Panel One - Wednesday, April 7

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  • Wednesday, April 7th
  • 1:10 – 3pm EST
  • Photo Credit:: Stu Rosner
  • Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
  • History of Art, African and African American Studies, Harvard University
  • The Arena of Suspension: Carrie Mae Weems, Bryan Stevenson, and the “Ground” in the Stand Your Ground Law Era
  • Bio: History of Art, African and African American Studies, Harvard University Sarah Elizabeth Lewis is an associate professor at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of African and African American Studies. She is the founder of the Vision and Justice Project. Lewis has published essays on race, contemporary art, and culture, with forthcoming publications including a book on race, whiteness, and photography (Harvard University Press, 2022), Vision and Justice (Random House), and an anthology on the work of Carrie Mae Weems (MIT Press, 2021). Her recent article for Art Journal focuses on the groundwork of contemporary arts in the context of Stand Your Ground Laws (Winter 2020). In 2019, she became the inaugural recipient of the Freedom Scholar Award, presented by The Association for the Study of African American Life and History to honor Lewis for her body of work and its “direct positive impact on the life of African-Americans.”
  • Paper: The Arena of Suspension: Carrie Mae Weems, Bryan Stevenson, and the “Ground” in the Stand Your Ground Law Era
  • How are artists, and how are disciplines in the arts and humanities, responding to the hyper-visuality of racial injustices on American ground? This book project explores how visual artists including Mark Bradford, Theaster Gates, Amy Sherald, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, and new landmarks—such as the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial to Peace and Justice and the creation of Black Lives Matter Plaza—have initiated a new set of “groundwork” tactics in the Stand Your Ground Era in the United States. Stand Your Ground laws, first established in 2005 and now in over thirty-three states, define the right to self-defense, to claim the ground on which one stands if there is a perception of “reasonable threat.” The law disproportionately affects black and brown lives today. These artworks prompt the question, What does it mean to not be able to “Stand Your Ground”? What are the representational tools available to show the frequent challenge to this upright position as a statement of sovereignty over one’s own life? How has the manifold meaning of the term “ground”—as both reason, fact, but also soil itself, opened up a mode of critical inquiry to address the injustices wrought at our feet? Just as the field of environment studies has begun to consider its nexus with racial inequity, this book approaches representations of the “ground” through the lens of racial formation in the United States, considering the “groundwork” that artists have created as both practical labor for civic society, and as a prompt for new, critical methodological inquiry in the arts and humanities at large.
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  • Wednesday, April 7th
  • 1:10 – 3pm EST
  • Registration Link
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff
  • Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University
  • An Antiracist Way of Seeing: Notting Hill and Critical Visuality
  • Bio: Nicholas Mirzoeff is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University. He is a visual activist, working at the intersection of politics, race and global/visual culture. In 2020-21 he is ACLS/Mellon Scholar and Society fellow in residence at the Magnum Foundation, New York.
  • Paper: An Antiracist Way of Seeing: Notting Hill and Critical Visuality
  • It was Barbadian poet  George Lamming who coined the term ‘way of seeing’ as an anticolonial practice his 1960 Pleasures of Exile. Reading at the newly-created Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 1951, Lamming was greeted with loud applause that he took to be an index that his Blackness had been seen. When East End Jewish radical Emmanuel Litvinoff attacked T.S. Eliot’s anti-Jewish racism, the uproar indicated that the colonizers had seen the poet as a Jew. At this juncture, Lamming saw how the anticolonial ‘way of seeing’ operates: ‘First, they see me but then they see you (as me)’. At a time of intense debates about realism and commitment in the arts and popular culture, Lamming’s antiracist and anticolonial ‘way of seeing’ remapped (the) colonial capital in terms of gentrification, white supremacy, decolonization and immigration. I follow this formation using the contemporary work of Stuart Hall (who intervened in Notting Hill as a school teacher); and the (white, British) photographer Roger Mayne’s pioneering studies of Notting Hill. Mayne’s photographs were intended as art, following his exhibits at MoMA and the ICA, and show formal influence from Lucian Freud. Just as Lamming saw how Litvinoff was seen, it is possible to discern the formation of a “way of seeing” in Mayne’s work that is somewhere between evidence and disclosure. Taken together, the work of Hall, Lamming and Mayne indicates how another formation of critical visual culture studies can be traced that begins with antiracism.


Muriel Hasbun, X post facto (12.3), archival pigment print on Hahnemühle Fine Art Photo Rag Satin, 2009.