Creative Interference Schedule

October 25, 2019 • 8:30am-5pm
Studio 44, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences,
44 E. Broadway Blvd Tucson, AZ 85701

Check in and coffee from 8:30-8:45am


Visioning Justice: Activism, Art, and Expose

Kerry Whigham, Binghamton University, Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation
“Transitional Activism: Creative Civil Society Practices and Transitional Justice”
This presentation examines the role played by civil society activism in shaping transitional justice practices in post-atrocity societies. Drawing from a breadth of cases, it details how creative interventions by civil society actors have shaped and defined broader socio-political responses to dealing with the past, emphasizing the preventive aspects of these processes. Through providing a series of examples, this presentation shows the “creative interferences” generated through civil society activism in truth-telling, justice and accountability, reparations, and broader institutional reform mechanisms.

Ugo Edu, University of California Los Angeles
“Histories and Presents: Art to Forecast?”
A scene of an in-process play elicits an audience response tying the present to the here and near future. A play to be written, foreshadowing a dark future, is anticipated by the present. Drawing on some of my experiences grappling with histories which continue into the present, as presented in ethnographic data, I think about the role the arts can play in predicting what is to come, making space for that exploration and galvanization for change.

Kaitlin M. Murphy, University of Arizona
“Profit v. Civilians: “Triple Chaser,” War Crimes, and the Art of Exposé at the 2019 Whitney Biennial”
Much documentary and human-rights-oriented media hinges on the premise that seeing atrocity and gross human rights violations will influence public opinion, prompting increased pressure on decision makers and demands for cessation or intervention. History – and the present day – demonstrate that this belief is both partially warranted and overly optimistic. If making human rights atrocities visually accessible to viewers is not sufficient, it becomes necessary to seek out other ways to create impact. This paper will analyze Forensic Architecture’s contribution to the 2019 Whitney Biennial, “Triple Chaser,” a short video that investigates products made by Safariland, the company for which then-vice chair of the Whitney Museum board, Warren B. Kanders, serves as CEO and which produces weapons for the police and the military, including tear gas that has been used at the US-Mexico border against refugees.

Body Politics: Detention, Border Violence, and Civil War

Anita Huizar-Hernández, University of Arizona
“Prisoners, Profit, Policy, and Pillows: Díaz Lewis’s 34,000 Pillows Project”
Since 2016, the artistic duo Díaz Lewis has been engaged in an ongoing "34,000 pillows" project, for which they invite participants to sew pillows out of clothing donated by undocumented immigrants and allies to sell for $159, the average amount per day it costs to detain a person in the U.S. This paper considers how the participatory project makes visible both the economic and human impact of for profit detention, and to what end.

Karin Shankar, Pratt Institute
“Ambient Citizenship in the Borderlands: Amar Kanwar’s Documentary Filmmaking Practice”
In this presentation, I consider Amar Kanwar’s (b. New Delhi, 1964) essayistic film, The Season Outside (1997). Set along the India-Pakistan border, in this film, the figure of the border in its material, conceptual, and aesthetic dimensions marks a perceptual and cinematic event to destabilize fixed identities, spaces, and ideas, opening to alternate and expansive modes of seeing conflict. Through film, Kanwar examines border conflict in both macro and micropolitical terms—border violence is shown to be folded into public ritual, individual thoughts, dreams, and memories. It bleeds into community lore and is expressed in seemingly casual words or gesture. The viewer comes away with a renewed understanding of the relation between what the senses apprehend and the constitution of political imaginaries and policies.

Kency Cornejo, University of New Mexico
“Naming Through the Body: Decolonial Healing and Reclaiming in the Art of Benvenuto Ch’ab’aq Jaay”
Guatemala’s thirty-six-year long civil war (1960 to 1996) resulted in the deaths of over 200,000 people and 40,000 others forcibly disappeared. Eighty percent of all deaths were of Indigenous peoples, resulting in the largest genocide of Mayans since the conquest. As the nation transitioned into a so-called post war period, the artistic scene flourished as artists experimented with performance, actions, and interventions to condemn past and ongoing injustices giving way to a new generation of Indigenous artists. This presentation will focus on Maya Tz’utijui artist Benvenuto Ch’ab’aq Jaay and a series of performances that center naming and reclaiming of histories and memories as acts of decolonial healing.

