produced a series of essays by different intellectuals about our invasion in 2000– right after the war, 2003 it started So they were free Probably could take more photos by Walead Jannis Kounellis, a late Kounellis This Kounellis is about– oh, the show is ’07 This Kounellis dates from ’06 These army cots with strips of canvas that had been painted kind of a brick blood red, and the one that’s hung on the walls is hung with meat hooks And this is a moment– I did this show It was a moment when the war by ’07 had receded from the headlines, the front of the paper to kind of page three, page four of the first section of the newspaper In essence it had become less the figure and more the ground, right? So discussions about the war as a figure is something that we could talk about as an issue It simply became the backdrop basically So we were simply at war, right?

And I thought of that as a real turning point, or moment, in ’07 These are Maryam Jafri’s collages These are articles from newspapers over the course of the 20th century, where she took out any references that would make them locatable in terms of when and where And then when you read these articles, which date from the late 19th century all the way up through the ’70s, ’80s, maybe 90s, you would think they were referring to Syria To the war in ’03 Some more views This is Matt Davis, paratrooper It’s kind of uncanny in terms of suicide bomb Series of etchings by Daniel Heyman He’s from Philadelphia He was invited– he met a human rights lawyer who went to to interview prisoners who were held in Abu Ghraib, and she actually invited Daniel to come along with her And Daniel did a series of drawings and took plates– he did these etchings on the spot– drawings and etchings And he was over, I think, in Jordan And it’s interesting just in terms of them being goya, etching as the medium of war Adel Abidin, and he is an Iraqi living in, I think it’s Stockholm now But he went back to Baghdad and made a beautiful, kind of heart wrenching video of a young girl he saw playing with rubble in the streets, transferring these little bits of rubble between these two spoons and singing this very beautiful, kind of nursery rhyme about kind of a love song to the moon and the stars And that’s the soundtrack that goes with this video It’s just slow motion of her moving this rubble back and forth So that was Meanwhile in Baghdad This is Several Silences So in terms of these shows again, both bookend Black is, Black ain’t And again, this is another group show– about seven, eight artists This is an installation view So these crystal globes, they’re solid crystal They’re about eight inches in diameter, and they are a hundred of them scattered around the gallery floor Harry Shearer, video piece called the Silent Echo Chamber And it’s a series He got the B roll, essentially, of broadcast news footage where you have individuals who, the camera is rolling before they go to make the presentation on the news, or it’s them sitting in silence as they’re listening to somebody else’s commentary to which they’re then asked to respond So it’s a real rogues gallery You’ve got Henry Kissinger I gave Kissinger the biggest monitor of all James Carville, John McCain, Hillary Clinton And they’re all just sitting there in silence– these kind of video portraits of them Quite a beautiful piece, yeah Karl Rove Another view Troy Brauntuch These are these dark, conte crayon drawings on muslin stretched over stretcher bars They’re based on photographs of Barney’s that was downtown and filled with dust after 2001, after the towers fell All this dust came into the stores, and so it turned the Barney’s, the men’s store, into a kind of catacomb These are racks that had shirts on them Gran Fury, the collective responsible for the campaign silence equals death, which is about AIDS in the 1980s There were two audio recordings of Silence One of them was the Minute of Silence They were on vinyl, so these are on opposite ends of the gallery There were two turntables One of them played the one minute of silence after Princess Diana’s death

So someone did like a– Jonty Semper, the artist did a field recording essentially of the city coming to a halt to observe the women in silence And the other recording’s by Paul Dickinson, and it’s something called room tone And he went into the now defunct Terror Museum of Art, which used to be on Michigan Avenue And he asked the entire staff of the museum to gather in the cafeteria and had them just stand silently while he did a recording of the room tone of the cafeteria Room tone is when they make– they don’t need to do it any more They do it, but it’s digital You need to make a recording of the silence of a given room in order to insert it into a film where there were moments of dialogue, and if there’s a break in the dialogue, and you need to drop the silence in order to make the sound contiguous Because the silence of a given space is particular to that space So they would just yell out when they would shoot a scene Somebody on the set would yell out room tone, and everybody had to go silent while they just took, like, 10 seconds of silence from the room for that purpose I don’t know if that makes sense This is another view The glass spheres all on the floor are by Ryan Gander And they are– good, do have a detail This piece is a very long title, which I’ll never remember, but it involves a stack of paper, which is blown by the wind as it came into my study– something along those lines– very narrative, very poetic title So it features a laser etched sheet of paper in this curled motion as if it were paper falling to the ground So there are hundreds of these again scattered around the gallery, and they’re distributed randomly What you do is you take 100 plastic balls, and you just throw them in the space And wherever they go or land, it’s come to a stop, that’s where you place these spheres And this is Harold Mendez These are empty bulletin boards that have had all the announcements stripped from them, and these bulletin boards were on the campus of the University of Illinois and Chicago UIC So these were like Robert Rauschenberg White Paintings in terms of those having been the inspiration for John Cage’s 4’33 So these two photographs– this one is by Geissler Sann This is of a site, a training facility in Germany where they trained soldiers in close quarters combat So they build a fake Middle Eastern village in which to train soldiers And so this is in the basement of one of the public facilities So it’s this really bleak, bleak image You could see these very large boot prints in this hallway And then this photograph by Lewis Baltz, who had access to a number of laboratories and scientific facilities in France, actually I think he was shooting these in France some time in the ’90s But this is an anechoic chamber used to calibrate electronic equipment for sound Can’t remember the name of the French company who did this So these are considered some of the most suffocatingly silent, if you’ve ever been in an anechoic chamber In fact, there used to be one here at Harvard That’s the one that John Cage went into when he made the comment that there is no such thing as silence because you’re always going to hear– what he said at the time, what people purported it to be your nervous system, which I think has since been disproven Yeah So the show was really hellbent on having it really revolve around a kind of symmetry in terms of it’s layout So those were the bookends, a show about war, a show about race, a show about silence I really wanted to distill– came to this point in terms of organizing group exhibitions,

