Interpretation—A Global Dialogue on Museums and Their Publics

– Hello, I’m Heidi Holder, Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose Chair of Education at the Met. And I’m delighted to welcome you to the second session on the first day of our virtual convening titled Interpretation. As part of our program, People: A Global Dialogue on Museums and their Publics.

This is a critical time to examine interpretation, which refers to those activities, experiences, and products that publics and museums do and engage with to make sense of the objects and artifacts within institutions care. In the next session, we will explore innovative ways to approach interpretation that can be drawn from inside

And outside of the art and cultural field. How do we challenge traditional approaches to complex stories? What are the possibilities of new technologies? Or what are the effects and how meaning is conveyed to audiences? How can we amplify different vantage points and perspectives on objects and artifacts and more?

We hope that you’ll use the chat in the presentations and during the panel discussions. Our hope is that these presentations are catalysts for discussions that you’ll join us in that conversation by participating in the chat with questions and comments. We are also offering closed captioning. You can turn closed captioning on or off

By using the CC icon towards the bottom right of your Zoom toolbar. Now, it’s my pleasure to introduce our speakers. Haidy Geismar is Professor of Anthropology University College London. She’s also the Curator of the Ethnography Collections, co-directs the Digital Anthropology Program, and is also faculty vice dean of Strategic Projects,

Developing a new set of research and teaching activities focused on media, heritage and collections. She’s author of the 2018 book “Museum Object Lessons for the Digital Age”. Jack Tchen is a historian, curator, dumpster diver, and teacher, and he’s Inaugural Clement A Price Professor of Public History and Humanities

And the Director of the Price Institute at Rutgers University, Newark. His book, “Yellow Peril” an archive of anti-Asian fare from 2016 is a source book on Western xenophobia and violence. He’s founding Director of the Asia Pacific American Studies Program and Institute at NYU. He co-founded the Museum of Chinese in America.

Kamini Sawhney, is the Director of the Museum of Art and Photography in Bangalore India. As MAP’s first Director, Sawhney is focused on creating a new museum experiences for audiences in India. In her earlier roles Sawhney was the head of Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation at the CSMVS Mumbai. Before her career in museums,

She was a journalist and television anchor reporting on political and cultural events. Governor Brian Vallo is a member of the Pueblo of Acoma tribe in New Mexico. Governor Vallo has 30 years of experiences. Governor Vallo 30 experience working in areas of museum development, cultural resource management, repatriation of ancestoral and cultural patrimony,

The arts and tourism. This session will be moderated by Vishakha Desai. Dr. Desai currently serves as the Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to President Lee Bollinger, Chair of the Committee on Global Thought and Senior Research Scholar in Global Studies at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Prior to joining Columbia university, Dr. Desai had a variety of positions at the Asia Society from 1990 to 2012, initially as the Director of the Asia Society Museum and for the last eight years as president and CEO. It’s now my pleasure to hand it over to our session participants. Let’s talk, let’s listen.

Thank you. [ No Sound ] [ No Sound ] – Greetings, and thank you Heidi and the entire Education team at the museum for organizing this very special 150th anniversary program at the Metropolitan Museum. I am delighted to be able to moderate this very special session at this point in time.

And I come to you not just as a former director of a museum, or former President of the Association of Art Museum Directors, but particularly as, first and foremost, a museum educator, then a curator, then a director, and now an academic observer both of museums and of things global, and also

As a writer of a new book called “World as Family” in which art plays a very important role. I want to frame this discussion with just a few observations because we have wonderful group of panelists who are really going to take us through the what, and the why, as well as the how

Of the interpretation in museums. So over 50 years or so of my life as a museum person which means that my entire adult life pretty much, I’ve learned one thing, and that is that often when we think of museums especially historical museums, we think that somehow they are either

Cabinets of curiosity as they were called in Germany, window cabinets, or as high temples of aesthetics, somehow housing objects that go above and beyond time and space. At the same time, we know all of us who’ve worked in museums, that it is actually not true, because if you think about museum objects

While you might feel that objects are unchanging, the reality is all these objects are also riddled with many stories, many contexts, and many lives. What do we mean by that? What I mean by that is objects can also be thought of as the time when they were made, the intent of the object,

And then there is the observation and a life of an object over many centuries. For those of us were art historians training in early art from other parts of the world, we know that over 200, 300 years or even a millennia, artists can go through many, many different iterations.

And it’s important to recognize therefore that while the object may seem static in museums, the lives they lead, the context they provide, and the stories they tell, are anything but static. And that is just about the objects. There’s also about the information or the interaction of object with viewers.

So that viewers, especially now when we all try to get many different kinds of years to come to the institutions and change the institutions in the process, we have to recognize that viewers too bring their specific stories, their specific perceptions, and therefore their particular way of looking at an object.

So with all that, let’s just be clear about one thing. And there are about three things that I would say I’ve learned over a lifetime of working in a museum. And that is that actually objects that you interpret, which is the focus of our panel, that interpretation in the very word interpretation

Is a particular point of view. There is no such thing as only one way of looking at an object or presenting an object. So therefore let’s be clear that as museum professionals, those of us who work in museums, is that our point of view is just a point of view.

It is not the point of view, and therefore let’s get away from what sometimes we call in the performing arts industry “the voice of God,” the institutional voice, because everything we do has a particular point of view. So that’s number one. Number two, what is our responsibility? Our responsibility as museum people,

And I say this now, both as an insider or an outsider, is that how can we create a space for opening up other points of view, a point of view that actually may not be your particular point of view. In other words, number one, lay the intent bare.

Let people know where you’re coming from, that may be a point of view. Number two, open up the processes by which there are other interpretations possible. Number three, it isn’t just the interpretation as in the label you write, interpretation comes from the context, how you install objects, what is in relation to what,

Who is gonna speak to whom in terms of the objects. So let’s think about the context in which the objects are seen. And last but not the least let’s also recognize that it is impossible to be all inclusive about all possible interpretations. Therefore, what you choose will say as much about you,

The institution and where you wanna go with your viewers. So the idea of a dialogic museum, which is something my friend and colleague Jack Tchen has talked a lot about, you would know that that dialogue occurs not just between a viewer and an object, but even in the life of an object,

How it talks from one to the other. Having said all of that, the last piece that I would say we should remember is that art refuses to be put in a box. And what I mean by that is that for art, and this is true particularly art objects as we define them.

But art is as much about telling a point of a particular point, a particular story, of a particular time, specificity of time and history and geography matters, but it also has the capacity to transcend time and space to live independently in that space and that’s not just true of an art object,

It’s true of music, it’s true of all kinds of art forms, dance, literature. That it can speak across boundaries, and it also reflects a specificity of time and place. Given that, it’s fair to recognize that in the Euro-American world, especially in America, for much of the 20th century,

We have privileged one part of art, that is to think about the temple of learning above time and space, art object existing independently of time and space. Now it’s time for us to actually go back to also embodying the specificity of an object, not just the original intent

But how it may have been perceived, what it is the product of, and bring it back and imbue the object with that specificity of their stories, their histories, and the perceptions of those objects. However, if we go too far into that pendulum we will also lose that duality,

The multiplicity that art objects function in. So one of the challenges that we will have is as we begin to think about interpretation for our age, for this moment democratisation of interpretation, let’s also make sure that art exists as much for curiosity, imagination of the world we have not seen,

As it is also about giving voice to the voicelessness that has existed for way too long. With that right let’s dive into the conversations today and I’m really delighted that the first presentation is gonna be by Jack Tchen. Thank you. And we’ll come back and have a conversation together

After all the presentations are over. So over to you Jack. [ No Sound ] – Thank you Vishakha. It’s a delight to be on this panel, and thank you for that wonderful context that I think is extremely useful and gets us much further down into this conversation.

I also wanna thank the Met education staff for putting this on, it’s really been a delight being involved in this. And, you know, I didn’t realize until you mentioned it Vishakha that this was 150th anniversary of The Met, which I should have known. I should also mark that it’s also the 100th anniversary

Of the second international eugenics congress that happened at the American Museum of Natural History. I’ll get back to why that’s significant. But also the Vishakha I think it’s really important to mark that this is your 50th anniversary being involved in museums. So I think that trajectory in some ways

Speaks to some of these questions that we’re talking about. The Met of course, was seen as an institution that originally had reproductions and also was meant to be a way to educate the working people of the city who were increasing by leaps and bounds, right? So we’re talking about the 1870s.

The first number of decades are really the heyday of what we think of as the Gilded Age, in which great numbers of Eastern Europeans, Jews especially Southern Europeans were entering into the city in very large number but also Irish of course, and these are in many ways

People who are not considered part of, kind of traditional founding “Native American group” of Anglo-American Protestants. And in may ways, this is a moment in which the founding institutions such as The Met or the New York Historical Society, other kinds of founding institutions the American Museum of Natural History were information

And really coming up with their systems of classification of knowledge production, of what should be displayed. So I think it’s useful to provide a kind of a historical framing as to what those original foundations were, and then the great numbers of people who began populating this nation

And populating the city and sometimes coming to these institutions because there’s a way to aspire and a way to kind of identify with the culture, of the dominant culture, but it was also a place that many people did not feel comfortable coming to, right? So in some ways we’re now grappling

With these kinds of questions of what those deep historical exclusions and deep historical roots are. So I think the tension that Vishakha has identified is a very important one, at the same time I really do believe in museums and these spaces because I think they are, with all their flaws,

Places in which democratic dialogue, and the examination of unresolved issues of the past can happen. But it becomes then a question of whether we as institutions, institutions builders, or people within institutions, or the educators can embrace that. And whether we can actually rise to those challenges.

So I guess I would like to maybe begin with saying a little bit about this question of whether democratic interpretations of objects can really significantly change the perspectives that we begin to develop in places such as museums or about the city itself, for example.

And I’m really bringing in New York City into this because I think this combination of institutions that we have in the city are really quite unique, and also speak to the possibilities of a polyphonic democratic culture. But at the same time, you’re free to look at any of the mainstream primary institutions.

Then we start getting a more kind of layered complex understanding of how wealth and power have operated. So for me, the question of whether inviting broader perspectives alone will then begin to change our interpretations of objects, I think yes, and no. Yes, in the sense that I think it’s absolutely critical

For those who come from many different places, and Vishakha you’re an example, I’m an example, which has different kinds of deep historical cultures, to have those voices and perspectives and frameworks, historical, philosophical, spiritual frameworks brought into dialogue with the objects that are oftentimes from those cultures that are now in these museums.

So the history, for example, in my case of the British introduction of opium from the colony of India and creating the cash crop with opium and introducing that into China was fundamental to the way I was raised being the anchor baby, and the first one born in the United States.

So my very Chinese mother would talk to me about the opium wars, here I am in the Midwest, growing up on the prairie land. And the streets of this new suburb were full of indigenous names. And there were arrowheads in the ground. And I was trying to figure out

How to make sense of all this, right? And in some ways that speaks to the contradictions of a settler American society, but also how do we make sense of the land that we’re on, and the culture that surrounds us and the culture that dominated the Midwest that I grew up within,

In a way that can actually allow for more interpretations and then the civics lessons than they were gaining. So part of my journey has been to look for those clues, those fragments, in which the Chinese American experience, the history of Chinese laundry workers, the history of garment workers

Was really not considered part of anything important to look at, because after all these were people who were doing very modest work and were not considered to be the leaders and the patriarchs of the founding institutions and significant in those ways. If we were to look in the archives

We could not find really anything about Chinese. That would be true at the New York Historical Society. When I first arrived in New York in the mid, in 1975. And it continues to be true to many degrees. So there’s a question of what are the stories that are told about the city?

What are the archives that exist? What are the histories, the official histories? And really what is the kind of awareness that people who come from very different backgrounds with very different frameworks of understanding the past, what do they bring to that? So then we enter into a space such as New York City

The many monuments, for example, in New York City or the many objects that may exist in a history museum or an art museum, what are the dialogues that we have coming from these different knowledge backgrounds, and what are the official stories that are being kind of told in the school rooms,

In the history books, what is being taught in the PhD programs, what books are being created and what are the cannons of the different institutions that we’re entering into? So what I’m suggesting is that there is a contestations and that the more diversity there is of points of view and backgrounds and experience,

The more significant that dialogue can be but not everyone has the equal access or power to actually be in positions to counter and to be in dialogue. So I think those are really important questions that New York institutions are now just starting to reckon with, or maybe I should say

That New York City institutions have necessarily gone through cycles of reckoning. So, and we’re in one of those moments right now, I think where the larger challenges of our society are now being clearly played out, not only within the United States and within the Americas, but within the global world.

