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Erasures: Excision and Indelibility in the Art of the Americas Fourth Annual Symposium of Latin American Art
Thursday, April 11, 2019The Graduate Center, CUNY365 Fifth AvenueThe Skylight Room9:30am–6:30pm
Friday, April 12, 2019The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU1 East 78th StreetLecture Hall9:30am–6:30pm
Presented by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the John Rewald Endowment.
What can and cannot be erased? This question emerges when monuments are destroyed, cultural artifacts vanish, or the faces of the disappeared continue to interrogate government violence and corruption. Though the recent fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro resulted in the devastating loss of approximately twenty million objects, the impact goes beyond physical destruction. Marina Silva, Brazil’s former Minister of the Environment, went so far as to call the fire a “lobotomy of the Brazilian memory.” Alternatively, this past October Israeli artist Yael Bartana demonstrated the power of the void with her Monumento a la ausencia, in which footprints left in cement attest to lives erased and commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City. Observable in these examples as well as countless others, is that the excision—willful or unwitting—of objects and histories can be both destructive and productive, open and heal wounds, obfuscate and expose memory, and challenge and reinforce the permanence of indelibility.
Tragedies such as those noted above and subsequent actions to confront them shape this year’s symposium theme. Erasure is commonly understood as an obliteration of content or removal of all traces, often forcefully. And yet, as demonstrated by Horacio Zabala’s burned maps from the 1970s or Jacques Bedel’s erased Cordillera (1972), visual art maintains an uncanny ability to demonstrate resilience in the void of visible content. Erasure can manifest through strategies of elimination, cleansing, or effacement as aesthetic practice, or it might instead emerge in issues surrounding medium, as in the ephemerality of site-specific or performative work. It can likewise be invoked through cartographic, historiographic, or archival omissions, or as a result of natural and man-made disasters or iconoclasm. Yet it is imperative not to neglect erasure’s productive and emancipatory potentials. Through broad and interdisciplinary contributions from a diverse group of scholars, the symposium will promote conversations about the risks, rewards, and knowledge that arise when absence comes into contact with socio-political realities. Beyond physical and spatial considerations, we must also interrogate history and the void that is left by historical silence, highlighting the unsaid, the unspoken, and the invisible.
With keynote lectures by Barbara Browning, Professor, Department of Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, and Ken Gonzales-Day, artist and Professor of Art, Scripps College.
The symposium is coordinated by Professors Edward J. Sullivan, Helen Gould Sheppard Professor in the History of Art at the Institute of Fine Arts; Anna Indych-López, Professor of 20th- Century Latin American and Latinx Art at The Graduate Center; and Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Modern Art of the Americas at The Graduate Center. The symposium is organized by current PhD candidates Brian Bentley, Madeline Murphy Turner, and Ana Cristina Perry, and PhD students Francesca Ferrari, Sonja Gandert, and Tie Jojima.
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