there were a labor of love, but I really felt like you can get lost with them– very hard to do And somehow I kept thinking about them as like, I don’t know They all felt like these kind of terminal points going at them, and I wanted to be more fluid about them A show is a show is a show is a show So I wanted to see how many group shows I could just drop– how many I had in me– and to keep them, again, as simple as possible thematically But obviously, with those silence being a very open and broad topic, race, war Those are huge topics And that, for me, is really when the act of curating kind of comes into being It’s like here, you know I mean as far as topics go it’s like vomit It’s like here, curate this, mother fucker So I was trolling through a lot of war related art that is being produced at the time And so they say you’re going to take on race in that way How do you begin to structure that? And so it was really slow going at first But show’s, first and foremost, for me are discursive They talk to other shows about the same issue as well So they can kind of take that bearing And again, like with the war show, Meanwhile in Baghdad, I was saying it really marked a transition where the war went from being a figure more to ground So there’s usually something, some kind of pole buried somewhere in there that I’m kind of hung up on So with Black Is, in terms of the exhibitions that it– it had been a freestyle black romantic Valerie Cassel’s Double Consciousness, Maurice Berger’s Whiteness and Race in Contemporary Art Tyler Stallings did the show Whiteness, a Wayward Construction Thelma’s Black Male, ’92, ’93 And it had been– I don’t know what– more than 10 years or something since freestyle So one of the things about approaching the show was after freestyle, Thelma put on the table the idea that black artists– it’s a whole generation of young black artists no longer obligated to address the issue of race, free to be you and me And I took that as like OK, but that doesn’t mean that the issue of race is going away It just means that Elvis has left the building, but the building is still there So that was in, large part, the starting point for it The other side being that shows of black artists could– and along with that, by extension of Thelma’s thinking, in terms of her going into freestyle, by extension, shows of black artists could no longer substitute for shows about race That was really the upshot of freestyle, kind of the takeaway So to go back in– so I decided I would try and institute quotas in terms of– to see if I could get it 50/50 in terms of black and non-black artists I got close I think I got 60/40 maybe I thought it was a healthy place to institute quotas But more than anything, I wanted to show– you know, friends would say, I remember Huey Copelands I was like, man, you’re going to do a show about race, really? It’s like, yeah And I would say it, and everybody would just kind of like get quiet And then I actually– I was like, no, but it’ll be fun I really thought that So that was one thing The second thing is it really came out of a discussion with my therapist I went in, and I went on a tear at a whole thing, I said I would never do a show about race ever And then I just went off on this thing And then after 45 minutes, she’s like, oh, session’s over It looks like you’re going to do a show about race And I was like, you’re kidding I just went on for 45 minutes about not doing this, which is great because I’m usually drawn to things I shouldn’t do Nobody would do a war show, right? So that was really the impetus So this is the file, flotsam and jetsam, stuff that I was collecting at the time that informed my thinking socially So when I talk about contextualizing the work of art socially, I mean that literally What does the work of art have to say about what I just read in the newspaper? And in terms of trying to distinguish what’s the work of arts relationship to information, right? Sharpton– I don’t if, maybe, anybody remembers this moment, which is just unbelievable that Sharpton and Strom Thurmond–

I just can’t believe this Sharpton is the descendant of slaves that were owned by Strom Thurmond’s family– unbelievable irony The burial But of course it’s back from the dead It’s Halloween Black firsts I used to joke with my mom, I want to be the eighth black astronaut I don’t have to be the first I don’t like Tang anyway Then he announced his candidacy after I’d put the show on the books So this was something of a game changer and also not in a way, but being in the same boat in terms of rate at which you go gray, I really loved this photograph I mean, it happens to all presidents, but it is truly amazing when I see this photograph now It’s like, what, who is he? The show is multifaceted One of the biggest, in my mind– you know, people want to talk about Chicago architectural history The most significant development to the city skyline was the dismantling of the Chicago housing projects, the tearing down of the Robert Taylor Homes I went to high school in Baltimore Coming down to Chicago, and driving down the Dan Ryan, and seeing this march of towers was really just incredible– like, damn, really intense– so idea that those were torn down And it’s funny They were kind of like the pyramids In some sense, nobody– I mean, people knew when they were built But they kind of didn’t have a history past a certain point, and they were going to be there forever The idea that those things would come down in my lifetime, if you said that to me when I moved to Chicago in ’84, I mean, no way But I’ve just been informed that the head of the housing authority was forced to declare that the transformation of the Chicago Housing Authority They had Daley put forth the plan from the ’90s The transformation is now complete That’s like saying a city is complete We’re done with Boston That’s it Not going to build shit It’s finished So they tore them down in favor of mixed site housing– and all the ensuing problems The developers wanted to build the high end housing first, so they could see their profits back before building the housing for poor folk So a lot of them were subsequently displaced So the issue of do people return after they’re displaced once these towers had been torn down They’re finding out, no, they don’t It was in the news Katrina And not Katrina per se, but the use of how federal funds are being distributed, dispersed for whom This was the formal, kind of the end of terms of efforts at integrating schools I’m trying to go back to what specific case was, where the big case was And it was since– I’m not going to go all the way back to like Bakke versus California, but it wasn’t that That’s a much, much older, older, older case But this is one that pretty much put affirmative action, when it comes to higher education, at an end So just in terms of what the pictures– the stories of the pictures tell– concerned black folk I ain’t going nowhere fast Ads This is a Nivea ad on Cottage Grove and 57th This is a Dove ad that got pulled– I don’t know if anybody remembers this– because they didn’t realize that they were saying something about life in the spectrum of women So I had to actually go and find a magazine that had this in it I was like, get that shit out of the trash I want that Dove ad I do not want them to forget this You get lighter and skinnier if you use our shit