So Black Lives Matter, for example, has raised so many so many questions that also relate to why is it that there was a Chinese exclusion law and why is it that most Americans don’t even know about it? So these questions of where are those blank spots,

What we don’t know is actually just as important as what we think we know, and what we think are the kind of civics lessons or the foundational stories that we live, and are tested on, and are able to gain our citizenship based on.

So I guess I would say that it’s important for us, especially being having a more global and more critical perspective on the practices of any one place or any one nation to also understand how knowledge and knowledge systems are constructed. So it’s not strictly about the knowledge of one person,

But something deeply about the political culture of any given place that we’re in. So I would just say maybe two more things. One is that the work that I started doing in New York Chinatown increasingly I understood as increasingly necessarily being not just about the China trade and the fact that

Yes Chinese too are part of New York, and that we have been in New York for a long time. I mean, those are the usual ways in which we claim kind of belonging and citizenship. But in fact, the China trade was foundational to the very formation of the American identity

Of the U.S. project itself. And that speaks to the trade and the desire for luxuries amongst the European aristocracy, but also as that aristocracy transplanted in the new nation of the United States and Canada, those kinds of Anglo America’s values also transplanted so that the desire for certain kinds of luxuries,

And a certain kind of way in which political arithmetic could be used to enrich the country drove a lot of the dispossession of indigenous peoples. So that like clearing the land based on certain kinds of dubious justifications from the Pope to John Locke. Those dubious justifications enabled the extraction

Of resources from the land in a way they could be used to help further the trade. I would also say that therefore enslavement also is part of this picture, because once the land was cleared there needed to be a cheap, if not indentured, if not very low paying ways in which people

Can be brought in to create value from the land itself. So what I began to realize is that the history of Chinese and Chinatown in the United States it’s not simply an isolated phenomenon of bias and prejudice and therefore the artifacts of all that experience should be isolated

In understanding that, but that the experience of Chinese in this country and the China trade are deeply involved in the dispossession and in the enslavement nexus. So with that understanding it helped me understand how racialization processes, and the ways in which we let’s say then acknowledge or don’t acknowledge monuments for example.

For example, the Theodore Roosevelt monument in front of the American Museum of Natural History. How do we understand that? How do we understand Christopher Columbus’ statue that stands in the middle of Columbus Circle? It depends on the frameworks that we have as to whether we have we bring very different perspectives to that

And we can actually engage fairly in a dialogue. And I would say that we have not been. I served on the Mayor’s Commission for Public Art Markers and Monuments, and it was a chaotic experience in which there was no way to ground the many monuments and markers and public art

In the city other than simply saying we should just have more. And somehow if we don’t have enough women, we should have more women. If we don’t have somebody to counterbalance Teddy Roosevelt we should, well, that doesn’t seem to be really the best way to tell the story truthfully of the history

Of a city, but it does open up the possibilities if we can actually have a historical discussion have a dialogue as to why these objects are there. I’m using that example about the city as really also a way to understand the institutions and the objects that we have within museums themselves.

So I would just say that we have to understand these objects as parts of classification and framing systems and those systems are the things that we really need to understand now especially at these moments in which it’s not just more inclusion, it’s not just more voices, but the fundamental frameworks

Of understanding meaning within those frameworks, have to be challenged and reexamined. So maybe I’ll just end them there because there’s so much more to be said, thank you [ No Sound ] – Good evening everybody. And thank you very much for the invitation to participate in this conference.

And I’m really honored to be on a panel with such distinguished companions. And I’m looking for very much to the discussion at the end. So I think I’m picking up on a theme of the entire symposium, which is working in the field of museums at this place, wherever we might be,

And at this time the stakes feel pretty high. And I’m going to talk today from my vantage point as somebody working within a university, with university collections, to really think particularly about how our current moment raises huge questions particularly for example, COVID-19 around contact between people and objects.

And I hope my argument feeds into some of the bigger questions of the panel about how important objects and materiality of things are as well as digital and multimodal ways of knowing, especially as we are so temporarily distanced from many of our collections. I also want to emphasize that it’s important to think

Not just in terms of outcomes or outputs from exhibitions to events, but really it also about practices and ways of working, and that’s what I really want to talk about today. Opening up formations of practice curatorial collections management, as forms of care not just for objects, but for social relationships.

And I’m drawing very much on the concept of a relational ethics that was proposed by a Savoy and Sarr in the very influential report on the restitution of African collections from France. Rather than thinking always as the kind of end outcome or output of what we do,

We need to think about what kinds of relationships and processes we create around our engagement with collections. And I think as it’s already been alluded by Jack, we’ve really seen some dramatic developments and interventions into the museum world in recent years, museums have been drawn into public dialogues

About recognition of past and present injustice, about colonial histories and futures, about restitution and restorative justice. And this is really intensified over the COVID period. And we see debates about repatriation, colonial legacies, decolonization becoming more mainstream than ever. And to me into popular discourse in a way I think that’s quite unprecedented.

So today I want to briefly present some of the moments of dialogue and practice that have emerged in the work I’ve been doing with colleagues at UCL, University College London, in the ethnography collections, which I curate. These are teaching collections that are housed in our department and give us,

I think a bit more of a possibility of experimentation because we’re not working so much within the confines of a formal museum framework. And working with our collections, we ask every day how we can develop ways of working that share a curatorial and interpretable authority with others.

We are always asking how we can work against the internalization of colonial categories and power imbalances. And we work not just to diversify our output but our practice, even those practices that may be less visible to the public. And this is particularly important given the troubling history of ethnographic collection

Which really demands that we ask these questions of ourselves all the time. And I want to just give you two examples of some of the projects that we’ve worked on over the last few years in which we have tried to extend some of this power and interpretable authority

Outside of the university in ways that I think have actually been incredibly influential shifting and changing the very form of what we do. My first example is a project that we called This is a Maori term. Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, Aotearoa in New Zealand. And it means pathways of spiritual or intangible energy. It was the name of a collaboration between myself and Stuart Foster an interaction designer and Kura Puke, a Maori artists who were both based

At Massey University in New Zealand. And also with Timatahiapo Research Group a cultural and community organization based in Taranaki in the north of Ireland. And the project focuses on this beautiful cloak which is part of the ethnography collections. Originally collected by the Wellcome Institute,

The cloak came to UCL sometime in the mid 20th century. We aren’t sure when, because we have very bad provenance for many of our collections. It was part of a series of donations of nonmedical collections of cloaks that the Institute made to different museums and universities,

Objects they didn’t consider as core to its mission. It was marked only as Maori and had no known provenance. We do not know who made her. We don’t know where or when she was made, but we know she must have been special, a treasure, a Towner, and possibly

Because of her small size woven for a child. The cloak is finding waiver now to New Zealand flax with tassels made out of the hair of the Cudi or Polynesian dog now extinct, and a Wolf fringe bordering the beautiful red and black Tomiko border.

And the condition you can see here is so fantastic. We can gather that not much has happened with this cloak over the years. She’s basically been in storage for nearly 100 years. Intrigued by my characterization of the cloak along with many of our collections as an orphaned object, Kura and Stewart set about

Bringing their massive digital work and grassroots community practice to the cloak. With a background in designing a virtual environments and a long-standing practice of connecting to light and sound to Maori treasures, their intention was in their words to bring the cloak into the light and bathe it with energy from New Zealand.

And working closely with Timatahiapo, we developed a long-term ambition working through the medium of digital technology. Throughout our project the term (foreign language) meaning spiritual energy was used as an encompassing term for the digital, just as digital communication media largely exists as wireless waves of information transmitted all around us.

So do (foreign language) treasured possessions, create networks of conductivity across time and space. And the connection of this cloak through broadband and cellular activity to people in London and in New Zealand was not framed therefore as something new, but actually as a continuation of the kind of work that these treasured artifacts

Are supposed to do, to link people, activate, maintain connections and networks of knowledge. So this is the cloak on display in UCL’s octagon gallery. And you can see the kind of immersive environment that Kura and Stewart came to London to set up in 2014. On June 17th, we created a ceremonial environment

In which transformed our octagon gallery into a Maori space, a Marae, and we at UCL became the guests that were welcomed into this space by Timatahiapo who were at their Marae. (foreign language) at the foot of Mount Taranaki. So as guests, we were ushered into the space, and welcomed and responded with call.

I want to play you a very short clip which I’ve poorly edited, and doesn’t do justice to the events just to show you how the event was recorded in both sites simultaneously So that just shows you how the traditional call and response of a Maori pōwhiri, or a welcoming ceremony where mediated across time and space using basically a FaceTime connection. And what you could also see was that the connection didn’t work perfectly, whilst we could be heard perfectly in New Zealand

Because of broadband inequities in New Zealand, and the fact that they were using a cellular connection rather than the kind of wifi connection we had at UCL, we at UCL was unable to hear all of the words of their welcoming incantation. And as the project progressed and the technology was increasingly a challenge

Frustrating our attempts to communicate clearly, we started to talk more and more about that. What was happening in those gaps. And I started to wonder if actually that imperfect connection was actually one way we could acknowledge the distance and disconnection that is also a part of the cloak’s history

As well as this more celebrated digital connection that we were also creating. Perhaps the failings of technology, the way that it kept reminding us of its presence, as it fails around us, evoked the situation we were in a brave attempt to recreate a connection that can never be fully salvaged to work

Across the distance that is still present and that still remains. At the end of several weeks of exhibiting the cloak, Te Urutahi who you see here in this image in another impoverished FaceTime session, gave our cloak a name, holding our phones high into the air,

We ran around the campus trying to hear clearly and we ended up in the geography department to be told better or to better hear her tell us that the cloak will now be called Tukutuku Roimata, a name that evokes the tears of the ancestors from the spiritual realm into woven

And connecting us with the physical realm through the cloak. And so this is very much a name that evokes absence as well as presence, and the project as a whole explored the capacities of new technologies to connect and explore new relationships between colonial era collections and contemporary source communities in this global context

Speaking to a broader politics of restitution, repatriation, and return. When Kura and Stewart left UCL, they left us with a kind of DIY kit that enables us to plug the cloak in to New Zealand at any time you can dial in, and you can bathe the cloak in the sound

Through speakers and through LED light strips that bring through this digital energy channel lightened sand from New Zealand into our story, and so we continue to activate this relationship. My second very brief example focuses on ongoing work that I’ve been doing with our collections curator, Delphine Mercy

In an afterschool club for high school students. We call this the Young Curators Project, and we explore narrative and poetic strategies for connecting to the ethnography collections. Every student picks an object in the collection to research and they go back into their homes and communities and chooses another object from there

To bring the two together. And then they work with poets, anthropologists, to narrate those connections in their own words for their own exhibition which we show both online and in the university. I just want to show you this little display that was made by Tyanne Hudson, who is from the Harrison Victor’s Academy

In Croydon in south London. She chose to work with lantern slides depicting life in Nigeria in the first half of the 20th century, which speaks to her own cultural background. But she linked them to a collection of cinema tickets that were made during trips that she bought during trips

To the cinema with her family. And this is a little poem that she wrote for her label in the exhibition. And she wrote in a longer text I’m quoting, “I’ve chosen this object because it represents friendship and helps me remember my experiences. For example, when we went to see “Deadpool 2″

As a leaving party and my friend who was leaving didn’t show up”. And she went on to write, “Lantern slides, were used as a way to present information much like PowerPoint, they are photos that can be projected onto a screen used to teach students from UCL

And around the same time they were made. And I chose these images because they are both linked to memories and ways of learning about different cultures.” The films talk about the 21st century, the things we find interesting, and the lantern slides teach us about life in 20th century, Nigeria.

They’re also connected by the way they were shown both on projectors for large audiences. During COVID-19 we created another version of this club because we couldn’t have people into the collection who are Young Curators Online. And this is the kind of online course, which you can do in your own time,

Which creates the dialogue around key issues, statues, and public spaces, and naming of places and important debates around the history and legacies of colonialism particularly in collections. We also train students and oral history recording so they can start to think about what forms of knowledge is in their own communities

That might then become part of a museum or archive. And the course ends with an opportunity to submit an object to a virtual museum of COVID-19. And here you can see a selection of objects that were most meaningful to the lives of young people that participated in the course

During the lockdown of last year. And we start to wonder, are these objects perhaps the ethnographic collections of the future. I’ve only had a very short time to give you two very different examples, both of which are trying to leverage the opportunities inherent in digital technologies, not as ends in of themselves

But as portals to really think about how we might start to reimagine a new future for our collections. I’m very much thinking about the work of Eric Alara and Shelley Butler in that kind of formulation of curatorial dreams, the opportunities that we have as museum workers to imagine how we would really like

To do things if we weren’t always so constrained. And in my curatorial dream, the ethnography collection is activated as a resource not just to connect people to their own cultural heritage, and I very much agree with Jack’s point about it’s not really enough just to say let’s reinterpret

And let’s give multiple perspectives on things, it’s not just about trying to make better displays. It’s also about bringing different people in as the arbiters of those displays to structure and very much inflect the practices that are implicit or often invisible around them. The problematic legacies and histories of the anthropological collection remain.

