November 1, 2020
Note: This discussion is online only. For registration, go here.
“On Dia de Los Muertos 2020, we recognize our shared collective grief against the backdrop of seismic social + political change, a global pandemic, and the Bay Area’s wildfires. Join artists Angela Hennessy and Rodney Ewing, with curator Amy Kisch, live from Saint Joseph’s Arts Society in San Francisco, to dive deeper into the rituals and systems that structure our shared human experience—and the power of naming and visualizing loss so that we can make space for joy.
Artist Angela Hennessy wrote her manifesto The School of the Dead in 2015, after surviving a gunshot wound while interrupting a violent assault on the street in front of her house. Alternating between poem, prayer, and call to action, The School of the Dead is a marker of aesthetic and social practices that mediate the boundary between the living and the dead. What are our somatic responses to death and grief? How do our artists bring grief-work forward? Hennessy’s artistic practice investigates the visualization of our lived—and near-death—experiences, as well as our collective histories. In recent months, the Art+Action coalition commissioned work by Hennessy, individually, and in collaboration with T. Rasheed for See Black Women for the national campaign COME TO YOUR CENSUS, to invite us to “see and recognize” Black women’s lives as an assertion to resist erasure and record a community’s legacy by completing the Census.
How can we ensure that the systematization of our human experience—whether through death + birth certificates, or acts like voting or completing the Census—measures who we truly are as a community—and as whole human beings? How do we work against the anonymity of numbers and forms to cite and honor our existence? Artist Rodney Ewing utilizes the intersection of body and place, memory and fact to reexamine human histories, cultural conditions, and events. He was commissioned by Art+Action to create the participatory artwork Who are you? / How do you want to be counted? for the art & civic experience Come To Your Census: Who Counts in America?, which was to be held at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts prior to the pandemic. The piece uses the ten card—which records fingerprints for agencies to confirm our name, age, race, physical statistics, and criminal activity—to examine institutional systems of identification, and how the information generated by them rarely reflects our personal being, nor does it allow for an accurate or intimate history of the individual. The project further unveils our commonalities, inviting participants to share their cherished histories that go beyond corporeal descriptions and statistics—from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the joyful to the somber.
What the impact of these systems of measurement have on our future generations? What is our responsibility—as ancestors in training—to live within and visualize these structures for our descendants? How do we ensure our stories are heard for us to receive our fair share—both in civic, spiritual, and artistic arenas? Together, in this conversation, we will celebrate our stories and our shared humanity, and how through rituals and systems, we shine light onto personal and communal agency.”