So they caught hell Then this was just my coffee mug warmer one day And it’s apparently really good conditioner I can’t take it I know people swear by it Michael Gillespie, the film historian, he swears by this stuff It’s just crazy as hell Then there was this ad That was the Damon Wayans joke in one of those– the parody of Scary Movie that was then used for, I think it was a cable channel Was that Oprah’s cable channel? TV one, yeah That’s it So this is the floor plan for Black is And one of the things about the Renaissance Society is it’s extremely flexible in its space– in terms of where the walls placed We could build the shows from the inside out, meaning we can build to suit Whatever the demands of the artwork are, that’s how we approached where to put walls So this is going in the entrance And now the pieces This is Carl Pope And it’s funny Carl Pope did a whole rash of these– now I’m in a blank They’re signs that are tied to lamp posts, small run, but their web press I think its web press, which is a kind of a silkscreening But when they do this rainbow pattern, they just basically open up all the nozzles to get the rainbow pattern It’s a very cheap form of printing But he did a whole series of signs– dozens, and dozens, and dozens of these that he would then hang in a [inaudible] And I asked Carl to be in the show And I said to Carl, Carl– and he was like, great, man I’d love to be in the show And so I said, well, I only want one poster And he was like, what do you mean, you only want one poster? I said, I want one poster, and I’m going to use that poster as the invitation for the show– like that’s the piece It’ll go out to 10,000 people And Carl said, but– man– what? I’m not even going to be in the show Oh man, no, I got to talk to you later And he just hung up on me And he wanted to know what I do for a living And so I had to cajole So he finally said, OK, he’d do it And so this was the poster for the show, again, which I consider a work of art in and of itself It’s a really great piece [inaudible] And this piece is– it’s a quote from Negro Sunshine It’s taken from Gertrude Stein But the neon signs have mirror on the front– or mirror on the back in order to amplify the light So what Glen did is he had them mirror the front of the neon, so that the neon sign is– it is technically an eclipse So what you’re looking at, the mirrored front of the tubes, it’s mirrored, so it’s dark There’s no light being cast It’s all being reflected off of the mirror, just the light itself, but then some of it is being reflected off that mirror back out onto the wall I mean, I love the phrase itself, Negro Sunshine But I think his operation on the words themselves at the material level is brilliant Installation views In the foreground, Randy Regier So that’s if you go left into the gallery Paul D’Amato in the foreground And this is Daniel [inaudible],, who’s an artist from Germany Rob Pruitt to the right, the gold chains And Rodeny McMillian in the foreground Edgar Arceneaux in the foreground Todd Gray in the foreground here So yeah, this is a performance, a kind of a shamanistic ritual, which I just read as a kind of– an attempt at erasure Edgar Arceneaux, Failed Attempt at Crystallization– the name of the piece It’s a copy of roots

That’s crystalized sugar Right So he had to dunk it in a supersaturated solution of sugar over, and over, and over to grow the crystals Then it’s upside down on a mirror Beautiful piece Hank Willis Thomas For Whom the Bell Curves And that was the book, The Bell Curve To the left and to the right of this piece, the right is based on these are all points of the slave trade along the– I guess it would be the west coast of Africa And on the right are points along the East Coast of the United States I believe there might be an island down there somewhere Rodney McMillian So class It’s about time, this piece I mean, it’s a cardboard cutout– a foamcore cutout six but six feet high And Rodney McMillian– this chair, which I just love this chair It’s owned by Wilhelm Sherman He’s a really big time collector And I had to meet and sit with Rodney Rodney’s a tough customer And he said, man, I don’t know if the chair’s about race And I said, no, no, I think it’s this whole tradition of African-American assemblage, which is quite Joe Overstreet, Betye Saar, Noah Purifoy, that’s particular to the west coast So the idea of transformation from trash to gold in some sense These objects that are discarded, they may become objects of beauty, so we can bring it into that metaphor And what I liked about this chair from Rodney is that it just negated all of that So it’s fucked up outside, and it’s fucked up indoors There’s no transformation It’s magic because of the fact that there is no magic here Jonathan Calm photographs And Carrie is beautiful When he saw the show, he goes, yeah, I redid those photographs, man Cabin in the Sky So even though it’s a total, I don’t know, photography 101 exercise Daniel wrote, these drawings– that’s a portal He considers this a portal that you veritably transported space time It’s a portal linking the Cabrini-Green housing projects to the metropolitan correctional facility in downtown Chicago, which is a Harry Weese building It’s that triangular building, downtown Chicago So these drawings all represent the kind of destruction of space time as you go through– that would be one They’re really quite exquisite in terms of line quality And then this is the blueprint for the prison of the drawing And then this is the company, which was a real company apparently, that Daniel imagines would have built the tunnel So this is Paul D’Amato, these two photographs And Paul was photographing the– he’s better known as a portrait photographer He was photographing the subjects in and around the housing projects in Chicago And he was doing this at the same time that those housing projects were being dismantled, so he actually documented– and you’ll see a photograph later– the dismantling of the housing of the projects themselves Yeah, a really neat– so that’s just a very small body of work within the larger body of work So this door is from the Henry Horner Home And this is Tasha Tashma It’s kind of a girl with the pearl earring And he’s shooting with a four by five, so it’s not a hit and run in terms of a little 35 millimeter camera It’s got to go and put the black cloth over his head He’s actually got to have an exchange with the subject he’s photographing So he did three or four photographs of Tashma, all of which are quite beautiful, so I really respect the fact that people from around the way got to know Paul in terms of engagement with them So it’s a very formal street portraiture McLean Thomas Zealand Pang Zealand Pang