They’re very much with us. We can’t escape them, but the platforms and the rate them to create sense and meaning can be shifted. Within the collection we have been collecting the documentation from these projects, not in order to connect people to museums and collections, but to develop a new generation of museum practitioners

And to create new, more equitable and open collections for the future. Thank you. [ No Sound ] – Good evening, everyone. I’d first like to thank The Met for inviting me to speak at the symposium. I’m very happy to be a part of the conversation that looks at the museum as learner.

It probably is that the museums should be rethinking their relationship with the community they serve, as equals who share and exchange information that makes the experience so much richer for everyone. So I pulled, I would basically give you an idea of what MAP is all about

Before I move on to the main subject of the discussion, because I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with us. So MAP is a new museum that’s coming up in the heart of Bengaluru in South India. And our mission is to take art back into the heart of the community.

And create a museum going culture because the joke with MAP is we have the most crowded cities in India with the emptiest museums. So we’re hoping that there’s something we can do to change that. And this map gives you an idea of where we are located in the heart of town

Close to the Metro stations, opposite a beautiful park and positioned on one of the arterial roads in the city so that we are easily accessible to everyone. This is an artist rendering of what MAP will look like because construction is still underway and we hope to open in December

Of this year, COVID permitting. And we see MAP as not just a place for objects, but a space for ideas and conversations that we initiate through the collection. So the collection really becomes the catalyst to grow MAP into a kind of cultural hub where there’s plenty of interaction and exchange.

While the collection has different categories of objects, we have pre-modern, modern and contemporary, textile craft and design, living traditions, photography, popular culture. So we are looking to really collapse the hierarchies between what is perceived as high and low art and not view the collection in vertical silos but draw connections across the collection.

We are one of the few if not the only museum in India that has popular culture as integral part of the collection. And the idea is that people from different communities, backgrounds, race, religion, all feel that some part of their lives or cultures reflected here and they are able to connect.

So inclusion and accessibility really are the two pillars of MAP. And we are working on how to be accessible to people with not just physical, but also mental disability. We are fortunate that we are working with the new building. So right from the start, we’ve sat down with the architects

And our consultants, which is the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Center so that we work together to try and make everyone feel that they are welcome at MAP. And this goes for our website as well. We use fonts, colors, color contrast, or text, so that people with visual disabilities

Find it easy to navigate our site. All our events have subtitling and sign language interpretation to help the hearing impaired. So when we talk about accessibility we really need to examine the relationship with the museum has had with audiences in the past. Traditionally, the museum voice was seen as THE voice

That best understood the story and therefore was in the best position to tell that story. Today of course we know that is not true. Curators, art historians, scholars bring knowledge and learning to what they do all very valuable but that is Vishakha said is one aspect of a story.

When we deal with objects, for example that have cultural religious or traditional significance there are several layers of knowledge and storytelling, this would come from members of the community specifically practitioners of that ritual that the object is associated with, worshipers, craftsman involved in its making and so many more.

And context becomes particularly relevant when we are exploring, say living traditions, for example butta pula is a poem of spiritual worship. That’s practiced in Southern Karnataka, the state that MAP is located in. It is a centuries old practice that is performed still today where local spirits or deities are channelized by ritual specialists.

These ceremonies are very significant for the community because traditionally family and village disputes are accord to the spirit as are matters of political justice or even legitimizing political authority. We have a number of such objects at MAP, masks, breast plates, et cetera, that are used in these ceremonies.

And much of the knowledge around these rituals rests with the practitioners in the community. And I would hesitate any interpretation of these objects without drawing on their knowledge. I thought I’ve been speaking of another example from our section on living traditions that includes the work of indigenous artists

From different parts of the country. One of the opening exhibitions on our digital platform represented the work of Bhuri Bai, a Bhil artist from central India. And though her book is now well known, her story has most often been told without her involvement. A conversation that the curators had heard

Was quite revealing because she said that she had all these catalogs, books, articles, about her over the years that she had accumulated but because she was illiterate, she really had no idea of what was being said on her behalf. So taking this into consideration, our exhibition,

“My Life as an Artist” was put together in collaboration with Bhuri Bai, so the curatorial team traveled to Bhopal to meet her record audio interviews and discuss how the exhibition would take shape. These conversations then formed the basis of the exhibition’s narrative. So when we talk about interpretation

It’s often dependent on the scope of the collection, the story that this selection of artwork tells. But what does it exclude? Because those object histories are not represented within the collection and every museum has its wishlist there are bound to be gaps in most collections, and it’s important for museums to recognize that

And to be transparent about it. This is particularly visible in institutions that house private collections where collectors have acquired objects based on a particular interest or preference. At MAP where the core of the collection is donated by its founder, this is a challenge we face as well

And we are very conscious of it. But today, a key factor that is changing the equation between the museum and its audiences is the information freeway. The world online has democratized access to information and learning to a large extent. And yes, it is a double-edged sword. You have inaccurate information,

Information that comes with its own biases, information that is channelized to reinforce our prejudices, but with all its downsides the net has made knowledge sharing much more widespread than it has ever been before. This becomes especially relevant if we think of the museum as an array of difficult histories

Such as colonial pasts, political and racial oppression. Whose story are we telling? As many of us have pointed out. And whose point of view I’ll be presenting? For example, if you look at India’s colonial history and some of the defining moments in that relationship between the colonizer and the colonized,

How do we read evidence? For example, this photograph of the ruins of Lucknow taken in 1860, does it allude to the Indian mutiny of 1857 as the British described it, or the first war of Indian independence as Indians like to think of it. Does the museum as an institution have a role

In altering social attitudes and political structures that enable oppression? In contemporary India, for example, we still struggle with injustice that is experienced as a result of past hierarchies or gender discrimination. The pandemic has simply accelerated the online relationship with audiences as we all experienced. And at MAP we were completely focused

On the roadmap to the physical museum, but the virus literally stopped us in our tracks. And as people brainstorming about the way forward, the message that we were getting from our advisors, our board, friends of MAP, why are you so fixated on the physical space?

For now why don’t you launch a digital museum? And so we decided that if people cannot come to MAP then we need to take MAP to people. And it had its benefits because it expanded the whole scope of how we conceive our audiences. It allows us to reach many more people,

To build a growing international network, and to use the tools that this medium offers to create different experiences. The digital space has also introduced a more informal mode of interaction that’s much less hierarchical because it brings the museum into your home. It creates a new intimacy.

It allows you to be part of cultural discourse seated in your favorite armchair. And technology has also allowed us new modes of storytelling. And we have MAP labs that lies at that intersection of technology and art. And since we are located in the IT capital Bangalore of India,

It made sense to collaborate with the industry to discover tech solutions for art. So our first collaboration was with Accenture on a project that uses artificial intelligence to create a 3D persona of the artist M F Husain. Husain is no more but visitors can interact with him through this holographic persona,

Chat with him asking questions. It’s a way to get young people to know more about one of our iconic artists. We have a small clip of one of those interactions, which we’ll play for you. – What is your name? – You can call me Husain Sahib,

But my full name is Maqbool Fida Husain. – How old are you? – Want to take a guess? As of today I’m over 100 years old. – Are you real? – As close to real, enough to impress you. Please ask me what do you need to know about me?

– So that was the Husain experience. The virtual world has allowed us to connect with museums across the world as well in a time when neither people or objects could travel. So during the pandemic, we developed Museums Without Borders. A collaborative project that makes it possible for objects and people to travel virtually

And encourages new ways of seeing. Basically it juxtaposes an object from MAP with an object from the partner museum. And this could be based on similarities or differences and maybe theams, geographies, mediums. And when objects are placed in dialogues some really interesting conversations emerge,

These are articulated by the curators from the two museums. And this is an example of our collaboration with The British Museum. It contrasts the work of a modernist from India. (indistinct) an 18th century miniature painter from the collection of the BM. We use music as a lens through which to explore them.

So on one hand, you have the solitary drummer beating out a rhythm in this frenzy of despair juxtaposed with this celebratory group of trumpeters. And it becomes particularly interesting when you connect objects in different cultures. For example, the work of two indigenous artists one from India and the other from Canada, Each of their selected words features a central bird figure an owl by Ishiva from the RISD collection and a majestic peacock by Sham in MAPs collection where we juxtapose the unique styles of painting the tremendous impact they work at And let me conclude with another collaborative

Digital project that we are working on with Microsoft, that uses artificial intelligence for cultural heritage. The initiative called Interwoven Global Connections to south Asian textiles has Microsoft working with our curators and collections department to develop the AI tools which can recognize distinct patterns, motives and techniques, which are used in south Asian textiles

From MAPs collection, as well as the data base of images we put together from partner collections in the region. So the platform then connects these textiles with those from around the world, such as the Middle East, Africa, and Central South America. These connections can be explored on an interactive platform.

Our curators have mapped certain journeys through connected artworks with accompsnying text where we then tell stories of how these similarities occur, be it through trade or collaboration, or just by accident. For example, the AI tools may recognize the Paisley motif and link examples of this motif found in Indian textiles with trade textiles

For the European markets in the 19th century, and then how that same motif was picked up in popular culture in the 1960s, and popularized by bands such as the Beatles. And in fact, The Met has come on board as one of our partners on this project. So these are some of the ways

We are looking at our collections, trying to interpret them afresh, and build a more interactive experience with our audience. Thank you very much. [ No Sound ] – Good afternoon. I wanna thank The Met for the invitation to participate in this afternoon’s program and to join all

Of these wonderful speakers for this conversation today. My name is Brian Vallo, and I am the Governor at the Pueblo of Acoma tribe in New Mexico. For those of you who are not familiar with New Mexico, Acoma tribe is located about one hours drive west of Albuquerque.

Acoma is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America. This was my home. For the past 30 years, I have worked in cultural resources management addressing a myriad of issues on behalf of my own tribe and other tribal communities throughout the Southwest. This opportunity has provided me

The chance to have dialogue with other tribal communities and all institutions from throughout the Southwest concerning repatriation, concerning museum and exhibit development, interpretation, access and collections management practice. I’ve also had the opportunity to work directly with tribes in creating their own tribal museums. A movement here that is reshaping

And shaping the ways in which indigenous communities in this country are presenting themselves, their culture and their histories. This work experience has provided me with these great opportunities. And one in particular is the opportunity to implement a federal policy called, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

This was a federal policy that was passed by the Congress in 1990. And what this policy provides is protection of items housed in museums, institutions, and agencies of the federal government and the federal system, which include items of objects of cultural patrimony, ancestral human remains, and their associated funerary objects.

This initial work centered on a review of inventories of items protected by this policy, NAGPRA. And again including human remains associated funerary objects and cultural patrimony. These inventories were mandated by this law. So each institution who was a recipient of federal funding was required to provide to tribes

Throughout the country inventories of their collections of native American materials. For the Pueblo of Acoma, and over the course of the first three years of enactment of this policy, we had received nearly 300 inventories of these items and representing almost a million items that fell under those various categories that were identified

As coming from my tribe. This prompted a second, I guess phase of this implementation, which called for visitation to a numerous institutions throughout the country. And in this photo, the photograph here of the exhibit, some of you might be familiar, is at the Field Museum in Chicago.

And this exhibition, when I first saw it along with other representatives from my tribe, we were utterly shocked and dismayed at the presentation, but really at that time did not have much to say or do to address the concerns that we had concerning exhibition.

What we were concerned with and what we were there for was to review items that were provided in their inventory of Acoma human remains and associated funerary objects. These inventories and these visits to the various museums exposed me personally to just a number of issues and concerns around the ways in which museums

In this country were stewarding these collections. And also other general collections of what were classified as Native American art or cultural items from Native American tribes in this country. And this is really a time in my life when my focus transitioned from cultural resources management to a focus on repatriation and museum development.

