A Sense of Place

January 12-13, 2021 

In September 2019, our group of twelve graduate students in the Department of Art & Art History at Hunter College traveled to Dakar, Senegal to study with curator Koyo Kouoh and her team at RAW Material Company, a non-profit art center offering research and residency programs for artists and curators alongside seasonal exhibitions, publications, and lectures. The focus of our time in Dakar with Kouoh was how curatorial practice can make the presence of a place visible, or in her words: “How have actors, active in our local contexts and from across the creative disciplines, responded to and shaped their – our – environment? How do they collaborate? How do they tell stories and recall history? How do they create sites of possibility?”

We returned to New York with these questions in mind, and, in partnership with Kouoh, organized a symposium of programming in response, originally scheduled for March 2020, then postponed due to the global pandemic. Since that time, the question of place seems more relevant than ever. Presented now, in an online format, our symposium considers gentrification and displacement, infrastructures of surveillance, and sustainability as they relate to how artists see themselves shaping, and being shaped by, their immediate environments.

 All events are online and open to the public by RSVP except where otherwise noted.

This symposium grew out of a graduate seminar with students Chris Berntsen, Beatrice Johnson, Simon Benjamin, Renate Prancane, Leonardo Madriz, D’Arcy Blake, Malanya Graham, Alison Dillulio, Sydney Shavers, Sarah McCaffery, Daniela Mayer, and Christina Barrera


January 12th, 10:00-11:30am EST
Billie Zangewa: Studio visit with Koyo Kouoh and Malanya Graham


This virtual studio discussion with Johannesburg-based artist Billie Zangewa will focus on Zangewa’s textile practice as it responds to, and complicates, our collective sense of place. Zangewa will speak with Koyo Kouoh, founding artistic director of RAW Material Company and Executive Director and Chief Curator of Capetown’s Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, and Malanya Graham, multidisciplinary artist and former MFA candidate at Hunter College.

Billie Zangewa (b. 1973, Blantyre, Malawi; lives and works in Johannesburg, South Africa) creates intricate collages composed of hand-stitched fragments of raw silk. Her earliest works were embroideries on found fabrics depicting remembered botanical scenes and animals from Botswana, where the artist was raised, and she then created cityscapes, focusing on her experience as a woman in the city of Johannesburg and her personal relationships. Through the method of their making and their narrative content, Zangewa’s silk paintings illustrate gendered labor in a socio-political context, where the domestic sphere becomes a pretext for a deeper understanding of the construction of identity, questions around gender stereotypes, and racial prejudice. Zangewa received her BFA from Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa in 1995. Her work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C. (2019); Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa (2018); the Studio Museum Harlem, New York, NY (2016); Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona Spain, and Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherlands (2016); Guggenheim Bilbao (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2014); and the Menil Collection, Houston, TX (2012), among others.

Koyo Kouoh is the Executive Director & Chief Curator at The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) since May 2019. Prior to the Zeitz MOCAA appointment, Kouoh was the founding Artistic Director of RAW Material Company, a centre for art, knowledge and society in Dakar since 2008. In her independent curatorial practice, she has organized exhibitions including Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Works of Six African Women Artistsat Wiels, Brussels (2015), Still (the) Barbarians, the 37th EVA International, Limerick (2016), and Dig Where You Stand for the 57th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2018). She initiated the research projectSaving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, co-curated with Rasha Salti at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2015-2018).

Malanya Graham (they/them, b. 1991, New York City) is a Black non-binary interdisciplinary artist and educator. Their artwork explores the radical relationship between ancestral trauma, healing, and erotic energy. Graham celebrates Black queerness to expand the collective consciousness around intimacy, spirituality, and world-building. Their image-making process is deeply tied to personal transformation through writing, divination, and self-reflection. Graham participated in the Create Change Fellowship and the Education Practicum at Studio Museum in Harlem and holds a BFA with a concentration in painting from Hunter College. They attended the MFA program at Hunter College from 2019-2020 and recently founded Taurus Moon Lab, LLC, an independent creative production company that contributes to the legacy of artistry at the forefront of social change.


7:00-8:30pm EST
Surveillance City: Examining the Urban Panopticon from 9/11 to Covid

Panel discussion with Ingrid Burrington, Fabian Rogers, and Hasan Elahi, moderated by Janus Rose


This moderated panel discussion will focus on the local infrastructure of surveillance, tracking, and data collection in New York City. We will consider what it means to live under ever-present surveillance, how such an infrastructure infringes on basic human rights, and strategies for public resistance.

Ingrid Burrington (artist and author of Networks of New York: An Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructure); Fabian Rogers (community advocate); and Hasan Elahi (Artist) come together for a conversation moderated by Janus Rose (Senior Editor at Motherboard). Each guest will introduce their work and perspective in response to the increasing implementation of real-time facial recognition, location tracking, and biometric data collection in post-9/11 New York City and the unfolding context of the global Covid pandemic, from the NYPD to Madison Square Garden. The discussion will address the social and psychological impacts of urban centers becoming panopticons and how we might combat and dismantle such rights-stripping measures within our own city.