One of the earliest pieces that I want to put in the show She’s from Taiwan But this piece is all– she calls this fetishito And it’s like a [inaudible] Black talismanic object infested with powers But this is a little– it’s a purse in the shape of a very tight mini skirt that she’s then encrusted with these black sparkles and then these peacock feathers, all of which are made in China And the kind of sculptural logic is based on Japanese floral arrangement– formal floral arrangements, so ikebana McLean Thomas A lovely six photo So I think a fetishito in this is remnants of things from my childhood in the ’70s And this is a really important point in the show Demetrius Oliver on the left Jason Lazarus on the right Both of these are by Emmett Till The one on the left is called Till It’s by Demetrius Oliver The one of the right is Emmett Till’s Graveside June 5th, 2005, I believe, is the full title The date, I think, is June 5th And Jason Lazarus, who is white, went down– and I still, to this day, cannot figure out even though I’ve asked him point blank what was the inspiration for him to decide to go down to Emmett Till’s graveside on the day that they exumed the body When they reopened the case, they had to get the family’s permission They did the DNA test to confirm that it was, in fact, Emmett Till, because one of the parts of defense was– they said, ma’am, you don’t even know if this is your son That was one of the arguments that was presented at the time So they had to do DNA testing to prove that it was Emmett Till when they reopened the case back in 2005 I don’t know if anybody remembers that But Jason got there after they had taken the body away, so it’s just the– this is Demetrius Oliver So they just covered up the grave, and he took this photograph, which I found incredibly moving It’s kind of anti aesthetic There’s nothing to see It’s just a hole in the ground, right, but it’s kind of Constable like landscape These are just images from the– in Chicago, the kind of ground zero for the case, right? [inaudible] images The picture itself I just brought these in because I thought we might touch on the Dana Schutz thing, which is alive and well here in Boston All right, It’s Till and then Demetrius Olivers– just the idea of how the case was transmitted– and even when I was a kid I was taught, this could happen to you even though Till was far away– city, country But still, it was a cautionary tale Randy Regier in the foreground Andres Serrano in the background And so this, the idea of how do you raise a race to visually? In part, the argument is race being the difference between people It’s not the province of any particular group But here we have it literally being played out as epidermal signification It’s an ugly phrase Randy Regier Impending Future Bus This is completely– this object’s completely made from scratch Randy Regier– I mean, a funny thing to have on one’s resume, an antique toy restorer This is based on a Ray Bradbury story in which there’s a future an astronaut goes to a planet inhabited by another race, and they have to decide whether or not the white astronaut is allowed on the planet I’m pretty sure that’s the summary of the story he told in terms of doing this piece But he made each of the elements of this from hand, and he used parts of an old Woolworth’s that had gone out of business the fluorescent light fixtures, an old Hoover vacuum cleaner, then he cast all of the figures himself And when I asked him about the antique– his use of the old vacuum cleaner and the parts from Woolworth’s– and he said, yeah, man I mean, when they go to carbon date my shit, I just want them to, like, think it’s a period piece

And I just thought it was great I was thinking it’s like future in which his work is carbon dated– talk about posterity Hank Willis Thomas, again, where he removed all the text from this Afro Sheen ad So much brown So here is– so this is Paul D’Amato This is him photographing going up into one of the buildings as it was being torn down This is the most valuable at the time– it probably still is– some of the most valuable real estate in the city These towers are all gone now obviously Jerome [inaudible] made these t-shirts memorializing the tearing down of the projects Those were the names of all of the 27 federal housing projects from Chicago I love the eeriness of these They look like obituary photographs Virginia Nimarkoh This is based on a very famous painting by Gerhard Richter called Betty, which the subject is Gerhard Richter’s daughter who’s blonde He’s got her in the exact same position, and she’s looking back into what turns out to be one of Gerhard Richter’s gray, monochromatic paintings And she’s wearing a floral jacket, so Virginia restaged the whole thing This is a series of portraits that Virginia got She’s living in London She’s Nigerian– family moved to London She went around to Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square I always call it Trafalgar Dilly where all the squares are in London– and got different portrait artists to do her likeness I love this right here where this– he just can’t handle the– Virginia, it’s, like, I hope you got a discount Shit I mean, this whole area is, like, what did he do, erase all this? It’s like Marcel Marceau And the ones where the– I love the ones where– and Virginia’s like, oh, the artist is Asian, who did this one It’s just amazing But just a whole– and this particular piece being in dialogue with Virginia with Black Romantics, the show that Thelma did So here we go David Lebenthal These are 20 by 24 Polaroids that he did He has a collection of over 1,000 of things I call Negrobilia And these kind of figurines that are– when you get close up to them I mean, photography kind of imbues them with a life they otherwise don’t have, but this one’s really scary– just this vaginal You know, talk about castration fear Work a day Negro Pope.L skin set drawings In this he was great– a series of primary color, a kind of Crayola from the basically the Crayola crayon– the very simple boxset– these wooden shelves painted in those colors around the gallery with a cone of flour that just kind of crumbled This is Deborah Grant The late Terry Adkins, a beautiful piece about WEVD boys going over in 1956, I believe, to meet Mao And here, Deborah Grant’s collages Sammy Davis Jr., Support of Nixon His collages are great They’re redeploying Bill Trailer’s iconography