So I had the opportunity to work with many museums and to visit some of our country’s flagship institutions where it was quite apparent that in addition to the problem that ancestors of my ancestors remained stored in these facilities, that there were some other glaring issues around presentation, around narrative of not only Acoma

Materials on display, but other materials from tribes throughout this country that were on display. A lot of the information was in error. A lot of the ways in which things were presented in exhibit were likely offensive to many tribal people, including myself. And so it opened my eyes to the issue

That at that time had not been discussed openly among tribal representatives. So NAGPRA brought to the forefront various issues for both native American tribes and museums, many of which remain unresolved due to a number of complex reasons. What this has created however, is a movement among native American museum professionals,

Tribal historic preservation officers, tribal governmental officials, Native American organizations, and thankfully a number of museums who share the same concerns and a desire to invoke some change through more meaningful consultation, collaboration, and inclusion of Native America in museums. Some of the initial outcomes of this process and the photo on the left

Of the reburial of ancestral materials, burial items is a result of the NAGPRA law, the re actual repatriation that has been occurring since the enactment of that law of ancestral human remains and associated funerary objects. The challenge here is that there are so many materials, literally millions of items in museums

That need to be repatriated. The cumbersome process associated with this federal policy and museum policies don’t allow for a – any real ease in the process of repatriation. And so while we remain engaged in that process of repatriation, we have also exerted our tribal sovereignty around these issues around federal policy

But also the need for representation in the world of museums. And it took a congressional act to eventually create the National Museum of the American Indian which is now located on the national mall in Washington DC. And this institution represents all indigenous tribes of this hemisphere, and it is

Houses one of the largest collections of Native American materials in a separate facility in Suitland, Maryland. Many tribes work directly with the National Museum of the American Indian on the repatriation of items back to tribes and the review of document existing documentation around collections on exhibit and development and programming,

And a number of other issues that are important to tribal nations in this country. But there’s much work to be done. And even while the National Museum of American Indian does exist, does actively repatriate and does actively engage with tribes and institutions throughout the world. There is much work to be done,

And on all levels where policy is concerned, on the federal level but also within the field of museum studies, anthropology and archeology. But this movement is something that is evolving and is proving that with continued commitment on the part of tribes and institutions, that there is some promise.

In 2014, I joined the school for Advanced Research which is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As the director of the Indian Arts Research Center. And it was there that I had the opportunity to work with many tribal and non-tribal museum professionals from across the country on an initiative

Led by my predecessor, Dr. Cynthia Chavez Lamar, to develop a set of guidelines of how museums can work with source communities. The published guidelines for collaboration had an immediate impact on the field, strengthening established relationships between museums and tribes, instituting discourse on processes for engagement with tribes, by museums for both short

And longer term projects and initiatives, and forging discussion among tribes and museums about building trust, establishing communication, and understandings, and identifying those opportunities for mutually rewarding relationships. The guidelines have strong support of national museum organizations, including AAM and ATALM or the Association of Tribal Archives Libraries and Museum. Many museums throughout the nation

Are utilizing these guidelines. They have implemented these guidelines for specific projects and have used the guidelines to just to begin a dialogue between museums and source communities. I always like to acknowledge the Field Museum in Chicago for being one of the first flag ship institutions in this country to study the guidelines

And to develop a process for engagement of tribal community, source community representatives, and their current and ongoing effort to rehabilitate the Native American Hall. And earlier – an earlier slide, you saw the photo, the black and white photo of a museum tour passing by some display cases of mannequins

Dressed in Native American traditional attire. This is that same exhibit that was on display for nearly 70 years. This movement is creating positive change. It is making the museum field inquisitive and certainly much more responsive to Native American tribes. It is also fueling a critical and creative thought among non-native museum professionals.

I applaud The Met and other institutions for also taking bold steps in response to this movement. This level of commitment is crucial towards achieving equity and true representation of Native America in our museums. In this photo, I want to also highlight that the Yale University assembled students at Yale University,

Assembled an advisory committee of Native American experts to assist them in the curation of an installation at the university. So there’s acknowledgement and there’s engagement and it is active. And this is probably the most profound experiences that we are having now in this time. And again, congratulate The Met on taking that step

In the creation of the Art of Native America, with a advisory committee comprised of both native and non-native experts. The presentation of this private collection of Native American art items in this collection was a process that was quite involved. And the outcome of this was I believe successful.

It really set the stage for the ways in which The Met will continue to work with Native American tribes, will continue to present Native America within its walls and provide opportunities for Native American artists contemporary Native American artists to be part of The Met culture. So many Native American museum professionals,

Tribal leaders, cultural leaders and other experts are engaged in meaningful projects. Many of which will set a new bar for consultation and engagement. I want to spend the remainder of my time to mention briefly the projects associated with the photos in the slide. I mentioned the Yale student exhibition

Which is the first photo. The middle photo is a project at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where we have a very unique situation of this particular institution working around and navigating the complexities associated with receiving a promised or gift of Native American materials,

And how these materials will be presented in the future, how they will be accessed in the future, and more immediate is how these items will be presented in a publication. This involves and has involved almost two years of consultation with tribal experts to determine how best to present these materials

In a catalog, in a publication. And then of course, the third photo, there is two employees from the Field Museum who I had the opportunity to work with during the dismantling of the former exhibit, and the requests that I made of them for us to bring two significant pieces of materials

From Acoma outdoors, to give them air, to rejuvenate them, and re-engage those items with the natural environment even while this was in Chicago. So there are opportunities, and I hope that the commitment of our museums to this movement remains strong. As I said, there is much work to be done

And I’m very grateful that there is a shown commitment on the part of some institutions and our federal government and of tribal communities alike. Thank you very much. [ No Sound ] [ No Sound ] – Thank you very much for a very rich presentations. There’s so many different questions

And also things are coming up in the chat. Lots of people have things to say. They’re very specific questions to each one of you but let me just start with some broad observation and then ask you some questions. I mean, I thought it was rather interesting that we started

With the idea of specific stories, specific histories, and Jack talked about things that are excluded. And then Brian, with your conversation you brought us back to things that are excluded that actually people who are excluded, who need to be part of the conversation in shaping that dialogue.

Most of you, except for Kamini did focus on the more anthropological aspect of museums, meaning it’s in ethnographic collection at the University of London. Or Brian you’ve talked about the native traditions and especially in the historical museums but now also in the art museums and what we can do.

One thing that I keep thinking about is that for many big museums and I refuse to use the word encyclopedic museums and I tell you why, because I have come to the conclusion there is no such thing as encyclopedic museums. There are museums that are accidents of history and museums of partial histories,

Depending on what they have and what they don’t have. So what we have to figure out is not only to deal with what is excluded, but also what is there that also is about symbols of power and sometimes the aura. So I’d like you to really help our viewers,

Readers, listeners, on this call to think about, especially for art museums which is the world that I inhabited for a very, very long time. There is something about the aura of art and Native American collection when it comes into the art museum it somehow is seen as a little different

From when it was at the Museum of Natural History let’s say. So how do we deal with dismembering if you will or trying to really question that idea of aura of art that exists, especially in art museums and deal with ways of actually looking at the material that also gives you the specificity

Because it does have something to do with that kind of duality, that art objects seems to exist in. And Kamini I’ll start with you and also Jack, when you add something to say there. ‘Cause especially in your case Kamini, you at MAP are trying to really bring

In many different kinds of objects together, from traditional fine art object, to photography, to indigenous collection or the tribal collection and more casual objects. But it seems like a lot of the things you’re doing now online, it would be interesting to find that how you will actually follow

That in front of the object itself. There’s something about objects that we still have to deal with especially objects as seen as art museums. Any thoughts from any one of you? Jack, oh, Kamini and then Jack. – I think the object, you know the focus has so far

Been largely in the past on the collections. And I think it’s so under collections, but the collections exist, the museum exist. We always collections exist for the visitor. So I think what we need to focus as well is to balance this whole relationship between the collection

The focus on the collection and the focus on the visitor. We have all these objects in our museums which have a whole range of stories to tell, and it is for us to unlock those stories, but how do we make this relevant to the visitor who’s coming into the museum now?

So I think the idea of relevance is what we need to search for. And we need, the museum stops has to stop being the dominant voice. We are so used to controlling the conversation. I think we need to become listeners. We need to listen to what our audiences want.

And we at MAP have actually done that because we conducted a study now because we are a new museum. We want our communities to tell us what did they expect to see in a museum? What would they like to see? What do they hope from us? And then instead of us deciding exactly

You must see this and this is how we must see it. Let’s try and bring together both the visitor and our courts and try and create an experience for everyone will enjoy. – So the conceptual focus from museum as collection of things to a place of interaction

Between viewer and the things, is that an important important inflection point to change. Jack any thoughts? – Yeah, I agree that’s very important. At the same time there is so much power invested in a certain way in which the Canon and the gaze has actually existed,

So that it’s very tricky to figure out how to, in some ways, surface that gaze. So that sufficiently understood that it can actually be in some ways put in its place and not just dominant without any critical understanding. Here I’ll just mention the great French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who has studied both empirically

But also qualitatively the whole idea of distinction and how distinction is made and especially Western democratic cultures, and how it’s related to thoughts of prestige, thoughts of what’s important, but also what’s especially important for elites to understand and to appreciate. So why was George Washington, you know this is my favorite research example.

Why was George Washington so obsessed with getting the latest Chinese porcelain wear during the heat of the Revolutionary War in Manhattan? You know, I mean what does that tell us about what those objects represented and how the consumption and association with those objects meant for George Washington?

And it’s not just an idiosyncratic personal quality it’s something that was pervasive throughout the larger culture, of kind of Western enlightenment, Western enlightenment culture of distinction. So it has certain kinds of capital, it’s not just financial, but it’s also the cultural educational, social capital that is embodied.

And the aura, as you were saying Vishakha of that object. I think it’s really important for us to unpack all that in the process of also bringing more voices in because I think it’s very possible that the larger culture itself also is imbued with those kinds of notions of distinction.

And then it’s really not so dynamic conversation or not such a dynamic set of listenings. – So that part of it is what you would say is that knowledge systems embody many other presupposed notions of power, status, for who, unless we question that, and interrogate that it will only be a patchwork.

And that is one of the big fundamental thing. And I think that Brian one of the last slides that you mentioned which is a Yale professor who said to engage with native culture is to rethink America. That actually something to that effect.

And I always think of a Vartan Gregorian who used to say you know, because he too was an immigrant. And he said that every immigrant who comes to this country learns how to be American, but in the process also changes what it means to be American.

And that some point we have to acknowledge that we still haven’t learned the latter part, that it also means to change America. It’s not just that people come in to become what it means to be American. So from your perspective Brian, and also for you

Haidy, that when you work with this anthropological objects especially those that are alive, if you will, and you’re trying to bring the cultures together and I love the way Haidy talked about how even the fact that it couldn’t work properly was to remind us of the disjuncture of that process,

Which I think is really interesting. But the question that sometimes people would ask is that, therefore at what point is it appropriate for you to have that object? And it was in the chat function as well. At what point repatriation is the most important thing?

And I come from that whole questions of repatriation with sort of a double set of eyes, you know both as an Indian who grew up in India, but also as an Indian American who also sees a firsthand experience, my own experience as working with a young African American kids

And getting them excited about objects from the world that they knew nothing about, and really getting very passionate. So how do we think about this issue of repatriation? And I think Brian, you’ve talked a lot about engagement, not just about repatriation to the native land, if you will.

So both of you, what are your thoughts on this particular question, especially because the Sarr-Savoy Report has been so much on people’s minds. – Brian, would you like to go first or should I? – Haidy go ahead. – Thank you for the question. I think I’m very supportive of repatriation and, you know

We’re very open to those discussions with our collection, but I think it has also become perhaps divisive in ways that are obscure some of the kind of generative potentials of the discussion about repatriation, that gets hidden by kind of this polarized perspective between the people that kind of are trying to hold

On or resist this kind of, you know, revisiting of a painful past or don’t want to let go of their authority over objects versus people who have, you know are carrying a really heavy legacy of pain and suffering that has stemmed from those moments of extraction,

And those histories are there and very real. But I think what, you know, why people ask for objects back is because that’s a way a strategy to deal with the relationships that were forged through the ways in which those objects were taken. And we have got opportunities to think about

Remaking relationships in the present that refuse to just perpetuate those dichotomies or perpetuate some of those power imbalances and are re reframed in different ways. And when you see that happening, I think and Brian was talking about that in some of his experiences at places perhaps like the Field Museum,

When you see those relationships developing over time and the conversation about repatriation can change or shift to become something different. So whilst I think it’s very important to recognize you know, the histories of theft and injustice and to make amends for that, and I think that can happen for your return of objects.

The reason those objects are going back as a form is about rebuilding relationships and that’s the most important thing, and we can work on those relationships in a whole host of different ways. So someone in the chat said, is there a request for repatriation of the Maori cloak that I presented?

And no, that cloak is because of the relationships that we have built up at the moment it’s happy, the community that we’ve connected to are happy for the cloak to be in UCL. They have relationship with it and they have and they do set the terms of engagement it.

