18 February 2010

Constructing Spaces: The Politics of Art and Community Workshops

This year, IACSC is sponsoring events under the framework of Constructing Spaces: The Politics of Art and Community. The premise and guiding aspiration for this series has been to explore the many ways artists, academics, intellectuals, and communities think about, build, create and recreate spaces that they may consider their own, imbued with political and socially responsible aims. In the three events that IACSC has organized this semester, each takes a distinct approach to how we imagine the city, the spaces within the city, and people and communities within the city articulate space beyond architecture. Beginning with a panel that included a film screening and talk about community art projects in New York and Detroit, IACSC engaged students and faculty from different disciplines in an exploration of art and design and its relationship to urban redevelopment, gentrification and the challenges artists and designers encounter as they work in communities undergoing physical, economic and demographic change.

  • The first panel featured a screening of "Bodega Down Bronx," in conversation with the filmmaker, Jonathan Bogarin, who interrogated the ways in which food distribution, people, cultures and communities are located at the Bodega - making the shop the site of both vernacular cosmopolitanisms and access to healthy food. Anusha Venkataraman, an urban planning graduate student, discussed her research on community efforts in Detroit to use the arts for community revitalization.
  • The second workshop sponsored by the IACSC used those same images from the film to initiate imaginary urban landscapes within the making of books. This workshop, led by Miriam Schaer, used the sights, sounds, smells of the neighborhood from the film to create accordion books with holographs of the buildings. Such an artist led practices provides material articulations of the ways in which one might create the urban landscape.
  • The final, culminating event includes two distinct presentations: an exhibit of community arts projects and a panel discussion on hybridity, immigration and “impossible communities”. Both presentations feature student, faculty and community representatives.
    • The community arts projects feature the collaboration between Pratt students and residents in Pratt’s surrounding community, Bedford Stuyvesant, who as part of the IACSC sponsored course ‘Art, Design, and Community,'. This pilot course is part of IACSC” effort to encourage faculty in liberal arts, art and design, planning, architecture, and art education to design and co-teach interdisciplinary courses that help students explore the relationship of art and design to social change. The IACSC-sponsored course asks faculty and students to explore historical and contemporary aspects of urban development and community engagement in more than one discipline, and apply this theoretical knowledge through community-based art projects in which students are asked to work in teams and collaborate with community organizations. Because the course is co-taught, faculty members are also asked to collaborate with each other.
    • The panel features a conversation between between Professor Gayatri Gopinath (NYU) and DJ-Ashu Rai (Sholay Productions). The conversation, "Impossible Communities," will bring up many of the themes that emerged in the first panel, the course and the creation of the books, centered on the art and designer’s role in urban change and the ability for communities to create their own spaces in the city. The focus for the conversation is on the emergence of South Asian Queer Diaspora in NYC in the 1990s, and the ways in which party spaces are used to make social and political interventions that help define immigrant communities in new hybrid formulations. This conversation will be co-sponsored by the Critical Visual Studies Department, Social Science Cultural Studies, Pratt Institute and the South Asian Women's Creative Collective (SAWCC).

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