Welcome to session #2 of the online space Migratory Times, “Silhouettes.”
Silhouettes are made by amateurs, artists, alike, and even cast as a shadow in the everyday. A silhouette is a shadow, profile, miniature cuttings, shadow portrait, illuminating a relationship between light and dark. Utilized by artists and activists alike, the mobilization of the silhouette in the visual has, as described by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the capability to image race and “otherness.” Some silhouettes are iconic – where the relationship between the light and dark have captured local and global imaginaries. Kara Walker’s paper silhouettes tell a story of the US south as one shaped by violence, both sexual and racial. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, an association formed in the 1970s, drew awareness to the disappearances occurring during the Argentinian dictatorship (1976 – 1983). Through shadows, the place with light and dark, outlines, silhouettes speak. As this session illuminates, silhouettes manifest in intentional and unintentional actions by artists, community members, scholars, and producers. The image that is created through the interplay and production of light and dark, speaks to coloniality and oppression. As described by Maria Lugones, “Given the coloniality of power, I think we can also say that having a dark and a light side is characteristic of the co-construction of the coloniality of power and the colonial/modern gender system” (2007).
This session includes events that occurred since 2017. It includes a Salon of the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects with Pedro Pablo Gomez, that occurred in March 2017 – transcripts and audio of the salon are featured. This session also features pedagogical conversation, a Salon with the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects – Silhouettes: Migration, (Un)Documented, and Pedagogies, where IiS members Fukushima and Benfield facilitated discussions surrounding the work of Sonia Guiñansaca and artist and muralist Ruby Chacón, and invited Crystal Baik, Jose Manuel Cortez, Cindy Cruz, Marie Sarita Gaytan and Juan Herrera. Silhouettes include the contributions of the artist Kakyoung Lee and her work from the “Barbed Wire Series” which consists of a series of prints, multi-channel moving-image installation, and a cat’s cradle shadow installation. Stills from Kiri Dalena’s Arrays of Evidence Installation, are showcased, in which this project was also contributor to the Migratory Times Project. Also included are images and the video, “Christmas in our Hearts” by RESBAK (RESpond and Break the silence Against the Killings), a collective of artists, media practitioners, and cultural workers that unite to condemn in the strongest possible terms the Duterte regime’s brutal war on drugs. In the Spirit of Itzpaplotl, Venceremos, introduces a feminist collaboration between artist and painter, Ruby Chacón, photographs by Flor Olivo, and feminist scholarly research by Dr. Sonya Alemán. Additionally, featured video and images produced through “Women in Migration” (2017) which consisted of a collaboration between the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects (IiS) with the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts A.C.M.E. session featuring IiS members Dalida Maria Benfield, Damali Abrams, and Annie Isabel Fukushima, and collaborations with UMFA Jorge Rojas and Emily Izzo and Utah community members Romeo Jackson, Maria, Yehemy, Veronica, Alejandra, Ashley, Jean, Alex, Akiva, Kylee, Andrew, and Christina. Therefore, Silhouettes is an invitation to scholars, artists, visual producers, the everyday person, to submit works that speak to the coloniality and oppression through the silhouette.
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Session #2: Silhouettes
Thinking about Pandemic Time and Space
I used Vine Deloria, Jr.’s essay, “Thinking in Time and Space,” from God is Red (1973) as a reference to inform my thinking around space, time, and our relationships with one another. As I have said elsewhere, the global pandemic brought upon through the mishandling and (in what is presently the United States) inept management of any sort of competent response is, to me, a metaphor for late capitalism and the failings of the neolibral state. The crisis we are all experiencing right now, in one form or another, has laid bare already-existing national and global inequalities across so many levels of society. In the states we are witness to the real dangers of a lack of a cohesive, national healthcare system, through access to resources (testing, protective equipment, medical care) and across the communities and areas most affected (Black/brown folks, those who are incarcerated or in detention centers, the unhoused). At the same time, the president and his acolytes have called for states to “open up.” In several states and localities, including where my parents live in Texas, it seems like things are going back to business as usual, no matter the dangers. And just yesterday (April 30, 2020) armed protestors in Michigan, my home state, stormed the capitol building in Lansing demanding an end to the restrictions. Let’s call them terrorists, and recognize how their investment in white supremacy not only motivates their presence–witness the confederate flag on display–but also shields them from the violent response of the state so often applied to collective movements for equality and restitution. In California, where I now live, we have been asked to shelter-in-place, and for those of us with the privilege and ability, to work from home, unless we are essential workers. Where is the compensation or even safeguards for those “essential workers” who are literally risking their lives right now? We are practicing social distancing, which, again, to me speaks of late capitalism and a neoliberal desire to reduce all of us to individual units, on our own, always in competition. What about community-building and collaboration, mutual aid and solidarity? If we are no longer able to recognize the physical distance between us then what is left?