And we won’t do anything with the cloak without consulting that community, as that relationship shifts the conversation may change and then may be a request in the future, this is a dynamic changing environment. So I think it’s frustrating when the conversation about repatriation becomes so zero sum that it forgets

That really this is about rebuilding, rebuilding trust and relationship building. And that’s what I was trying through all of this. – Very important point you’re making, just at the center of it all the real 300 pound gorilla is the power dynamics, right? Who has the say? Who decides what?

And how do we change that? And I thought, Brian your discussion around that was particularly powerful. And so when you think about repatriation Haidy just, I mean, actually talking about the kind of work you’re doing, but are there issues that come up where you find that the power dynamics still operate

In such a way that the voices of people who are excluded don’t get command and therefore in the name of collaboration it’s an acquiescence to, you know, status quo. – Thank you for the question. So repatriation just makes all of us uncomfortable, right? That discussion, even when the federal policy became law

Many institutions, including our own Smithsonian Network wasn’t sure how to respond. And it took some time for many of these institutions to determine how they would engage in the discussion. But even before that, their understanding of the federal policy was, it was varied, right? From one institution to the next.

And even as inventories were being developed because many unfortunately many of these institutions did not have inventories, and so they were under a time constraint to get the inventories done, and eventually they arrived on our doorsteps but the process almost 30 years later has improved within some institutions while with others,

And I will, you know, use The Met as an example. We’ve not had that conversation. And I don’t know if that conversation will ever happen. And there are many things and so other things associated with us, right? So you have active illegal trafficking of cultural patrimony even today.

We’re currently working on another federal policy. Hopefully it becomes a law this year, that would strengthen this NAGPRA law, the provisions of the law while also provide more protections of these cultural patrimony items. And that’s a whole another conversation. But within museums, I would say that there has been

There have been enough and thankfully successes of repatriation and consultation, meaningful consultation that not only address the repatriation, but open the door for that idea of building trust, a willingness to commit time and resources on the museum’s part, to have a discussion with source communities around not only, again not only repatriation,

But stewardship of these collections while they remain in these institutions until repatriation occurs, access cultural sensitivities around access, even by source community members, because even there that becomes that’s a huge issue. And, you know and then there are other unique situations depending on the institution that sometimes are put on the table

That most tribes are willing to, you know listen and have a conversation about. So, you know, it’s evolving it’s evolving and it’s going to take some time. The other thing, if you don’t mind if I can go back to the aura of art, right? So we haven’t really had the discussion about

The terminology within some institutions because, you know item of cultural patrimony protected by this federal policy for some institutions would be classified as art. There’s still much work to do in that area, but you know, this movement if it will continue and it will, I think, foster those difficult conversations moving forward.

– I mean, I think in a way, what you say is that sometimes I’ve heard from my native friends that museums of natural history are a little more forthcoming than the art museums, partly because there is something around this notion of possession of art and the aesthetic that somehow takes them

To different realms. It’s worth coming back to this ton of questions, which we can’t even go to. But I want to ask last question before this panel ends and that is that Louis Console, colleague and a friend was on this conversation mentioned that how in the late ’60s

Which was another influxion point and early ’70s civil rights struggle in New York City that gave rise to museums like the Museo del Barrio, like the Studio Museum in Harlem, so some things happen. And some of us who came of age at that time we really bought into the idea of museums

With the potential of being institutions of change. That’s what made us passionate, you know because we were all the warriors in that struggle. Then where we are today, and what happened in the ’80s and ’90s is quite different from where we are today. ’90s was even another inflection point

With kind of multiplicity and multiplicity of cultures and the multicultural reality especially in America. I would like all of you as museum leaders to observe and reflect on this moment, we feel it’s an inflection point, too much is going on if anything COVID has really laid bare the fissures of the society,

Things that were always there but they have laid bare. They also have made it possible as Kamini says, about potential of expansiveness of some sort, if you are to project out 10 years, where do you think the museum world will be? And where do you wish it to be?

In terms of interpretation of objects because that’s our panel, interpretation generally speaking in the museum world. So limit your conversation to interpretive aspect of where do you think the world will be 10 years from now I’ll be too old. So I don’t have to answer that question.

Kamini you’re the baby in terms of museum world, because you are a new director of a new museum, where do you think that all this is gonna lead to in 10 years from now? – No, I would be very nervous to make any projections

Vishakha, because one year ago, one and a half year ago did any of us imagine we would be where we are or the whole world would be turned on its head. So I think museums, you know, in any case they cannot be these temples of intellectual asceticism

In future, they really have to reflect a language and an interpretation that looks at the non-elite start-up society as well. And I’m not saying that we go from one extreme to the other, but as one director asked me who are you doing this for? Who are we doing this for?

So I’ll be doing this for an exclusive club or be talking to each other, or I’ll be talking to the people who visit us. So that I think is extremely important for us to do. And going forward, if we don’t only look at the interpretative aspect, but also the hybrid model

For me, I see the way forward as both the digital museum and the physical space sort of forming hybrid going ahead, because I see both of them distinct parts where it’s two parts, at least from up the whole, each has their strengths, the tools that they give us to

Be able to communicate with our audiences. So I think it’s important to address both of these and look at a hybrid model going forward – Thank you. Haidy. – In one sentence. I mean, I think what happened in COVID when museums had to shut as well as exhibition spaces,

I think is really instructive because I think too much emphasis is placed on exhibitions actually, a lot of what we’ve been talking about today has been there, but it isn’t visible. It’s the things that happen in the store rooms and then the library and archive and in offices,

And in the kind of relationship building that’s not happening through public exhibition spaces. And I think, you know, particularly in the UK it’s because museums have become so associated with kind of revenue streams from blockbuster exhibitions. That’s one of the reasons why there has been such a crisis because that seemed to disappear.

And I think we need to bring back actually this idea of museums or spaces for all these other things to, spaces where people can come. Like I think Kamini says absolutely participate in processes of the archiving and collection and research of their own cultures

And as spaces where they can learn about other people. So my final one, I think would be, I mean, Jack said in his talk, he felt optimistic about museums as spaces. And it’s hard to feel optimistic particularly when you work in with ethnographic collections it’s a very heavy history.

But my vision my curatorial dream that I was trying to kind of suggest would actually be to recuperate the good parts of the ethnographic collection without the colonialism without the extractivism, without the violence but the bit, that’s actually about the commitment to understanding the world in its most broad iteration.

And I think art just to tie it all up, art is really working against us in so many ways. And you know art has become a way out for ethnography collections. We talk to artists, we rarely reinterpret collections and they kind of make it all look better because we’re allowing them

In and we give artists authority in a way that we don’t necessarily feel comfortable giving to everyday people that haven’t had an early art training or aren’t participating in elite global art worlds. And I think we need to go back to kind of a more essence of the ethnographic

If we can separate that from it’s difficult history. – Thank you. I think in a way just you take the good bad and the ugly and make sure that we can continue to recognize it and move forward. It’s really very important. Brian, last word, and then I’ll get Jack to round this out.

– Well, I hope that in the next 10 years, that institutions whether they be flagship institutions in this country, or our tribal museums, that we are presenting Native America in a way that is representative of the contemporary voice of Native America, through that lens of knowledge of traditional knowledge and history

Of our own people. And I really hope that there will be a greater level of collaboration between institutions and source communities that needs to happen. And stewardship collections care, conservation, that these areas are also at the forefront sometime in the short-term future,

Because there is a great deal of work that needs to be done. Some understandings that need to be developed, and a mutual commitment between source communities and museums to really care for these items which are so important to our cultures. So I look forward to that continued movement. – Thank you. Jack.

– Yeah, the creativity that we prize so much, the individual creativity that is oftentimes embodied in the notions of the Renaissance artists, those are very valuable I don’t want to discredit that, but at the same time I think what’s being said is that the creativity of generations of people, the creativity of cultures,

The creativity of social groups to tackle problems that we’re facing. I’m very mindful of the clock ticking about global warming. And it’s hard for me to think about the 10 years, without thinking about the six years and change that is supposed to be the tipping point

In which things are gonna get a lot worse and the cascading impacts of fires and hurricane systems. And once in a hundred, once in a thousand year you know, occurrences, aren’t going to start combining. And our current pandemic is really a part of that. It’s a symptom of that.

So I feel that, that same creativity has to be applied in this very artistic, beautiful, joyful way, but in a way that reconnects us to the land. And I know this is an indigenous framework that I’m really just in some ways expressing and relying on the intergovernmental panel on climate change has referred

To specifically indigenous local knowledge as part of the solution that we have to embrace. And that raises profound questions about the carbon economy and extractivism and how we have to really creatively and collectively and collaboratively re-imagine what we’re doing every day, and that to me, seems like a grand creative project

That we should all be happy to take on. But again, the problem of thinking of that as an individual effort or somehow the right one person in the right one position where the right technology to solve all that, I think that’s not gonna be the answer.

So this has to be a much bigger project that we all take on. – Right. I think in a way, what you are saying is that first and foremost, let’s recognize that institutions, museums, and otherwise are part of a larger ecosystem, cultural and otherwise, therefore what is our obligation

To the survival of the planet? That’s kind of a big question. And what is our obligation to the continuing richness of this humanity of 7.7 billion people that inhabit this world. And having just on this book “World as Family” is exactly about that, which is to say,

That unless we think of this larger humanity as part of our family and in that family, we respect, we use, we have dignity, the words that number of people mentioned in the chat it is really not about just access and equity, it’s about partnership. It’s about empathy.

And it is about dignity of others that you bring into the conversation to create this larger world, that Kamini as you said, is to recognize that museums are not just collection of things, they’re about systems. They’re about other things that people don’t get to see and how do we change all of that?

So you’ve all provided out… Jack, you have something to say? – Just add in the only way we’re gonna have a chance to grapple with this is to really deal with the land and our relationship with the land. I mean, I’m learning that the U.S. soil is largely depleted

Because of the system of agriculture as really a destroyed land, the forests are being completed. So really to acknowledge and to enlarge what is alive and not to have the hierarchy in which humans are above all else, and some humans are more equal than others.

I mean, somehow we have to be able to grapple with that in a creative and profound way. – And with that, I hope that all of you who have been on this Zoom conversation have enjoyed this conversation. There’s much more to say, I know that tomorrow

Will be yet another group of fabulous panelists. So please remember to register and continue the conversation. And please join me virtually in thanking our panelists for really providing for such food of thought. Thank you very much everybody, and have a good evening. If you’re in New York, and good day

No matter where you are. Bye-bye. [ No Sound ]

#InterpretationA #Global #Dialogue #Museums #Publics

In Conversation: Interpretation

– [Dana Bishop-Root] Hi everybody. Welcome. Thank you for being here, thank you for tuning into the livestream in your home. I’m Dana Bishop-Root, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Thank you for coming here, for arriving here to this museum, this building and land that holds multiple histories,

Memories, and experiences, generations of histories, memories, and experiences. Histories, memories, and experiences both before and after borders were made. Thank you for being here tonight together, for joining in any way that you can, for bringing with you your lived experiences and knowledge and your complex and beautiful histories, welcome.

The In Conversation series began towards the beginning of the pandemic as a virtual way to share conversations between artists, curators, and our many publics, with people in their home spaces. As individuals who make the museum, we are a community of learning. The In Conversation series communicates art as a relationship we build together,

The relationships between artwork, artists, each of us, and the world. When we were imagining what the series could be and asking ourselves the question of how can museums learn and grow from what the artwork on our walls teaches us, from what artists imprint on us every time we get

To have a conversation with them? How can this learning transform us? How can we connect seemingly disparate exhibitions throughout the museum to ask public-facing questions to build language together? Alyssa did this. She responded immediately to this prompt. Through her work as a co-curator for Sharif Bey: Excavations,

She has developed public programs that do just this. The first Conversation she created centered on multiple forms of literacy, and this conversation, Interpretation, directly tied to Excavations, but it is also an opportunity to build language across and throughout the museum in all of you. Alyssa centers her work on critical care,

The vulnerability of asking questions, and facilitating exhibitions and spaces that create both self-reflection and collective discourse. They both directly acknowledge structural and internalized oppressions while creating in-between spaces, a magic of possibility and of wonder. I’m honored to introduce you all to Alyssa Velazquez, Curatorial Assistant in Decorative Arts

And Design and the co-curator of Sharif Bey: Excavations. – [Alyssa Velazquez] Good evening. Thank you all for being with us here tonight for our first in-person Conversation, informed and inspired by Sharif Bey: Excavations. I make up merely one portion of the museological team that organized and contributed time, expertise, and to be frank, heart into this exhibition.

