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The Body As An Archive: Memory, Healing & Transformation

November 1, 2022 | 3:00-4:15PM EST / Virtual Event

The Hemispheric Institute is proud to present Agency + Process, a series of virtual conversations curated by Camille Lawrence celebrating individuals who are shaping the future of memory work, creating outside of traditional archival models. Those featured employ ethical methodologies to access and recover hidden Black histories. Lawrence refers to this intentional practice as “seeing in the dark”, where Black folks have the ability to see themselves where others cannot.

This series will explore, challenge, and celebrate the ways that Black memory workers are taking agency over the preservation, documentation, and representation of Black life, and will feature speakers who are transforming how communities interact and engage with archives and performance art. The series will begin with two events in which archivists discuss ways to address institutional inequities and share their reparative practices in the archives. The subsequent conversations will highlight creatives, archivists, and artists whose work centers Black visibility and the body as an archive.

Hemi is also excited to announce Camille Lawrence as a Mellon Curator in Residence for the 2022 calendar year. Lawrence is an artist and archivist whose work focuses on the diversity of artistic expression across the African Diaspora. To learn more about Lawrence’s work, click here.

​​These events are made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the "World Making and Social Emergency at the Hemispheric Institute" initiative.

The Body As An Archive: Memory, Healing & Transformation

Human bodies are living archives that hold stories, memories, rituals, and information from the present, while also inheriting ancestral knowledge from the past. In this conversation, Multidisciplinary Artist and Healer Star Feliz; Trans Antidisciplinary Artist, Futurist, and Healer Ni’Ja Whitson; and Professor of Art History & African Performance Art Dr. Genevieve Hyacinthe will discuss the body as an archive and ritual practices activated for healing and transformation.

Star Feliz

Star Feliz (they/them, b. 1992, New York, NY, Lenapehoking) is an interdisciplinary artist and medicine person with roots in Ayiti, aka Dominican Republic. Entangled across the mediums of sculptural installation, time based media, and book forms, their work explores earth-based pathways for disarming apparatuses of violence and their cycles of trauma. They are currently an MFA candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles department of Interdisciplinary Studio. Their upcoming book When Eye Land is set to be published in the fall of 2023 by Printed Matter, Inc. Under the moniker of Priestusssy they create experimental devotional music of earth & galactic storylines through intimate narratives of transformation. After almost 10 years of studying and practicing community based herbalism, Star is currently sharing their medicine under the self-started project of Botánica Cimarrón. Their natural formulas are unique stories that weave together the past, present, and future of Caribbean folk healing to bring living systems back into alignment.

Dr. Genevieve Hyacinthe

Genevieve Hyacinthe is Assistant Professor of History of Art and Visual Culture and MFA Fine Art Faculty member at California College of the Arts, San Francisco. Dedicated to D. Soyini Madison's "loving ethnography," she views research and writing as critical—yet poetic—heart-felt practice embracing "unfinished" over closed, authoritative perspectives. Her recent book, Radical Virtuosity: Ana Mendieta and the Black Atlantic was published by MIT Press in fall 2019 and her next book project explores contemporary black sculpture, sound, and performance. A practitioner of Mande and Haitian drum and dance, she continually wonders about risk in art practice, including writing, research, sculpture, performance, and abstraction across media.

Today Gen is speaking about the body as archive in the work of the late, Black Brazilian painter, Maria Auxiliadora da Silva (Campo Belo, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1935–1974, São Paulo), in relation to her formal innovations and attunement to the Blessed Mary in what Gen refers to as "DIY Divination" in the Black Atlantic. She frames Maria Auxiliadora's practice intergenerationally by connecting her approach to contemporary plant kin and floral Black Atlantic practices in the work of the artist, Star Feliz, who joins us today as well, and also briefly to the work of the painter, Elian Almeida, and curator, Hanayrá Negreiros, both of Brazil and the world. Gen's short talk emerges from her recently completed chapter entitled "Maria Auxiliadora da Silva: Nossa Mãe Maria of Terreiro Life and Faith on Black Grounds," that will appear in the Routledge Companion to Decolonizing Art History, (2023) edited by the talented and generous scholars, Tatiana Flores, Florencia San Martin, and Charlene Villaseñor Black, to whom she is very grateful.

Gen considers herself blessed especially at this moment because she is convening in this symposium with two of her former students from New York, Star Feliz and Camille Lawrence, both of whom she immediately recognized as her teachers from the day she first met them in seminar. Through them, she is now privileged to be here with a new teacher, Ni'Ja (Sage) Whitson, and cherishes the opportunity.

Sage Ni'Ja Whitson (they/them)

Sage Ni'Ja Whitson (NY/LA) is an award-winning Queer Nonbinary Trans artist and futurist. They engage multi/anti-disciplinarity through a critical intersection of the sacred and conceptual in Black, Queer, and Transembodiedness, site, body and spirit. Whitson is a United States Artist Fellow, Creative Capital Awardee, two-time "Bessie" Awardee, Hermitage Fellow, an artist in residence at 18th Street (Los Angeles) and New York Live Arts (2020-2023). Whitson was the featured choreographer of the 2018 CCA Biennial, 2018-2020 Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Fellow, and invited presenter at the 2019 Tanzkongress international festival.

Commissions include Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Abrons Arts Center, American Realness, and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Their award-winning practice extends to conventional and experimental theatre, opera, and performance with collaborators that include Charlotte Braithwaite, Regina Taylor, Dianne McIntyre, Douglas R. Ewart, and Sharon Bridgforth.  Their writing credits include Critical Black Futures: Speculative Theories and Explorations, Dance Research Journal, and an upcoming anthology on the acclaimed HBO series, Lovecraft Country.

Whitson holds an MFA in performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFAW in creative writing from Goddard College. They are an associate professor of experimental choreography at UC Riverside and a sought-after speaker, consultant, masterclass facilitator, and conversationalist, sharing among notable institutions and organizations: Princeton University, Cornell University, Rutgers University, LAX Festival, Movement Research, American Dance Festival, Collegium for African Diasporic Dance conference (2020 keynote), and UNESCO.

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