So here is just some of the thinking in terms of, again, a social context for some of the works in terms of how they were chosen, being in dialogue And then the dialogue within the show between pieces, in terms of giving the piece– giving the show a kind of conceptual structure, an architecture to a show in terms of themes that run throughout Right here, with Terry Adkins and a kind of species of conceptual art These six tape players all played a speech that WEVD boys gave called Socialism in the Negro, but you couldn’t hear it All you would see are the red needles bouncing on the tape decks So I’ll close out with another set of reflections on the show of a biographical order in terms of the shows– another avenue of thinking about the show after the fact A postscript, that’s the word I want The year was 1980 I was 14 years old, a freshman at the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute We were a class of roughly 30 students Mr. Williams, my ninth grade social studies teacher, was normally gregarious and outgoing, but I remember a day when he was conspicuously disengaged He was dummy to a chart, whose subject, race, limited the powers of ventriloquism He delivered his lesson plan in utterly bloodless fashion His lips moved somewhere inside his beard The monotone recitation continued unabated despite rashes of giggling Negroid, caucasoid, mongoloid, these were the terms in which it was impossible for us to see ourselves Negro, Caucasian, and Mongol were silly enough without the oid Being either hopelessly dated or too formal, they did not refer to anyone going by black, white, or Oriental, as the designation Asian had yet to carry favor Polygenism, with its version of a Black Adam and Eve, a white Adam and Eve, and an Asian Adam and Eve, and a Native American Adam and Eve had been roundly debunked Yet, the now commonly accepted out of Africa Theory, which confirmed Darwin’s hypothesis of mono genesis, had not gained traction in the Baltimore City public school curriculum Any notion of a common ancestral population was altogether eclipsed by a diagram that began with the big three and quickly devolved into some groupings, which, based on the standard choices for self-identification, belong to the catchall category, other We did not have questions Which to say, we did not openly question the material Had we known of the diagrams checkered past with a cast of characters that includes the likes of Arthur de Gobineau, a Frenchman of letters, who invented the theory of an Aryan race, class would have been an entirely different scenario– one of which Mr. Williams would pray parents did not get wind The lesson was thoroughly confusing It addressed human diversity but not how it came to be reflected geographically Like a rabbit duck drawing, the lesson could be either science or history depending on how you looked at it Since he spoke in terms of archetypes rather than people, I took it as science From three architects came a host of subcategories that implied migration and miscegenation Calling them archetypes, however, was supposed to eclipse questions of their existence in and over time, questions bound to invoke history mythical, biblical, or otherwise My image of a Mongolian Adam and Eve was clearly beside the point The chart, as is, was the point Parsing and labeling variations on the theme of humanity was an end in itself It took a lot of work for me to figure out that the chart was simply a hollow system for managing difference, end of story Discussing race in purely formal terms is an exercise in alienation, if ever there were one The case in point being Mr William’s disengagement

Between race and sex, I’m sure he would have opted for explaining to us the latter fact of life In essence, Mr Williams bore the onus of breaking the news to us that race was not a natural but a historical construction, a social construction, and as such, could be entertained as a fiction Mr. Williams, however, would never have been so bold He was a prisoner of context In 1980, it would have been hard to imagine a black teacher announcing to a class of 14-year-olds, the majority of whom were likewise black, that race was a fiction To declare race a fiction, would have been radical relative to the black political and cultural self-consciousness that emerged in the preceding two decades While the rhetoric of black nationalism may have been waning by 1980, you have to keep in perspective that it was only four years before, in 1976, that African-American week– as envisioned by Carter G Woodson 50 years earlier– was embraced at a national level and expanded to encompass the month of February– or that one year later, 1977, saw the airing of the television miniseries Roots, an event that many, myself included, considered epic Or as a biographical exercise, I could contrast Mr. Williams, my high school social studies teacher, to Ms. Quarrels, my middle school social studies teacher, a young soul sister with dashikis, afro Ms. Quarrles, I remember, had to come up on stage and relieve me of my task of lighting the seven candles of Kwanzaa, as I was stricken with stage fright, and I don’t think my hands have ever shaken like that I let Ms. Quarrels down She wanted to reinforce the initiative shown by my parents in naming me Hamza She wanted to back that African sounding name up with the symbolic ritual, build a solid foundation for self, belonging, community According to Ms Quarrels, my lot was cast with all the Shanequahs, Taiwan’s, and Kunyatas But what started as a simple exercise in pride and uplift quickly became a 10-year-old boys failure to do justice to the race I believe that children are the future Teach them well and let them lead the way Show them all the beauty they possess inside Give them a sense of pride to make it easier But I digress The point I want to make is that Mr. William’s lesson had to compete with the still potent sentiment of cultural self-determination Obviously, say it loud, I’m negroid, and I’m proud didn’t cut it Explaining race in the manner required of Mr. Williams was, in some sense, the equivalent of teaching ornithology to the birds But that said, teaching race with only the vaguest of implications that it was a social construction was progressive then Fraught with whatever problems, this lesson plan, inconceivable under Jim Crow era segregation, was developed in the aftermath of the Civil Rights Movement Moreover, the social studies framework was part of a discourse In biology, we were learning about phenotype, genotype, and the nature and transmission of genetic traits In American history, race was discussed as central to the nation’s sociopolitical evolution toward a colorblind society, an ideology on which we, as post-civil rights children, were weaned Our earliest memories were formed well in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, which abruptly ended the Civil Rights Movement The subsequent riots testified to the depth of frustration and anger that hope had kept in check Expectations stood in stark contrast to reality, creating a chasm between present and future, which only ideology can bridge As the first generation of post-civil rights children, we were weaned on the ideology of colorblindness, which, in according to human beings equal physical and mental capacity, dispelled notions of biological determinism Differences were said to be skin deep, and therefore, no differences at all We laughed at the terms negroid, caucasoid, and mongoloid in part because they fell on colorblind ears By ninth grade, however, we understood ourselves as subjects that had been racialized in a manner so thoroughly historically determined as to function at a deeply unconscious level that, in turn, double down as its own kind of essentialism Race was a fact as self evident as our being A time when race was not operative was beyond the powers of an imagination, the center of which was the black hole of middle passage

