Every two years, the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics (VLC) chooses a new theme for its biannual cycle of exhibitions, film screenings, conversations, and more. A core element of each cycle is the center’s Forum, during which artists, curators, activists, and scholars unpack aspects of the theme in a series of timely, incisive programs.
This year’s theme, “As For Protocols,” will turn attention to the myriad systems, structures, and language paradigms that undergird even our most everyday activities — an apt point of inquiry, given the current administration’s pointed attacks on the very foundations of democracy and civic life in the US.
As Carin Kuoni, senior director and curator of the center, explained via email, “[protocols] speak of power, authority, and process and while often associated with oppression or rigid rules, they can in fact be the opposite, liberating forces. They set the terms for the conditions for engagement, and, properly defined, agreed on, and followed, they can lead to empowerment and agency.”
This year’s forum will kick off with a tribute to the influential art historian and critic, Maurice Berger, who passed away in March from COVID-19 complications. Known for advancing critical conversations about race and representation, Berger was also the VLC’s very first fellow, someone who “formed the intellectual heart of those early years of our center,” as Kuoni explained. The evening of programming will include performances by artist and researcher Robert Sember, pianist Sarah Rothenberg, and a conversation with artist Nona Faustine and scholars and curators Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Sarah Lewis, and Lonnie G. Bunch III, among others.
Over the course of its five-day run, the forum will also present numerous events that hone in on the intersections of art, activism, Indigeneity, and environmental justice — the latter two feeling particularly urgent given the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on Native communities and the decimation of the Environmental Protection Agency. On October 7, artist Carolina Caycedo (a current VLC fellow) will be joined by Natalie Diaz, an Akimel O’odham poet and founding director of the Arizona-based Center for Imagination in the Borderlands, for a conversation about how considerations of Indigeneity can be applied to understandings of place and borders. Later that same day, artist and fellow Maria Hupfield will team up with writer and musician Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, (both of whom are Anishinaabe, though from different communities) for a discussion of the art of refusal and the value of narratives informed by Anishinaabe worldviews.
Where: online, via the Vera List Center
When: October 6–10, various times
See the Vera List Center for more information and a full schedule.