Occupancies


While the BU Art Galleries finish renovations and prepares for our upcoming season, Second Looks online offers a rear-view of past exhibitions organized by the BUAG over the past five years with additional content and images.  Check back for more updates over the summer months.


In early 2017, the Boston University Art Galleries presented the exhibition Occupancies in response to the political climate in the wake of the 2016 presidential elections. The exhibition brought together the work of artists who use or suggest the physical body as a politicized site of visibility and resistance.  Four years later, the exhibition and the visual strategies of survival employed by those artists feel all the more urgent as individuals take to the streets to fight against white supremacy, systemic racism, and police brutality.  The BUAG stands in solidarity with Black lives and those who have occupied, occupy now, and will continue to occupy both as a survival strategy and strive for racial, social, and political justice.

Occupancies was held in January – March 2016. It resolutely asked: What does it mean to occupy space? How do individual and collective bodies create, negotiate, and inhabit space?

Occupancies presented images of resistance that are personal, poignant, forceful, and above all, urgent. From intimate self-portraits that interrogate issues of race and gender to skillfully rendered drawings depicting acts of protest, the exhibition contended that art and artistic processes are critical platforms for self-representation. While the exhibition’s aims did not fit resolutely within the couplet of art and activism, the selected artists in the Faye G., Jo, and James Stone and 808 Galleries and Annex engaged with the real and symbolic dimensions of the term “occupy” today.

As part of Occupancies, three of the participating artists – eBAY, Intelligent Mischief, and Nabil Vega – served as “Resident Occupants” and occupied the gallery space through ongoing projects, performances, and interventions during the run of the exhibition.

Occupancies artists included Indira Allegra, eBAY, Andrea Bowers, Jonathan Calm, Jordan Casteel, Edie Fake, Nona Faustine, Marlon Forrester, Chitra Ganesh, Jonah Groeneboer, Ramiro Gomez, Dell M. Hamilton, Ann Hirsch, Intelligent Mischief (Aisha Shillingford and Terry Marshall), Ellen Lesperance, Tony Lewis, Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art courtesy of the artist Chris E. Vargas, L.J. Roberts, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Shen Wei, and Nabil Vega.

Occupancies was curated by Lynne Cooney, Artistic Director, Boston University Art Galleries and Kimber Chewning, Exhibition Assistant Curator and PhD Candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Boston University.

Chitra Ganesh,  Protest Fantasy, 2015, mixed media on canvas.

 

In conjunction with Occupancies, a symposium was held on women’s issues, entitled, Making Room: Practicing Feminisms Today. Three panels engaged an intergenerational group of women across disciplines in discussion around how feminisms are constructed and employed today. By creating spaces for women’s voices and visibilities, the symposium addressed current discourses, debates, and contestations around interpretations of feminisms; conversations often initiated among and between women. Making Room provided a much-needed platform for women’s advocacy and agency.

Roundtable – Gender and Equity in Higher Education

This interdisciplinary roundtable discussion explored the advances made by women in academia as well as the challenges they continue to face. Co-presented by Boston University’s Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWISE) and Graduate Student History of Art and Architecture Association (GSHAAA).

Participants: Alice Y. Tseng, Chair ad interim and Associate Professor, Department of History of Art & Architecture, Boston University; Jenna Tonn, Lecturer, Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, Harvard University; Elisa Germán, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History of Art & Architecture, Boston University; Divya Israni, Doctoral Candidate, Biomedical Engineering, Boston University; Jean Fan, Doctoral Student, Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics, Harvard University

Panel:  The Archival Body and the Feminist Voice

This panel addressed how ideas of the radical archive and uses of counter-cultural archival material can create embodied sites where women’s activism and agency are given form and visibility.

Participants: Interference Archive (Louise Barry and Jen Hoyer), volunteer community archive that emphasizes the relationship between cultural production and social movements; Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, Reference Librarian, Massachusetts Historical Society and Diversity Coordinator, New England Archivists; Dell M. Hamilton, Interdisciplinary artist, writer, lecturer and participant in Occupancies

Panel: Intersectional Feminism

Current ideas and applications of theories of intersectionality were addressed as pertinent to feminist and antiracist discourses . The panel discussed the productivity and limitations of intersectional practices and the application of these ideas via creative, professional, and activist channels.

Participants: Zahra Khan, co-founder of Feminist Islamic Troublemakers of North America; Chitra Ganesh, Brooklyn-based visual artist and participant in Occupancies; Aisha Shillingford, artist, community organizer, and member of Intelligent Mischief, participant in Occupancies.

 

Occupancies was supported, in part, by an Arts Grant from the BU Arts Initiative – Office of the Provost.