Race is a set of phenotypical differences We knew that We also knew that what race is cannot necessarily be dissociated from what race means This was apparent from the outset of class, as the obvious parallel between negroid and black was drawn Although negroid referred to a set of features making up the spectrum of people known as black, there was a tacit part of the equation We did not know about the one drop rule and hypodescent, but we knew that being counted as black meant you could not be counted as white Black was not simply a set of features in and of itself Those features designated you as belonging to one group, which, by default, excluded you from belonged to another The hierarchical relationships between black and white made race a value system, one that structured our reality and sense of self in such fundamental fashion that asking a racialized subject, what race is– independent of the social order that gives race meaning, could rightfully seem absurd Race was a fact as self-evident as our very being– it’s meaning derived from the value accorded to different That value, in turn, served as the basis of a fate and an identity over which black subjects were not masters until relative That value, in turn, served as the basis of a fate and an identity over which black subjects were not masters until relatively recently For the greater part of history, the dominant conclusion was that blacks were inferior whether deduced through bogus biological science or deduced empirically by pointing to the ghetto, a socially engineered destitution whose machinations are historically rooted to the extent that their present day effects are routinely mistaken for causes in their own right In 1980, at age 14, our understanding of race was a highly heterogeneous mix of ideas and ideologies of which school only– of which school, only a part– sorry In 1980, at age 14, our understanding of race was a highly heterogeneous mix of ideas and ideologies of which school only played a part albeit an important one Self-determination was weighed against embryonic but no less crucial nuggets of anti essentialist thinking Looking back at that class in 1980, I realized how teachers and students alike were neophytes How do you teach race? And by the same token, how does one learn race? Part of its teaching at that time was, in fact, it’s unlearning It was when I did the show that I realized I’m the child of Mr William’s quandary insofar as I came to sympathize with it wholeheartedly Teaching as unlearning, a paradox I took to be reflected in the title, Black is, Black ain’t But that was then, and this is now My colleague, Peter Eleey, said it’s time for a sequel to Black is, Black ain’t Instead of White is, White ain’t, he suggested the more formal, White is, White is not From Michael Brown, to Freddie Gray, to Laquan McDonald, to Colin Kaepernick, to Donald Trump, to Dana Schutz, to Charlottesville, back to Donald Trump, back to the NFL debacle Peter’s right It’s time to weigh in I look to you in the question and answer session for help Thank you Thank you, Hamza, for your wonderful presentation And kicking off the conference, I’d now like to open up the conversation to the audience for questions And we have mike runners stationed around Piper, so we can get started How are you doing? My name is Eric Shaw I’m the director of planning for Washington DC I’m sitting next to Toni Griffin, who is a mentor and served in a similar position I sort of work for the man, and I work for the institution, but I’m trying to change the institution Using design tools, and socials tools, and my perception of authority and power, how can I advance or break down some of the notions that you were sharing today? I’m just thinking of the expression,

biting off more than one can chew And it’s kind of, I don’t know, constructive retreat There’s always the big picture, the grand thing, sticking it to the man I worked for the man for five years in the city of Chicago, so I can sympathize– for the Department of Cultural Affairs But it’s kind of the more focused I become around specific projects– just contributing to the world any way that you can, I mean in a sense, with the hope that those things will have effects If going into something, if I were to think, change, social justice, the front line of activism There is that, no doubt, and there comes a time for it But in doing these exhibitions as a particular kind of space, being afforded the space to think– and these are on the fourth floor of a building on the campus of the University of Chicago, so by the time you– it wasn’t a storefront You didn’t just stumble into the Renaissance society You had to find us By the time you got there you knew where you were going So it’s a particular kind of space that structured my thinking about the show– in being, in some sense, afforded– and it’s a luxury, I’ll admit, to kind of, in some sense, turn my back on the world in order to think about and reflect upon the issues that will go into the making of the exhibition, but not with the idea of changing a grand picture I wanted the show to be the most that it can be, the most robust that it could be in terms of a dialogue, and I wanted it to participate in dialogue with these other exhibitions Now whether or not it would make any kind of historical mark, I don’t know what kind of impact that would have But simply just kind of holding my nose to the grindstone about what would go down in this 3,200 square foot space around that show was all I could give despite having aspirations of the same order, wanting to encourage discourse and dialogue And the main thing about the show is I did not want to fall into the trap of aggressor victim So when friends came to see the show, they were just, like, oh wow, the show is– like I said, no, I want it to be fun And they said, wow, it’s a really good show And it took me a while to realize, oh, they already had it marked as a particular kind of show And it was really nice in terms of– and to think about having that discussion between black artists to get the Till image and the white artist to do the Till image without any kind of static at that time So I was kind of taken off guard by the whole Dana Schultz controversy I mean, again, that was then This is now But just to– and I was talking to Dan about doing that show in Chicago and going through the history of exhibitions at the Art Institute at the Tsavo Museum, all around and seeing that there was no show that had specifically addressed race That was really impetus to do it, so I feel as though it filled an important gap at that level no matter how prescribed or specialized this kind of activity is But I didn’t do it with a sense of the big picture as much as trying to channel whatever energy would have gone into trying to make that kind of impact into making the show be all that it could be And the fact that it survives– I’ve got a real rally round of– and it’s about follow through, in a sense– in terms of doing the book about the exhibition, which is nice Catalogs live on It was a real rally round of talent in Chicago Darby English, Huey Copelands, Krista Thompson, Amy Mooney, Greg Foster Greg Foster Rice Trying to think who else Kim Pender They all wrote for the catalog And at the time, we were all in Chicago together at that time And so I really think of it as kind of a– even insofar as the book’s contribution, a collection of voices– that it does stand It’s there It’s available Be there for a while, right? So that’s really where the– and I hope that that makes a difference