Ingrid Burrington is an artist who writes, makes maps, and tells jokes about places, politics, and the weird feelings people have about both. Burrington is the author of Networks of New York, an Illustrated Field Guide to Urban Internet Infrastructureand has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, Quartz, The Verge, and other outlets. Her work has previously been supported by Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the Data and Society Research Institute, and Rhizome.  She is a member of the cyberfeminist research group Deep Lab and runs the Data and Society speculative fiction reading group. Ingrid Burrington lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Hasan Elahi is an artist whose work examines issues of surveillance, citizenship, migration, transport, and the challenges of borders and frontiers. His work has been presented in exhibitions at SITE Santa Fe, Centre Georges Pompidou, the Sundance Film Festival, the Gwangju Biennale, and the Venice Biennale, among others. He has been a speaker at the Einstein Forum, the American Association of Artificial Intelligence, the International Association of Privacy Professionals, Tate Modern, TED, and the World Economic Forum. His recent awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Alpert/MacDowell Fellowship, grants from Creative Capital, Art Matters Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, and he is a recipient of a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. He serves on the Board of Directors at Creative Capital and on the Advisory Board for the New Media Caucus. He is part of the core faculty at the Chautauqua School of Art summer residency program and has previously been Resident Faculty at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He is currently Professor and Director of the School of Art at George Mason University.

Fabian Rogers is a constituent advocate for the Office of NYS Senator Jabari Brisport from Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn. He has been on the frontlines with his neighbors successfully resisting the use of facial recognition technology in their apartment complexes. Since their win, he has continued building awareness around facial recognition and the collection of biometric data in residential communities, civil, legal, and tech organizations.

Janus Rose is a New York City-based writer, researcher, technologist, and educator who studies technology’s impact on privacy and human rights. Her current work explores the impacts of machine learning and A.I. on activists and marginalized communities. As a journalist, she has previously covered privacy and technology for DAZED Magazine, The New Yorker, VICE, Al Jazeera, and other print and online publications. She is currently a Senior Editor at Motherboard.


January 13th, 10:00-11:30am EST
Project EATS with Linda Goode Bryant: Studio visit with Koyo Kouoh and Simon Benjamin

The recording of this event is available to Hunter College students and members of the RAW Material Company, please email christina@theartistsinstitute.org

Over her nearly 50-year career, Linda Goode Bryant has assumed many roles: gallery owner, filmmaker, farmer, entrepreneur. In each position, she has advocated for a connection to “our innate ability to use what we have to create what we need.” This has been the guiding principle behind her diverse ventures—from Just Above Midtown gallery (1974–86) to the urban farming initiative she established in 2009, Project EATS––all of which have championed collaboration, curiosity, and experimentation. Linda Goode Bryant will join Koyo Kouoh, founder, the RAW Material Company, and Simon Benjamin, MFA Candidate in the Department of Art & Art History at Hunter College, for a discussion about the genesis and mission of Project EATS and Linda’s journey as an artist and activist.

Linda Goode Bryant is the Founder and President of Project EATS, originally from Columbus, OH. She developed Project EATS while filming the 2004 Presidential Elections and developed Project EATS during the 2008 Global Food Crisis. Linda is a Guggenheim Fellow and a Peabody Award recipient. She was Founder and Director of Just Above Midtown, Inc. (JAM), a New York City non-profit artist space. Linda has a Masters of Business Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in painting from Spelman College. Linda believes art is as organic as food and life. It is a conversation anyone can enter. It is a place where we all reside. An energy that is always renewable. It is the essence of humanity. It is our promise to care and take care.

Koyo Kouoh is the Executive Director & Chief Curator at The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) since May 2019. Prior to the Zeitz MOCAA appointment, Kouoh was the founding Artistic Director of RAW Material Company, a centre for art, knowledge and society in Dakar since 2008. In her independent curatorial practice, she has organized exhibitions including Body Talk: Feminism, Sexuality and the Body in the Works of Six African Women Artistsat Wiels, Brussels (2015), Still (the) Barbarians, the 37th EVA International, Limerick (2016), and Dig Where You Stand for the 57th Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (2018). She initiated the research projectSaving Bruce Lee: African and Arab Cinema in the era of Soviet Cultural Diplomacy, co-curated with Rasha Salti at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2015-2018).

Simon Benjamin is a Jamaican multidisciplinary artist invested in a research-based practice– whose work encompasses fine art and filmmaking. His practice considers how current realities are shaped by both visible and less visible histories. Using the framework of the sea and coastal space, his current body of work investigates the Caribbean’s complex relationship to trade, ocean travel, import-dominant consumerism, tourism and other neo-colonial relationships that the U.S. and the West impose on Caribbean states. His work has been included in exhibitions and screenings at The 92nd St. Y, New York (2020); Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn (2019); Hunter East Harlem Gallery, New York (2019); the Ghetto Biennial, Haiti (2018); Jamaica Biennial, Jamaica (2017); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (2019); New Local Space, Kingston (2016); and Columbia University, New York (2016).


