Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith, Mirror/Echo/Tilt, 2019. Digital photograph, dimensions variable. Courtesy the artists
Join us for a conversation moderated by cultural theorist Nicole R. Fleetwood with artists Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith, to discuss their residency and exhibition “Mirror/Echo/Tilt,” which marks the culmination of a four-year project to counter narratives of criminality through performance and pedagogy. The exhibition examines the gestures and language of the carceral state through cinema and performance-based pedagogy, and will premiere a multichannel video installation filmed largely in empty, decommissioned prisons and courthouses and other psychically charged architectural spaces in New York City. Complicating the relationship between fiction and reality, Mirror/Echo/Tilt alludes to the magical realism and metafiction of its title’s inspiration, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’s famous novel from the early seventeenth century. The work also takes the form of a living curriculum practiced with court-involved youth, formerly incarcerated adults, and individuals otherwise vulnerable to the justice system. The curriculum focuses on undoing the language around culturally embedded conceptions of criminality and will serve as an open resource that lives beyond the artists and the exhibition.
Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood is a writer, curator, and professor of American Studies and Art History at Rutgers University. Her books are Marking Time: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration (forthcoming), On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015), and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011). Her articles appear in journals, magazines, art catalogues, and edited anthologies. She is co-editor of “Prison Nation,” a special issue of Aperture magazine focusing on photography’s role in documenting mass incarceration. Fleetwood has cocurated exhibitions and events on art and mass incarceration at the Andrew Freedman Home, New York; Aperture Foundation, New York; Cleveland Public Library, Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, NJ; Mural Arts Philadelphia; Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Philadelphia; and the Urban Justice Center, New York. Her work has been supported by grants and fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, American Council of Learned Societies, Whiting Foundation, Schomburg Center for Scholars-in-Residence, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Ford Foundation, New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She lives in Harlem.
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