to see and to have a registry that, oh, wow– to look at this show– you know, the future me, as a model, to say, oh, wow That was done That’s been done What do we do now as a jumping off point? So I hope that the show registers in that way that addresses the question And that’s fine Was I talking to somebody about shows– just being more specialized about them, kind of getting up into them I rewrote our mission statement recently And my board of directors, they compared the mission statement that I just written to the mission statement for the Hammer Museum, which is fabulous And the Hammer Museum, part of their mission statement, basically sounded like the tagline for the MacArthur Foundation– building a more just sustainable and verdant world And I thought I would never write that into the– and they said, you need to be more bold in the mission statement And I said, well, being bold is really relative The fact that I claimed that the work of art may be a means to understand the present, which might be– like, that, to me, was a very bold claim That’s as far as I’m willing to go I’m not going to make a claim about art and social justice I’m barely getting round to the fact that artwork may be able to make sense out of this present moment So it’s all relative There’s somebody– I don’t know where the microphone is Hi I’m speaking about curation, and museums, and Dana Schutz, and that whole controversy I’m wondering if you could just share your reflections not only on the painting and her contribution but also the Whitney Biennial Talking about group shows, that’s probably the group show of group shows– and just from a curatorial standpoint, whether you thought the inclusion of that painting or even having, more or less, a room dedicated to artists of color talking about current events and the way they did was responsible or where you, as a curator, how you felt about that? Yeah I disagreed with the protesters and still do strongly Dana Schultz is not the enemy especially at this particular time I feel like it’s completely misguided There are lots of other– as far as the dialogue, Kerry James Marshall who was just up at the Met, right? I mean, lots of other places And so I just felt like even if you didn’t like the painting, even if you were to feel one way or the other about it painting a certain sense, I felt like that’s giving that painting a lot of power when I feel like you could just move on and discuss other things Now with respect to what the painting, Dana– Emmett Till belongs to American history Anybody can paint a picture of Emmett Till The misquoting by Hannah Black– I think Coco Fusco’s essay is a great essay, and it kind of felt like she did the work that, professionally, none of us seemed to have time at that moment to do– where Hanna Black had misquoted Mamie Till by saying, I wanted black people to see what they did to my boy And that’s not what she said She said, I want the world to see what they did to my boy It’s a huge difference to me in terms of a call for justice– in human rights, to blow that shit up into a global level– not that kind of scope And that’s as far as I’m thinking So in terms of what the Whitney was on with the Whitney Biennal and how they handled it, and the dialogue between that painting– which was done– I don’t know what the date on the painting is It wasn’t done for the show– well before the show But it’s Henry Taylor’s– who was the cat who was shot him in Minneapolis? Fernando Castille– I think so –yeah– that his painting was upstairs So I felt like they did a great job at a curatorial level, in terms of, balancing things out or having a kind of dialogue– just even some– but also having been there, 10 years earlier, with respect to addressing Till You could talk about Sally Mann, the photographer She did a really beautiful photograph of the site where Till’s body was pulled out of the Tallahatchie But at this point, Till as the subject of folklore,

in terms of representations of the story of Emmett Till, it’s a discourse at this point, and anybody can chime in whether it’s high or low, in terms of representations of Till So I don’t feel as though it is the province of any particular group in that work of art I know that the show was protested here, which I was, again, shocked by And the painting wasn’t even in the show Well, hi So, thank you for your wonderful talk incidentally Coming off of what you were talking about with Dana Schultz, we, here at this school and in the professions of design and planning, are, in a way, every day appropriating from others, a culture We want to listen to people as they use the city But we’re trying to also, in the best sense possible, to help them in reaching and realizing their aspirations But of course there is an appropriation element to that We’re bringing our expertise And I wonder, as you have tried to navigate with different groups and thinking about difference and sameness, whether you have advice to us, from your particular world of art, for us, as designers and planners, in trying to listen to others but also do for others? I would say you almost answered the question I mean, in a way, it’s like listening That is the key right there I feel like so much stuff goes on back and forth that we realize that we aren’t listening to one another But I feel like it’s all– everything you just said– the will to want to do good and to listen to others, it’s about exchange Now, creating the conditions for that to happen is the important part, and I feel like those conditions are drying up– that things have become quite brittle for any number of reasons It’s kind of endless echo chamber of very ill thought positions So it’s almost like you have to double down in terms of the amount of work it takes to kind of dismantle arguments to get yourself– I found myself just enraged to the point where I can’t hear anything, I’m so pissed off, even if somebody is, in fact, making sense But you can dismantle arguments and create the conditions to which somebody else is able to hear you, and you are able to hear somebody else It’s the fundamental step Hi, I’m Toni Griffin I’m a professor of practice here at the GSD I’ve heard of you Oh, I’ve heard of you We’re delighted to have you here I’d love to just pour over your postscript There was so much in that that I can see having endless discussion about But kind of piggybacking on that, my end question to you is are you hopeful? But let me back into that, because you talked about art as a means of understanding present– what I think is really interesting and exciting But I’m kind of wondering if you also see it as a means to be perspective You talked about race as a value system Do you have thoughts on whether that value system can be reversed? I think that’s where the question is– are you hopeful? So maybe your next show is not White is, White is not, but maybe it’s Black is, White ain’t? Yeah, a mix and match How can we use you, as a curator, examine your hopefulness and actually examine the question of whether the value system can be restructured? Oh, yeah I completely believe that the value system– it’s very easy to say ain’t a damn thing changed I gave the postscript Specifically, it’s like, after doing the show– the show, as multifaceted as it was, was a way of sharing my confusion And I know that a lot of you grew up hearing the same ridiculousness with the chart and, you know, with just a particular period And I can’t overlook the kind of like– I want to say– and this is a sign of hope– productively unstable discourse in terrain of race over the course of my very brief life

