FORUM at 1:54 New York 2017

  • 1:54 FORUM 2016. Pictured left to right: ruby onyinyechi amanze (artist) and Dexter Wimberly (independent curator). © Katrina Sorrentino

1:54 FORUM, the fair’s annual talks program, is curated by Koyo Kouoh, Founder and Artistic Director of RAW Material Company, Dakar and supported by Gabriella Beckhurst (FORUM Curatorial Assistant).  

For us, to be unsettled by the very word “community” is to remind ourselves that the word “community” might not name all it is that we can do and can be when we “get together.” If we can return in conclusion to the idea of community as “common ground” rather than commonality, we might think of communities as effects of how we meet on the ground, as a ground that is material, but also virtual, real and imaginary. Sara Ahmed and Anne-Marie Fortier, “Re-imagining communities,” in International Journal for Cultural Studies, Vol 6(3), 2003, 251-9.  

This year’s FORUM program in New York City convenes a range of artistic practices and aesthetic sensibilities around the idea of community. Ahmed and Fourtier’s notion of community – not as a foundation but as a process of commoning and as a site activated by relations – finds voice and is expanded here.  

Bringing together an incredible set of artists, performers, curators, and scholars, FORUM will unfold a spectrum of aesthetic strategies that deal with temporal and material abstraction, narrativization, and transformation, using resistance, defiance, pleasure, and desire as some of their guiding principles. The program will examine how such strategies take shape and how a language capable of fighting back against a matrix of oppression can develop out of them; a language which rekindles the dignity and compassion of those who advocated and resisted before us; one capable of articulating a diverse set of voices and celebrating the differences between them. As systems of oppression and control contact our lives in more pervasive and affecting ways, militating against them remains critical: from addressing the new challenges presented by a volatile political climate to, as Raél Jero Salley puts it, “still-active legacies.” As artist methodologies filter into and blur academic disciplines, activist and social practices, we look to the radical traditions of artmaking in search of strategies for political liberation.  

Contemporary artists and theorists continue to explore ways of engaging or “commoning” with the past. Artistic engagements with historical conditions – be they artistic, familial, civil rights, critical race, feminist, or queer – can offer us generative methods with which to build intergenerational communities across pasts, presents, and futures. But what is at stake in this restaging of community, and how does history collide, re-presence, or open up possibilities in our presents? With antagonism the automatic response, how do the arts – which often bear the weight of responsibility in unfolding and imaging new worlds – remind us that following the force of refusal comes organisation, regrouping, and the building of coalitions? Opening the program, Raél Jero Salley invites us to consider the ways in which artistry enables us to visualize, but also mobilize such transformative socio-political communities. His lecture will probe the question: how do we occupy these social frameworks as a “we,” and what is implied in acts of re-drawing collectivization?  

Ultimately, Sara Ahmed and Anne-Marie Fortier remind us that community can be remade – not only in a material sense, but virtually and speculatively; as we move between virtual and physical realities our diverse nets of community reach further, as well as tangle. As spaces online demonstrate most clearly, communities aren’t always brokered through affinities or likeness. Nor do they, as Ahmed and Fortier suggest, prescribe a requisite of connection. Community can even be based on refusal: it can be noisy, dissonant, polyphonic, fugitive, opaque. These are the communities that I’m interested in exploring with you.  

Co-presented by Performa and 1:54, and curated by Adrienne Edwards, 1:54 PERFORMS returns for a second year with a newly commissioned special project for FORUM by Mendi and Keith Obadike. The performance program will feature Vectors (Pan Africa), a sonic work in which latitude and longitude data corresponding to African countries is translated into sound and played against spoken text. These sounds slowly pan across an eight-channel sound system, installed along the external structure and lobby of Pioneer Works.  

Entry to the FORUM talks is free with 1:54 admission. No booking necessary.

For the full programme, click here

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