Thank you all who are involved in its inception. On behalf of myself, the rest of the Carnegie Museum of Art, and our partners on this project, thank you, our audience, for being with us tonight. Speaking of which, I want to tip my hat to our speakers, Kilolo Luckett, founding executive director

And chief curator of ALMA|LEWIS in Pittsburgh, (audience applauds) multidisciplinary artist, Frewuhn, And founding director of The Roll Up CLT, Jessica Gaynelle Moss. I hold immense gratitude for all of you, and I know I just gave a one-liner for each of these individuals, however, their biographies are so rich and far-reaching that I really encourage everyone here to research their organizations, websites, and past collaborations, because we could honestly, and I am not kidding, spend the remainder

Of the time with their stellar bios alone. If you should need to use the restroom at any time, the bathrooms are located to the left of the main doors you came in. Emergency exits are out the main door as well, and we will be opening up our four-person conversation

For audience Q&A towards the end of our time together. This event is being livestreamed, so hello virtual audience, and it is also being recorded for posterity. Special thank you to our staff, Jordan Bohannon and Tom Fisher, running tech on both of these fronts as a means of remembering this special moment,

As well as our setup staff without whose assistance, none of this would’ve been possible. And I do believe that is all the housekeeping, so if you haven’t seen the exhibition yet or heard Sharif Bey before tonight, I wanted to show this brief clip that we produced

As part of our opening before I switch to our PowerPoint and continue our panel discussion, so bear with me as I deal with the tech switcheroo. – [Sharif Bey] As it pertains to engaging the world, we have these fundamental institutions that shape us. For me to have an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum represents the culmination of my unique orientation and journey into the arts. When I think about my earliest experiences at the museum,

One of the first things that I responded to was the idea of innate beauty. You see the Hall of Minerals, or you see the dinosaur bones, or we see the hall of birds. And then we see expressions of color and form and surface.

There should be a humility that comes out of the awesomeness of that which is already here and that was here long before us. I’ve just been especially taken by the formal qualities of the natural world, and the countless birds that are available here. I was given the support and authority to arrange them

In such a way that I would if I were painting or sculpting with these objects. You know, sometimes we have these fragments of history and those of us artists who are inspired by the circumstances revolving around the mystery of these objects have to kinda fill in the blanks.

– [Alyssa] When I think about these opening monologues, I frequently struggle with which strain of thought to travel. In my mind, everything is connected, which is why between Sharif’s sound clip and some of the work in the gallery highlighted in that clip, when developing a series of conversations,

I knew one of the themes that was visible but had the potential for greater legibility was this behemoth term, interpretation, whether it be the interpretation of ancestral history or the adornment of a form of wall base necklace or a bone, as pictured here in the pendant piece to the exhibition’s text.

In its label, we quote a phrase that’s been important to Sharif by the Romanian sculptor, Constantin Brancusi, which is, “When you see a fish, you don’t think of its scales, do you? “You think of its speed, its floating, “flashing body seen through the water. “If I made fins and eyes and scales,

“I would arrest its movement, “give a pattern or shape of reality, “but I just want the flash of its spirit.” Like Brancusi, Bey often elides fidelity in his work, the bone-like connectors of Bey’s conceptual necklace are built with an acute sense of metaphor or interpretation.

As Sharif says, “I’ll leave certain things to the creator, “for lack of a better expression. “I’m not as interested in capturing those things “as I want to approximate or suggest things. “The anatomy isn’t as important as the broader expression.” As in the studio photograph on the right,

There are mass sketches of fish scales, fins, and eyes out of scale, and broadly expressed. Each of the speakers with us tonight has an artistic expression and practice that is broader than Sharif Bey: Excavations. As you’ll see throughout the various presentations, there are only a select number of images of Sharif’s work

Because tonight is really about our speakers and their composite of practices, anthropological, historical, and cultural, in which we view not the scale to scale ratio, if you will, of interpreting and responding to the work itself, but that Sharif Bey and his resulting exhibition serve as a portal of entry

Where we can discuss pedagogical interpretations of artistic praxis. So tonight, we embody just a Brancusian flash of the show’s spirit. And with that potential never-before-used adjective, I am gonna move (audience members laugh) to join these fabulous conversationalists in what I’m sure will be a spirited discussion, and I’m just so excited, but Kilolo,

I remember the first time I met you was actually at the opening of Sharif Bey: Excavations, and I remember us being in such reverential awe of both the turnout and the juxtaposition of the works in the museum’s collections and Sharif’s own work. I wonder if you might start us off tonight

With your own professional and personal interpretation of the value of the visibility of Sharif’s representation and reinterpretation of these spaces and works of art in Pittsburgh. – [Kilolo Luckett] Great, thank you so much, and thanks for inviting me. (audience applauds) And I’ve just been so joyous

In our conversations over the past few months virtually, so it’s wonderful to be in person with you all. So good evening everybody. – [Audience] Hi Kilolo. – [Kilolo] Great, great. Good to see you all, good to be here. And so I’m just gonna take you on a little journey through my artistic practice

And my relationship and inspiration from Sharif. And so I am the founding Executive Director and Chief Curator of ALMA|LEWIS. It’s two names, Alma Thomas and Norman Lewis. They were both abstract artists, and Norman Lewis actually had a presence here in Pittsburgh because he was here from 1955 for the Carnegie International.

And so here you have just a little overview of what my newly found organization that’s only a couple miles away from here, ALMA|LEWIS, and what we do. We have a residency, we have a gallery, we have a Black archive of books, and we just really wanna welcome people in

To experience that virtually and in person. And so here are the two inaugural artists, Marvin Toure on the left and Amani Lewis on the right. Amani is a painter, printmaker, photographer, mixed-media artist, and Marvin Toure is a multidisciplinary artist, and he lives here in Pittsburgh, and Amani is based in Baltimore.

So this is Marvin in his studio, and it’s just really wonderful to be able to center one’s practice through experimentation, and that’s one of the core tenets of what we do at ALMA|LEWIS here. And Fre was really kind of enough to come and spend a little time with us today

And got to see not Marvin, but Murjoni Merriweather who’s a sculptor. This is just some more of Marvin’s work. He’s here in Pittsburgh, and he moved here from New York two years, a little over, little under two years ago, and you can see with his practice, he works in various different scales,

And a lot of his work has to do with memory and loss, and what it is that we find in between. And this is Amani’s work which is up. You have three days, or two days now to see it. The last day’s this Saturday, Reimagining Care.

Amani delved into his family’s archive of photographs and really did a much more, I would say, in-depth way of looking at his family through the eyes of his matrilineal line, five generations back. And these are some works in our gallery, large-scale prints that Amani did. This is all experimentation.

This is a new body of work all on archival paper, and you’ll see kind of some of the work down here in the lower portion here of how Amani has worked with some of the, in learning more about these photographs and talking to and interviewing his family,

And so they were basically through oral history and through these images, Amani has learned more and more about his Jamaican ancestry. And in listening to Sharif and his, and the video and him talking about him adding to history and looking at what isn’t there but also that is present,

That’s something that really informs my practice in what I do. And I’ve been working with Amani for the past four years right out of Amani going to MICA, and Amani’s really, has bloomed as an artist, and Amani actually knows Sharif, so that’s another reason why I have these images of Amani,

Because you’ll see in, just shortly, a show that I put together with Sharif and Amani and a couple of other artists in Pittsburgh. So this is a show that I did called Familiar Boundaries. Infinite Possibilities. at the August Wilson Center. I helped them for about three years, as their consulting curator,

Elevate their visual arts programming, and so I had local, national, and international artists, 12 of them, take over the entire building during the, in concert with the last International, and so you have some of the artists here on the left, from Martha Jackson Jarvis who’s from D.C. to Shikeith

Who lives here, to Nakeya Brown who through her being here, connected her to Silver Eye, and she just was in the Radial Survey, so once again, centering what I do here in Pittsburgh but pushing that out to the rest of the world and also bringing people here to connect

With what’s going on in Pittsburgh. These are just some of the highlights. This is Tsedaye Makonnen, she’s right there, she’s of Ethiopian descent, and she did this beautiful sculpture, this light called You Give Life, dedicated to her aunt. And here’s some other works in the exhibition with Njena Surae Jarvis,

50th Anniversary Dedication to the Black Panthers, and the egungun, Yoruba, blending those two cultural connections to create this energy sculpture called E. GUN GUN. So it’s E. GUN GUN with the Black Panthers, so it’s just pretty powerful what she did, and we did a movement piece with that. Alrighty, 2020, I don’t know

If anybody saw that exhibition that was here at the Carnegie Museum of Art. I got to work with the curators there and did some programming in the galleries and I wanted to kinda take us out of the theater and really activate the spaces in the gallery with the art,

And so I worked with a lot of local art historians and artists to really pick some of the works and talk more about how, from their perspective, and you’ll see, I also engaged two of the security guards who were also artists, and so they picked some of the work to talk about,

And it was a really wonderful experience because visitors got to not only hear from curators, they got to hear from people that actually worked in, that really were stewards of the work beyond the curators, and I always just thought that that was really unusual that we never really engage those people

Because they are the ones that really hold space and safeguard the work, and so listening to Rah Dees talk about Teenie Harris and some other works. By Any Means, I did this, I don’t even remember, I think five, six years ago. I was questioning why living in Pittsburgh,

Why didn’t we see Black curators? Why don’t we see Black arts writers? So I was like, let me just invite those people to come up in Pittsburgh and connect with folks here that are interested in doing that work. So I brought in my friend Rujeko Hockley

Who’s now at the Whitney Museum, and my two friends here, Jessica Lynne and Taylor Aldridge who started ARTS.BLACK, centering Black writing and talking about art criticism from a Black perspective. And I also brought in some other people from Texas, Nathaniel Donnett, and Nakeya, there’s just a whole bunch of wonderful artists,

And we had Alisha Wormsley and D.S. Kinsel, they were all in conversation. And so that was just a really wonderful way for all of us to get together and visit Thad Mosley, everybody knows Thad Mosley, right? And so we got to hear about Thad and his practice,

And also we went out and visited with BOOM Concepts and a whole bunch of other organizations that I won’t get into. We actually looked through the collection, that’s Senga Nengudi’s work right up there. We went to the Warhol, talked to them, talked about how Warhol has influenced so many different works

And people in their writings and their perspective. As you can tell, that’s Eric Shiner up there, he’s no longer here, this was several years ago. Also, I did, I started a group called Black Artists and Arts Administrator Meetup, and this is an older picture,

But just to give you all some kinda foundational work of, okay, this just didn’t happen overnight, I’ve been working at this for a while. This is probably almost eight years old, this image, and some people met and fell in love and got married. Naomi Chambers, if you’re out there, I’m not sure,

But her and Darnell met through this meetup and they’re now (laughs) married with two kids, so art can bring about love in very special ways. (laughs) So, and then this is a show that I worked on called, I curated in New York called Conjuring Wholeness

In the Wake of Rupture, and you can see Sharif Bey, one of his works back there and Stephen Towns and Amani Lewis were all in this show, and so we got to talk about each other’s work in the process, and so it’s not only just you talking about your work,

It’s wonderful to have other people lend their perspective. And then, that’s just Amani talking about her work, and that’s Sharif and some of his work, and then Sharif had a show at Concept Art Gallery, and Murjoni Merriweather and Amani, when they were here doing site visits,

I took them over there, and they just are fan, crush on Sharif, and Sharif has yet to meet Murjoni, and we’re gonna make that happen when Sharif’s back in town, because Murjoni works in clay, and she absolutely adores Sharif. And then this is Sharif

When he was in the Renwick show a few years ago in D.C. that I got to see, and I actually took one of his little clay classes, so Sharif knows I’m always about archiving, and so when I told him, “Oh yeah, “I have all these pictures of you,” he was like,

“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this,” but he’s such a phenomenal teacher, a phenomenal teacher, and so I just wanna leave you with two of my favorite pieces in your show, of this kind of intergenerational works. The one on the left is of Sharif’s father from the ’60s,

And then Sharif making this wonderful work, and I just love the conversation that is happening and I think about my family and the work and the way in which Sharif talks about his work with his family line, and then also looking at these collections and integrating them.