So that writing was trying to come to terms with that It’s like, wait a minute And do all stories of race go back to child– what was my first encounter? I knew someone on the playground And so I decided to instead of run away from that, let me actually go there and untangle a very seminal moment Because that chart I won’t forget But feeling as though– and the key point of that– the discussion about, oh, race as a– we’re comfortable with this kind of language about it as a fiction, as a social construct And again, that was impossible back then So to be able to chart, in some sense, registers of thinking as they’ve changed And if I can find those moments of change as they’ve occurred, again, in over the course of my [inaudible]—- that’s a sign that, again, things can change You might have setbacks But the basic stock market, right? It is like, yeah, yeah, it was a bad day, but the big picture! So to think about it that way– but as far as exhibitions go and hope, one of the things I would want to believe, exhibitions are occasions for contemplation, for reflection, for dialogue They enable dialogue But the dialogue that they will enable is only, in some sense, as dynamic as the show itself So I believe in exhibitions being kind of exuberant I mean, they can be austere They can have a particular kind of architecture That doesn’t mean necessarily lots of things per se– but with that as the goal And if I think of that as inherently hopeful in some sense I hoped that answers the question But I like the mix and match But White is, White is not I don’t know if you could exactly convey You could write it out, but it doesn’t quite get the tone You have to say it as a title or contrast it I mean, how would you note it as a sequel to Black is, Black ain’t But I’m reading right now– I don’t know if any of you– if you knew Richard Iton– Richard died of cancer a little while ago He wrote The Black Fantastic And I just picked up his book I only read snippets of it when it came out I guess it came maybe ’07, ’08, ’09 maybe Richard was at Northwestern But it’s about black popular culture and politics in the post-civil rights era And I’m really glad to pull it– I mean, now more than ever in terms of the relationship between art and politics, culture and politics– that old chestnut, as it’s being played out right now And just in reading that, that’s definitely given me the desire to want to weigh in with another show that does take you to it Because the thing about taking monuments down, that’s huge That’s huge And that that gives me hope, in a way Even when Trump was saying, and where are you going to stop? Next, they’re going to start taking down Jefferson and Washington And I was looking at him like, I’m not going to say no, but uh And the whole point, it’s like, I got to be a geeky-ass, art historian and to tell you it’s like, Gutzon Borglum, the man that did Mount Rushmore, was a member of the KKK They have a little plaque next to the one that proclaims it is whatever it is It’s like, uh, we could go for that I wouldn’t mind that at all But of course that’s off the table But I just wish somebody would just go on CNN, and just bring that fact up, and read Gutzon Borglum’s letters, and say, here, we have it Species A, what do we do with this? And it’s buried very far in the Wikipedia page I’m upset by that But that’s that’s a huge– I think that’s a step in the right direction, let’s say All right, two more questions Hi Just because you brought it up again, I’m wondering what you think about sequels in general or here, specifically, because there is the debate about whether the Fox News idea of fair and balanced isn’t really fair and balanced?

If there really is two sides of every story, do we have– so we have the Black is, Black ain’t Do we need the White is, White is not? Or could the sequel be something that’s building off of it or something that’s completely separate? Absolutely It’s the last point That’s totally– I’m sharing my mind with you guys like as an open book kind of thing, as crazy as it might be, in a way But by and large, by the time things get around to being realized they take on a different form So at their core they might be– even though I’m talking about it as a sequel, right– let that be a secret– the show, itself, might have even as it’s like [inaudible] enthralled with Iton’s book, The Black Fantastic– by the time I get around to it, it will have an entirely different form not just because of– I think what you’re saying is like, do you need to always be locked into this binary? In which case, you’re not really going anywhere You’re just on like a treadmill over, and over, and over, right? So at a certain point, it’s like, you just have to let go You know what? I’m just going to abandon in this In one sense, I’m going to abandon it, so that it may live in a much more constructive fashion– in another form, and I don’t know what that will be, but I want to do the show, so that I can find out That’s how it is– which is the impetus to do the show in this way But it was definitely drift away, so that it won’t be that thing And other things– like seeing the last Documenta, it’s really depressing to me I saw it in Kassel It was like a particularly European stance about this kind of finger wagging, this postcolonial position And it was just like, no, no, no I mean, the finger wagging is, like, Jesus Christ It’s really, really old fashioned Just let that go Instead of declaring that the wrongness of this– just go get more artists of color and let’s just move on Just show more stuff and go into that space Let’s make that space I mean, part of being captured by a certain [inaudible] course is to realize like you have agency to move away and make the world different, so do a different show Thank you for presentation My name is Marius I’m a recent graduate of Syracuse University I’m here with my colleagues from Seoul Design in Atlanta And my question is how do you approach curating spaces that are possibly less institutional than the Renaissance Society, that may be more accessible to the people who you address in a show like Black is, Black ain’t? I’m an institutional creature So my thinking is, not just by default like at this point, willfully so, about the museum space in a very removed one– in a gallery setting as opposed to just other more unconventional spaces, which can take the form– magazine, publishing, those kinds of things out in the world I’m completely– even though I haven’t ventured into that terrain in any sustained or substantive way, I believe in it wholeheartedly Now, for five years, I was a curator working for the city for the public art program, so I had a series of library of stuff, which were more or less I could treat more or less like museum spaces, in some sense I mean, a very welcoming sibling to the museum is the library in that regard But I really took so much joy in the fact that just a general public was wandering through this space with this really beautiful– Elizabeth Catlin and the Kerry James Marshall piece around And so I wholeheartedly believe in public art even through a tier of– I don’t know what I’m going to say– mediocre projects I’m just going to put that out there It’s a value judgment Because when it hits and when it’s good, it’s good I mean, there are ways to realize projects that you cannot realize otherwise So the aspirational value of creating art in public should definitely remain a kind of true north, in a sense But in terms of unconventional spaces, I’m all for projects realized, high, low,

and especially when it comes to the public sphere Like, doing Black is, Black ain’t was really funny to take place in a gallery As far as the fine arts, I feel like music, popular culture, mass media, that’s where so much of the dialogue in the discourse takes place like in the moment, up to the minute, word is on the street So I think of the feel that I’m engaged in, or at least how I think about it, as relatively stodgy in that regard with its limitations, but to try to be constructive with those limitations So, yeah Well, thank you