7:00-8:45pm EST, Countering Erasure

Film screening and panel discussion with Tourmaline, Howardena Pindell, and Ayesha Williams of The Laundromat Project; moderated by Siona Wilson.


This event considers experiences of structural violence and systemic erasure as they relate to an individual and collective sense of belonging, or sense of place. The program is inspired by the resilience of independent, community-driven creative endeavors aimed at resisting such power imbalances, as we observed in the thriving artist communities we encountered in Dakar, Senegal.

The evening will begin with a screening of artist, filmmaker, and activist Tourmaline’s recent films, Salacia (2019), a fictional narrative around Mary Jones, a Black transgender sex worker and outlaw in New York City in 1836, and Atlantic is a Sea of Bones (2017), based on the experience of New York-based performance artist Egypt LaBejia, offering performance and self-expression as a form of refusal and resistance to systematic violence against Black queer and trans life; and artist Howardena Pindell’s pivotal Free, White and 21 (1980), a personal, political, and cathartic account of the racism she encountered coming of age as a black woman in America. Following the screening, art historian Siona Wilson, whose research probes issues of sexual difference, race and sexuality at the intersection of art and politics in the twentieth century, will moderate a discussion with

TourmalineHowardena Pindell, and The Laundromat Project’s Deputy Director Ayesha Williams. The conversation will reflect on Tourmaline and Pindell’s films, which give unique form to a systemic power imbalance in which displaced and disenfranchised people must fight for self-determination; and on the efficacy and resilience of community networks to fight such imbalances, as exemplified by The Laundromat Project’s mission to grow a community of multiracial, multigenerational, and multidisciplinary artists and neighbors committed to societal change.

Tourmaline is an artist, filmmaker, cultural producer, writer, and activist whose practice highlights the experiences of black, queer, and trans communities and their capacity to impact the world. By expanding the legacy of forgotten figures into our present moment and highlighting their minor yet impactful creative acts, she shifts our understanding of broader cultural histories and encourages a reconsideration of the mainstream contemporary narrative. Tourmaline (b. 1983) lives and works in New York and received her BA from Columbia University. Her work has been presented across the world including at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn (2016, 2019); MoMA PS1, Long Island City (2019); The High Line, New York (2019); The Kitchen, New York (2018); BFI Flare, London (2018); Portland Art Museum, Portland (2018), BAM Cinematek, Brooklyn (2018); The New Museum, New York (2017); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017); MOCA, Los Angeles (2017); the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2017); and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago (2017). Her film, Salacia, has been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; and the Tate, London.

Howardena Pindell is an American painter and mixed media artist. Her work explores texture, color, structures, and the process of making art; it is often political, addressing the intersecting issues of racism, feminism, violence, slavery, and exploitation. Pindell’s Free, White, and 21 (1980) asserts that the personal is political. Pindell speaks directly to the camera describing the anti-Blackness she experiences from White people in professional, educational, and personal settings. The video alternates between sequences of the artist as herself and then the artist costumed as a red-lipped blonde White woman who reprimands Howardena for being paranoid and ungrateful. Free, White and 21 addresses stereotypical racial roles and specifically the ways in which Black women are expected to perform and behave in predominantly White settings in order to gain opportunity.

Ayesha Williams, Deputy Director of The Laundromat Project, is an art professional with over a decade of experience working with visual artists, commercial galleries, and nonprofit institutions. The Laundromat Project is a resilient institution for artists and communities of color, and those who understand that creativity can change the world, and most importantly, their local communities, for the better. The program recognizes that artists and the roles they play within their own communities ultimately improve the holistic quality of life in New York City’s diverse communities, particularly those of color and modest income. LP fosters and supports artist-leaders who are empowered by, committed to, and fully conversant in community-attuned art practices. From 2010-2016, Williams managed Visual Arts at Lincoln Center, a comprehensive program that provides visual art experiences to Lincoln Center’s audiences. Prior to joining Lincoln Center, she was the Director of Kent Gallery, NYC. In addition to her professional experience, Williams is on the boards of the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance and The Possibility Project. She served as a Steering Committee member of the UN Women’s Conference 2016.

Siona Wilson is a CUNY professor and research scholar. Author of Art Labor, Sex Politics: Feminist Effects in 1970s British Art and Performance (Minnesota, 2014), she has published on photography, experimental film, video, sound and performance art, in edited collections and journals, including Art History, October, Oxford Art Journal and Third Text. Her recent curatorial projects include I can’t breathe, at the Gallery of the College of Staten Island, featuring works in video and photography by Nona Faustine, Patricia Silva, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa and Kara Walker with a timeline of images documenting the activist group, Staten Islanders Against Racism and Police Brutality (SIARPB). She also co-curated Sexing Sound: Aural Archives and Feminist Scores (with Valerie Tevere and Catherine Karl) at the James Gallery, New York.