So that’s all I have, so thank you very much. – [Alyssa] Thank you. If you wouldn’t mind passing. (audience applauds) Oh yes, please, clap, I’m a big clapper. Passing the clicker over to Frewuhn. I think in addition to the images that you are showing with all these wonderful people,

It’s reminding me of how self-centered this show is, which I use that phrase purposefully in face of the negative connotations to not brush over the circumstances Sharif overcame to develop his own visual form of storytelling, which was largely self-taught. And Frewuhn, I know, as a group that we’ve discussed briefly offline,

Your own self-initiated learning, but I wonder if you could share with us more of your interpretation of self as laboratory. – [Frewuhn] Yes, can you hear me? Okay, I didn’t know if I was on or not. Hi everyone, I’m Frewuhn. It’s been a pleasure to be in conversation so far

With these lovely ladies who are very respected in their fields and it’s just a pleasure to be here tonight, to be able to talk about my work in conversation with Sharif Bey’s Excavations. I was not previously familiar with Sharif Bey’s work, but since I’ve been invited,

I’ve had the opportunity to dive in and listen and to be able to sit with a lot of Sharif’s understanding of self-initiated pedagogy, which is something that is very intrinsic to my work with liberatory practice. Most recently, I was able to be at August Wilson,

And I was able to sort of perform what it means to be on a trajectory of liberatory practice through nu-hymns, and my work is concerned primarily with, how do we begin with the site of self as the site of protest?

And so the work that I was able to engage in has come out of me being able to sit with myself, to be able to sit with a lot of my background which is fringe to the art world. I’m in the music industry, I’m in cultural anthropology,

I have a background in education, history, so a lot of my work is not, it just overlaps in a lot of ways, and so, okay, so this is a photo of my residency that I was participating in in 2020 at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston. This is a intergenerational conversation

With Patricia Hogan Williams who is the principal at the Imani School for young children and Viktor Ewing who is an installation artist and an archivist, and it was a pleasure to be able to work with Patricia who was my principal when I was at the Imani School.

We were able to sit in dialogue about protest, and how education itself is an act of protest. When I was listening to Sharif, what stuck out to me the most was his creation out of scarcity and being able to use pedagogy as a site of synthesis, to be able to sit with practice

For those who really need it, whereas there may be limitations imposed on us by race, gender, class, sexuality, all of these things. So for me, I’ve just been able to sit with the idea that in order to ignite any sort of change, we have to have practices in place daily, so for me,

Daily devotions and being able to use my work from working with organizations in Texas, like the Awakenings Movement which is an arts-convergent church, and using my background in theology to sort of cross-pollinate that information. This image here is at Fisk University. I was able to conduct a workshop

During the 90th Annual Spring Arts Festival, where I was working with students that were in various disciplines, English, arts, I was able to work with local community organizations on a two-day workshop where we were able to begin using our own devotional practices and being able to sit with other work

From literary giants such as Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, and so on and so forth to be able to begin asking really critical questions and doing the work that sometimes is scary to do to be able to begin to look at yourself and be able to examine what the spirit needs,

What the spirit is craving for, these sort of self-excavations, so to speak. And so this took place over the course of two days and these students were able to, as a result of engaging in this process, get a four credit hour credit for participating in this. So this is a prime example

Of what self-initiated practice can amount to. This is an image of sort of a most, it’s the most recent project that I was working on with the Black Arts District one-off in the cryptocurrency space, in the metaverse space, and this is a mockup of Frewuhn’s Freedom Summer Mixtape Temple,

Which is based on the work that I did at Contemporary Arts Museum which is based off of Freedom Summer. And so during 2020, I was talking to some of my musician friends, they were sending me music, sending me tracks and I was home, this is right around the time of the riots,

Protests that were going on, George Floyd, and we were sitting at home, grounded, sort of just feeling helpless at the time, and a friend of mine sent me some music, and I was singing along to it and something was telling me, this is an anthem.

Something about this is giving me hope in a time where I’m feeling really lost, really dark, and from that, we were able to write a song, and that song gave birth to Side A, Side B, eventually becoming my work that I was able to sit with

At the Contemporary Arts Museum for about a week, just fleshing out what liberatory practice has really looked like for me personally. And it resulted in me being able to participate in the Black Arts District, having my own temple and having the sound installation on display in this temple,

And this temple is based off of a temple that actually exists in India that was built over a site that was, experienced drought. They built it over this site that had an irrigation system so there’s water all around it and there’s a bridge

That sort of serves as a link between the past, present, and future. And for me, just my presence in the metaverse space alone is sort of an example of what, how none of this is really linear. Our process and our trajectory toward liberatory practice is an act

Of futurism, but it’s also an act of protest at the same time. And this is an image at, from the August Wilson performance from the NuHymes, New Anthems performance, where I’m basically using the process as the product. A lot of time, in music and in visual arts,

We’re expected to have a complete process, a complete product by the end of the process, but the performance itself is me being able to engage with this liberatory act of being able to fuse past, present, sacred, secular, moving beyond these binaries and being able to create new work as a result.

And so just sitting with Sharif’s work has helped me be able to understand and be affirmed by the process of excavating, auto-archeology, being able to use self as the site of the first, most violent protest that we could engage in, and being able to in turn turn that work out

And be able to offer it as an opportunity for people to see themselves, not necessarily in context of a larger movement, but being able to really examine, what does it mean to have a daily resistance? What does it mean to engage in protest in a way

That is disruptive even in our own lives, and how we’re constantly being able to identify ourselves as the site of oppression, to be able to move through this work? And I think I’m gonna hand it over to you Jessica. I’m getting a little tongue-tied. Thank you. – [Alyssa] Thank you so much.

That picture of the metaverse reminded me of that imagery of a portal of entry that I mentioned at the beginning, which when I think when we visualize that, I think most of us picture a world on the other side of that dimensional threshold with or without people,

And Jessica, you’ve done so much work with artists on interpreting professional and personal intersectional needs and creating communities, and really opportunities that speak to this. I’m so excited to hear from you. – [Jessica Gaynelle Moss] Thank you, Alyssa. I mean, I feel like first I have

To express extreme gratitude for being invited here today, and also for all of you all for coming out as it’s beginning to rain and a little chilly outside. I also just wanna acknowledge that the care that is being exhibited in this space is not only in theory but in practice

And I see that in how Dana so eloquently uplifted you, Alyssa, and your work, and so I just want to take a moment to acknowledge that and express gratitude and sincere warmth for being in this space today. I see how this team cares for itself and I think that that’s something that is,

That I will interpret as I share my work today, but I feel like is inspirational, and so I just wanna uplift that in this space. I’m also just experiencing so much gratitude by sitting next to these brilliant women. Kilolo and Frewuhn, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us

In this space. It feels so warm in here. Okay, so I just want to acknowledge that I didn’t get here by myself, like many of us haven’t. I came from all of the places and the people, and I wanna acknowledge the countless people who have helped shape me. That could be my parents.

Here, this is my mom on the left, teaching at the Community Learning Center in the Hill District, and my dad on the right being himself on the streets of Sugar Top, and without these two people, I don’t think that I would, I know, confidently,

That I wouldn’t be who I am and so I always want to, like Sharif, uplift my parents and put them in this space, and so let’s start there. I started my journey as a student at Carnegie Mellon University where I studied painting and drawing, and often when I think about the evolution

Of my work, I went from this gesture of painting on a canvas to this gesture of rolling paint on walls. I, like Sharif, I think am just really inspired by thinking about excavation, working with the resources that are available and ultimately creating new tools and resources.

I’m really inspired by this idea of working with fragments of history, this idea that Kilolo was talking about, by any means necessary, and I wanna uplift what Frewuhn said about this creation out of scarcity. I’m really interested in using the materials that exist to create new worlds, and so what we’re seeing here,

When I was a student in undergrad, it was cheaper for me to have a mortgage than it was for me to live on campus at CMU, and so I purchased my first house at 19. I had a bunch of homies who were in the art school

With me come and help me rehab the space, which meant we drunk wine and watched HDTV and then would try to tile a floor, so it was a mess and you can see some of that mess and that evolution and how it evolved, but I really considered the house and the materials

That I was working with to be in the same way that I would work with paint or clay, thinking about how we could use what exist and make it turn into new forms, so the homies that helped me build the house can help, they lived in the house with me,

And we would work on rehabbing this space as we inhabited it. That first seed led to a second seed which led to a third seed, and now I own and manage three different properties in the Hill District that are affordable housing for Black students and artists living in the area. Wow. (audience applauds)

After I graduated from CMU, I went to grad school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and this was my first introduction, I was a arts administration and policy and management student, this is my first introduction to Theaster Gates, who is incredibly relevant to my practice.

I was doing the thing, just doing the thing and not knowing what I was doing, and then you meet the master of doing the thing that you’re doing and you learn what it is that you’re doing, and so Theaster is the brain genius who works with, very similar to Sharif, clay,

But also multiple different media, and especially place and people, and so when I first graduated, I worked as the program manager at the Rebuild Foundation in Chicago. I opened up the Stony Island Arts Bank, which started off looking like this after 50 years of being ignored, and after a $5 million investment,

Turned out to be a site for contemporary art in the South Side of Chicago. The idea is instead of asking people to come to one of the world’s most renowned collections at the Art Institute, how can we bring that to them? How can we put that in our own communities

And how can we build resources in the places that we live for us? So that was incredibly relevant to my practice. From 14 through 17, I worked with Theaster managing the Black Artists Retreat, which brings over 300 artists from all over the world to the South Side of Chicago to be in community

With each other. Sometimes this is us like eating barbecue and having barbecue, I remember sitting next to Carrie Mae Weems who got barbecue sauce on her face, in between her and Theaster, but also it’s a space for dedicated research and thought. We have a number of different programs

And events during the three-day convening that are just meant to bring us together, and sometimes there’s a real, there’s a priority on the chill, right? Of course it can be about scholarship and fine arts, but can we just be together? And can it just be that?

And so I really appreciated that about my time with Theaster. I moved from Chicago and became the senior leadership at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina. A lot of my work was curatorial, but it was also deeply rooted in community engagement.

That’s Jordan Casteel giving a lecture at the public library. This is me giving a tour with the director of the museum and her husband, I mean, excuse me, the founder of the museum and her husband. It was founded in 1974 by two Black women and so that felt particularly relevant to my practice.

I would give tours to student groups, we would bring the museum outside and into the public, and that was just a really great way to think about how I could expand my practice into institutions. Then I went to law school, at the University of Pittsburgh right here around the corner.

This is me popping bottles when I graduated. This is the Black Law Student Association which I was the director of, and that also was important to me and my practice because there were, there will always be opportunities to defend why we need the spaces that we need,

Why it’s important for us to have our own spaces, and this is relevant because we see, even in terms of religious gatherings, our spaces are a threat. Black bodies are just a threat, and so there’s an increasingly importance on us having our own spaces for the safety and healing of our own people,

And so that is an incredibly important part of my work. Then I got my toe wet in philanthropy. This is Celeste Smith and Shaunda McDill who are two mentors of mine. They work at the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowment on a program called Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh,

And I’ve worked with these two women for the past two years and finding ways to support Black artists locally. We gave away $6 million in the past 10 years to Black artists in this region, and without these two Black women and doing that work,

It would not be possible, and so I just wanna make sure to uplift their names in this space. One of the things that I did when I was at the Endowments and working with institutions is figuring out how the work can extend just beyond me, right,

And so in 2018, when I was in residence at Elsewhere Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina, I created a scholarship that supported Black, female, high school students who were interested in pursuing your career in arts administration. This was an unrestricted honorarium, an opportunity to curate an exhibition at the space,

As well as an integration into the rest of the programs and opportunities that the resident artists would have a chance to involve themselves in. I built upon that program when I was at the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowment, and so now, every year, the Above Ground Railroad Grant offers three Black students

Between the ages of 18 to 25 who are pursuing a career in arts administration an unrestricted grant of $10,000, and that will continue, it started last year and it will continue in perpetuity, and I’m so excited about that. I think a lot about space, not space like this but yes

But also space like physical spaces. And this is relevant because I think about how historically in this country, Black people, people who look like me, there have been intentional legal mechanisms that have been put in place to prevent us from owning land because we were previously deemed property,

And so what does it mean then for Black people to take ownership of said property, and so that led me onto this work with The Roll Up. So in Charlotte, North Carolina, there’s a space, it’s a duplex, that’s it on the left, that has a two-car garage,

And whenever the garage is rolled up, that’s a sign for the community, for you to literally roll up and see whatever action, program, event is happening in this space. So we invite artists for six months to a year to inhabit the space. We provide free housing, transportation, food and meal stipend,

As well as an opportunity to engage with the program, or excuse me, with the residents. The only ask of the program is that you’re a good neighbor. There’s no expectations. I’m not interested in you creating a body of work or the labor that’s affiliated with your practice, I just wanna set you up.

I want you to chill. I want you to learn from the livery that’s in there, I want you to meet your neighbors, I want you to invite people over to the house to have meals, and so we offer 15 to $30,000 for residents for the six months to a year that they’re there.