Rethinking Subject and Object: Speech, Word, and Scene

Hentyle Yapp, New York University
“To Free Speech from Free Speech: Queer Marxism, Parrhesia, and Disability Aesthetics in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City of Sadness
Liberal forms of speech are glorified as the primary political tool by which to achieve representation and undergird most theorizations surrounding the relation between state and individual. Michel Foucault notably located an early genealogy of such practices of speaking truth to power in the Stoic tradition of parrhesia; however, a problematic arises in which centrism demands that "all sides matter" whereby, as demonstrated in the contemporary, alt-right and radical leftists are seen as equally illiberal. This talk asks what might happen if we free the concept of speech from free speech itself by examining Marxist approaches to political action and governance. To do so, I engage Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s classic and lauded film A City of Sadness (1989) and focus on its disability aesthetics.

Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, University of Arizona
“Eating the Poor, and Other Neoliberal Atrocities”
In the quarter century since the market “reforms” of the early 1990s, neoliberal forces have ruptured connections between India’s various polities of caste, class, religion, and language. This paper pursues the question of how Anglophone literary fictionists and nonfictionists have, as a consequence, begun to imagine their caste- and class- others. I pay particular attention to narratives of violence against subalterns in the work of writers like Raj Kamal Jha and Arundhati Roy: narratives of “eating the poor,” or what I have elsewhere termed a practice of literally and figuratively “devouring coolie bodies.” Can the literary imagining of human rights violations nevertheless contribute to an affirmation of human rights? How might these lurid literatures enable critics and policymakers to specify neoliberalism itself as an apparatus of atrocity?

 Jisha Menon, Stanford University
“Scenes of Objection: Performance and Protest in Manipur”
This talk discusses “scenes of objection”: the first from Mahasweta Devi’s 1978 short story, “Draupadi,” the second from Kanhailal’s 2000 theatre production, also called Draupadi, and the third from the “naked protest” at Kangla gate in Manipur, India in 2004. Each scene of objection offers an opportunity to re-conceptualize vulnerability and exposure: the displayed body is at once the ledger that carries the record of brutal state repressions but also the means through which to advance a new feminist politics.

Precarious States: Artivism Against Authoritarianism

Dasha Chapman, Davidson College
“Who needs marriage? I need money!” Yonel Charles’ ground-level perspective on queer rights, artistry, and intervention in Haiti”
The week the Haitian senate voted to ban gay marriage in Haiti (August 2017), I worked on a dance educational project with queer activist and performance artist Yonel Charles, who exclaimed in response, “Marriage? Marriage? Who needs marriage? I need money for food, costumes and travel!” In this presentation/essay, I briefly chart the landscape of LGBTQ/gay/queer existence, rights, and abuses in Haitian context, and provide examples from Charles’ artivist work to illuminate other manners of conceiving of queer Haitian life, creativity, and action. I chart how, in a climate of ongoing precarity and despair, this Haitian artivist works within and against the intensification of anti-black, anti-Vodou and homophobic public rhetoric originating in state, para-state (NGO) and religious institutions.

Marcos Steuernagel, University of Colorado Boulder
“Performance and Politics: The Rise and Fall of Project Brazil”
In less than a decade, Brazil went from being the poster-child of the Latin American Pink Tide to electing an outright fascist in 2018. While the Workers’ Party had emerged in large part out of the resistance to the military dictatorship (1964 to 1968), Bolsonaro has made historical revisionism and even the outright celebration of torture and authoritarianism a key part of his platform. The Workers’ Party era (2002-2016) saw a surge in politicized theatre, dance, and performance through changes to funding structures and the privileging of progressive art, yet these have become major targets of the New Right that brought Bolsonaro to power. Within this new scenario, how are we to understand the role of the performing arts in working towards the reestablishment of democratic processes and the prevention of present and future atrocity? Do the performing arts have a particular role to play in intervening in the discursive practices that allow the celebration of past atrocities to operate as a successful political tool in Brazil today?

Cole Rizki, Duke University
“Curating Transgender Visual Archives of State Terror in Argentina”
This paper participates in the recent historical turn to rethink the sexual and cultural politics of authoritarian regimes that came to power in Latin America during the 1960s and ‘70s. Turning to two contemporary transgender visual culture archives installed in government-owned cultural centers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I consider how these artist-activist exhibitions curate alternative memory narratives that install trans subjects as the proper subjects of collective memory and national mourning. In doing so, each exhibit generates new historical interpretations of past atrocities for the viewing public and simultaneously insists on the centrality of trans life and death to post-dictatorship projects of national identity formation.