We can see Shan Wallace here in the studio space inside of the house, giving a lecture to neighbors. We see Zun Lee, one of our previous residents, providing an open house and engaging people in his practice. We’ve turned the garage into an exhibition space so that artists can pop up works in progress

And invite people over to the space to have conversations and be in dialogue with them, and we also work with a number of different organizations and institutions in the city to be able for them to be a resource for the artist while they’re in residence. And then I had a baby, ay! This is me upstairs in the galleries breastfeeding my daughter Max when she was 12, when she was about a year. There she is more recently. She loves Dana, that’s for sure. But that work really made me think differently about what it means to be a Black woman and be a Black mother.

I had the privilege and the blessing to work with an artist whose name has already been uplifted in this space, Alisha Wormsley, Alisha B. Wormsley, and Alisha (sighs) and I had a meeting, we had a coffee, and I think I showed up eight months pregnant and she was like, “Perfect.

“I wanna talk to you about this idea I have.” And the idea was to create a residency that would support Black mothers who are artists in the Pittsburgh region. This residency is four-tiered. We have a program that supports mothers so that they can practice in their homes.

We have a program that supports a mother who is a community liaison and can invite our visiting artists to work with our current residents. We also have a visiting artist and I am so honored today to be joined, and you all should be too in the presence of Renee Cox,

Art icon in the back row, who is currently our Sibyls Shrine visiting artist and will be here in Pittsburgh until March the third, and it is an honor, excuse me, March the fifth, there’s two more days for you to get at Renee.

It is such an honor to have you in the city, Renee, and for you to be a part of the Sibyls Shrine program. It not only benefits me and the moms who are a part of the program to be able to learn from you and your experience,

But it is really a win for the whole city, so thanks for being here tonight. Of course. That’s it. That’s it. Thank you guys. I hope you enjoyed that. – [Alyssa] Thank you all so graciously for sharing your practice. I always kind of begin these Q&As with a question based off of the topic at hand, which of course was interpretation, and I wonder if all of you could answer, in your own practice,

What is your definition of interpretation? Big question. – [Kilolo] Since I went first, I would say two or three. – [Frewuhn] I think for me, interpretation is opportunity. It’s synthesis. It’s being able to combine your genius with the existing source energy to create a new product.

I try to steer away from that word, but maybe a new way of seeing, a new perception, a way of being that can live in a space for others to engage with beyond the moment, maybe beyond your lifetime. So yeah, synthesis and opportunity. – [Kilolo] Jessica, you crack me up. (laughs)

I would say fellowship is starting with the inside of how aligning with yourself and how you are an extension to everybody else, and that’s something I think about my mother, everything that you do, what you touch, it touches somebody else and there’s a ripple effect.

And so with interpretation, I’m always about the dictionary and looking beyond what the dictionary says, because interpretation is the way in which you see and feel, hear, navigate, and so that is so expansive, and so I think about my formal educations of learning, and you’re always working within this prescribed way,

This framework, right? You’re in the box. And then you wanna rebel and you wanna look at like, oh, okay, this is my foundation of in the box, and then I’m always like, I wanna see what’s outside the box. I wanna interpret what it feels like and looks like to be outside the box.

And then moving away from the box to, there is no box, and I wanna say that this is something with my practice and the artists that I work with, and this is something that I just wanna give a little shout-out to Marvin Toure because he’s constantly talking about, there is no box.

And so the way in which we see things, it might not be so legible when you are actually learning something, that it’s gonna have to take time to really reflect, and reflection is also part of how I see what interpretation is, so it’s fellowship and it is reflection.

– [Jessica] Thank you for letting me go last. Interpretation, maybe translation? Thinking about the way that everybody speaks a different language, and how often, our words don’t mean the same thing. But that gives us space, and maybe that’s an opportunity, Frewuhn, to think about how we can listen more deeply

To each other, not make assumptions, ask questions. And then, I do this thing in therapy (chuckles) where my therapist will repeat back what she thinks I said, and that translation helps me because it gives me an opportunity to either affirm or deny to move forward in our conversation,

And that’s a tool and a resource that I think has been incredibly important to my practice. But I think about this idea of questions. One of the things Sharif talked about was he was raised in a household that really supported him asking questions, and I second that.

I think that was always something that my parents provided in the space of my upbringing, was a curiosity, and so yeah, maybe translating. – [Alyssa] That’s beautiful. I saw in your various presentations for all three of you, creative spaces, and while you have you desperate practices,

You are all place-makers in your own way. How do you see these places and spaces that you continue to create, shaping artists’ interpretations of the art world? – [Jessica] Okay, I’ll go first. I think as artists, we have to give ourself an opportunity to imagine and create new worlds.

That’s the freedom that comes with art. So I don’t know, Alyssa, if it’s making up this space for artists as much as it is giving an artist an opportunity to develop what it is that they see to realize the vision that they have, and I think

That that’s something maybe that’s unique between all, or similar between all of our practices too, right? Kilolo, I’m so inspired by your care and your generosity of your energy and time that you provide to our artist community, it’s something that I think is incredibly inspiring, and it’s something

That I think that I would like to see emulated in institutions, and with other cultural workers and leaders, and I think that ability to not have to be cornered or pigeoned by the four corners of anything but an opportunity to scratch free, a tabula rasa and create what we imagine feels really inspiring,

And could not be authored by any one but requires the penmanship of many, and so yeah. – [Kilolo] Alright, thank you Jessica. I think about the space that I’ve always wanted to be in is being unencumbered, and I always feel, when you walk into ALMA|LEWIS, I don’t care what’s going on,

You are walking into a space that you are truly free, and so whatever else is going on, or where my mind is, I’m stressed out or whatever, I know when I walk in, that that’s a safe space, and that’s how I’m, that extension is very much,

That’s the embodiment of how I wanna navigate and aspire to be, and that’s what I want every artist, creative person coming into this space, to truly feel that you are free, you are unencumbered, and so I am not judging you, we are looking at your work

And what it is that you’re wanting to do and experiment and research and think through, and today when Fre came in into Murjoni’s studio and you were talking to her, and she has to uncondition, unlearn this whole fast pace of making something for this deadline.

I have this show coming up, I gotta make, so you literally are in this space of really absorbing, reflecting, thinking through what it is that you really wanna do or have that time to think through some things, and just kind of unclutter what it is that we tend

To have to do, being in this world right now. – [Frewuhn] Yeah, that was a treat to be able to be with you all earlier, and just talk through sitting with making mistakes, well what is perceived as mistakes, having the space in the room to quote unquote fail.

I think I’ve been extremely blessed to be in a position that a lot of my knowledge as a performing artist and a student, student teacher, what have you, have been in spaces of, experimental spaces. And COVID presented an opportunity for me in particular

To be able to engage the museum as a laboratory space. SoundLab was something that I kinda stumbled into. It’s one of my exhibiting spaces, but it’s also, it’s been a space for me to have the freedom to fall, and maybe the freedom to fly and to be curious

And to collaborate and to create a trajectory for myself that is solely based on getting free. That’s just the personification and embodiment of my namesake, and my desire is that the folks that I get to collaborate with, the institutions that I get to collaborate with,

Give me room to practice and sit with my practice and sit my process, because I have a lot of questions, I have a lot of inklings, I have a lot of notions about things, and I’ve sat in the academy long enough to know that you don’t take every,

You don’t absorb everything that you’re learning in these classrooms, and you’re engaging with artwork in museum spaces, but that isn’t it. Those four corners or those white walls are not the only way to be with that work and experience that work. And so being able

To have these institutions sort of in a way reparations, giving us the opportunity to use institution as the very space to reimagine new ways of being in them from a non-colonized perspective or embodiment. Yeah, what does it mean to get out of while being inside

Of the space, and having the freedom to do that, and Sharif, in his lecture, in his conversation, was talking about without surveillance, and freedom and responsibility, having the freedom to wander and wonder. And those just sat with me ’cause that’s all I’m interested in, is the play.

– [Alyssa] I know Jessica and both Fre, you mentioned institutions, and you’ve all worked with museums, around museums, and are still in collaboration with museums, so I’m curious how you see this process of interpretation, the exercise of explanation or opinion of what something means shows up in museums,

And to what extent are museums expected to explain what something means, especially when you have an artist such as Sharif who is himself such an avid and active interpreter? – [Jessica] Is that Cauleen Smith still in the entryway? Cauleen said, “How can we expect “to decolonize colonized spaces,” right?

This is the fabric of these institutions, right? We can think about looting or hoarding or this cultivation of resources that don’t belong to you, right, but I think Sharif says that, “How can we,” let me just look so I’m not saying it wrong,

“How can we think about the,” oh my gosh, this is what, I wish you could see what my notebook looks like. (laughs) Just the idea of the colonized materials, right, like working with these birds, working with these institutions, working with these materials that don’t belong to us, right?

How do we think about working to make something new with something that has never belonged to us, like the ownership aspect of it? I don’t know if it’s the responsibility of the institution, but it is interesting to think about the institution as a tool with all of us as artists

And makers that can build and reimagine and play with and explore. I think that’s up to us though. – [Kilolo] These institutions, the public ones, they forget that they are public. And I think all museums should be admission free actually. And that you will get just a wide variety of people coming in here, and I know that the museum was free at one time, Thad Mosley told me, the museum was free one time. Not on RAD Day, but he said for years, this is decades ago,

But I think it’s really up to us to really help in defining the evolution of museums and public spaces. ‘Cause nothing is fixed. We are always in this constant movement. And I’d hope that nobody wants to be stuck and left behind, always thinking about this veracity of learning, just the consumption of knowledge

In so many different forms, so I’ve worked in a lot of institutions. I mean, I did my fair share of unpaid internships here in college. (laughs) I worked multiple jobs so I could do an unpaid internship, but I know that that’s hopefully going away, that everybody,

When they do have an internship, that it is paid, ’cause that’s really important. So I think that there’s some just foundational things that we forget as human beings that really fortify us and we think too much about how what foundation, what sponsorship is gonna do for us,

And we lose our sight on what really is at the core of all of us sitting in this room is, we’re very curious and you wanted to come here and support this institution and the people up here, and I think that that’s something that we just really need

To make that at the forefront of all the decisions that we make, and I don’t think that that is just something naive to say. I do think that that is an essential thing and how we should move forward together. And I don’t know if I really answered your question,

But what you were saying, Jessica, just really sat with me, so I needed to expand on that. – [Frewuhn] That’s interpretation at its best. Snaps. And I’m not gonna even really address it ’cause since you asked it, it has now taken on an entirely new form and shape for me,

So I’m just gonna speak to just the work that we’re in, we’re in a moment right now that is critical because it’s a reconstruction moment, so that means that we do have a responsibility to redefine and reassert what value these institutions hold for us, and we do that I guess by,

I guess holding institutions accountable to use the space as a place for inquiry, for dreaming, for imagining, because in order to, these institutions didn’t take five years to construct. We’re talking about hundreds of years in the making, and there are a lot of people that are vested in these institutions still standing,

Regardless if the initial intention no longer serves a purpose in the current space and time, and so we’re going to need as much time to undo as it has taken to do. And what that looks like, I mean I guess my, how I’ve been asserted in that context has been

To be able to have the freedom to imagine, to play, to have conversation, to have intergenerational dialogue, to build bridges, to sit with local artists, to sit with tenured artists, because essentially, artists are the gatekeepers and the holders of archive and memory, and what’s taking place now is a lot of unlearning

And undoing and forgetting, and activation of rememory, ancestral, spirit, intuitive, indigenous, a lot of things that have not been important and at the center of the conversation that now are being reasserted as a result of the work of reconstruction that needs to happen. So I think it is a responsibility of institutions now

To give the space, just give it. Open your doors and allow artists to come in and do what they do, regardless if there is a product at the end of that. – I love this, and it makes me think of when you said the door,

This knocking of the door and no one answers, right, and you knock on the door again and no one answers, and so for how long am I gonna wait at the door? And then maybe it’s time for me to think about building my own house, right,

And that gives, that aligns with this opportunity of, this idea of power, right, in that we don’t have to continue to wait for, but what happens when we take what we have and our own resources and our own assets and build it for us, right?

So what happens when we no longer understand these spaces as being the peak space, but we work with what we have to uplift our own people in our own spaces to see them in that light, right? – [Alyssa] Absolutely. I agree with whoever said that in the crowd, absolutely. Well, thank all of you for being with us this evening. I know I didn’t pull any punches with my questions, so I also appreciate in full gratitude our speakers this evening. Thank you for your presence.

It has been such a joy and an honor to share a stage with you and to be able to commune with you in person on a show that continues to bring people, disciplines, ways of thinking, and theory together in wonderfully nuanced ways such as this evening. So thank you everyone and good night.

– [Jessica] Thank you.

#Conversation #Interpretation