On Our Radar 2020 features noteworthy projects in all disciplines that advanced to the final round in the competitive selection process for the Creative Capital Award. During each award cycle, Creative Capital has the great privilege of learning about a wealth of exciting artists’ projects. By promoting projects “on our radar” to people who are passionate about the arts, we can help forge connections that lead to new avenues of support and collaborative opportunities. We invite you to explore projects featured in On Our Radar, and follow links to artists’ websites to find out more about how you can get involved making their visions a reality.
On Our Radar 2020
Under Glass You Watch Me Rot
Under Glass You Watch Me Rot is an interdisciplinary exploration of the precarity of visibility. Through performance and multimedia installation, a team of diverse collaborators join Stephanie Acosta to explore the lost nuances in identity work, the challenges of specificity, and the ways in which being witnessed can deter being seen. The project uses multiple discursive tactics to culminate in evening length and durational performances that take place alongside an exhibition.
A vanitas of fruits encased in hand blown glass cover a table, floors speckled with escaped 2D representations of fruits and insects, their voided spaces puncture the custom designed printed vinyl on the wall resembling a haunted iteration of oilcloth table covers. A soundscape fills the space with a durational loop that shifts, seamlessly morphing from interior to exterior experience, performers enter and exit through body and voice to unfold an experimental portrait of the existential experience of thriving to be honestly seen.
Stephanie Acosta is an interdisciplinary artist who places the materiality of the ephemeral at the center of her practice, questioning meaning-making and manufactured limitations through blending performance with practice-based and studio research.
Obligation To Others Holds Me in My Place
Obligation To Others Holds Me In My Place is an experimental documentary film focusing on American mixed race families. This poetic investigation will feature four families based in four different parts of the country, documenting both their everyday behavior and regularly occurring special occasions. The final form is a four-channel feature-length film installation, with each channel divided by occasion. Alongside the film, Bass is assembling an archive of family home movies and photographic footage featuring mixed race American families from the 1930s through the present. The multiform family album serves as an annotation of the ongoing film process, a challenging of the linear narrative of racial progress, and an identification of gaps in the American archive.
This project is the third in Chloë Bass’s series of works exploring scales of intimacy: the first studying the scale of the individual (The Bureau of Self-Recognition, 2011–13); the second investigating partnerships (The Book of Everyday Instruction, 2015–18); and now a work at the scale of the immediate family (Obligation To Others Holds Me In My Place, 2018–21).
Chloë Bass (b. 1984, New York City) is a multiform conceptual artist working in performance, situation, conversation, publication, and installation. Her work uses daily life as a site of deep research to address scales of intimacy: where patterns hold and break as group sizes expand.
Dahlak Brathwaite & Roberta Uno
Try/Step/Trip is a fusion between choreopoem and concept musical, aesthetically influenced by hip-hop sampling and step movement. It emerges from the belief that the subjugation of Black people is an American ritual; that the criminal justice system now functions as a normalized rite of passage for too many young Black males. Try/Step/Trip offers an alternative ritual; a rite of passage orchestrated to save one of the justice system’s newest inductees from the ultimate plight of criminalization: to be remade in the image of its judgment. The story follows an anonymous narrator as he re-imagines his experience in a court-ordered drug rehabilitation program. World views are delivered within musical sequences, ancestors are conjured through step, and archetypes are sampled from pop culture and folklore, all to guide a familiar young Black man in his unique search for redemption and self-definition. Try/Step/Trip plans to launch a national tour, and aims to make full-length prison performances a regular extension of the performance residency. The ultimate goal is to have a run at a regional theater, preferably in New York, Chicago, or San Francisco.
Dahlak Brathwaite is an award-winning writer, composer, and performer. He appeared on HBO’s Russell Simmons’ Presents Def Poetry. Spiritrials, the solo play written, performed, and scored by Braithwaite, has been presented in twenty US cities.
Roberta Uno is a theater director and dramaturg, and founding Artistic Director of the New WORLD Theater in Amherst, MA. Directing credits include collaboration with James Baldwin, Chitra Divakaruni, thuy le, William Yellow Robe Jr., and dramaturgy for Alice Childress, Dionna Daniels, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Sekou Sundiata, Crystal Truscott, and others.
Rosy is an essay video about a 2018 film written and directed by Jess Bond—Paul Manafort’s oldest daughter—also called Rosy. Bond’s second feature length film, Rosy is a neo-noir thriller about a young, stylish woman who is kidnapped and held in the basement of a midcentury home by a young man who is in love with her. Around the time that Jess was working on Rosy, she was also involved in a series of real estate scams and financial crimes directed by her now ex-husband Jeffrey Yohai and her father. For this project, Brewer is reediting Rosy to make it a film about real estate flipping, money laundering, and Ponzi schemes—in short, it will be a film about capitalism. Rosy is a film noir, a genre that depicts a corrupt world. Brewer’s video will also be in the style of film noir, constructed “on top of” Bond’s noir. As part of the research for this project, Brewer has been working for a private investigator and her investigation into Bond’s complicity with her husband’s crimes will be the content of her video.
Maura Brewer is a video artist. She makes essayistic videos that explore the intersection of feminism and neoliberal capitalism through the lens of popular culture. Her videos combine imagery from many sources, including appropriated footage from Hollywood films and the internet, diagrammatic animations, and voice-over narration to deconstruct familiar narratives and expose hidden power dynamics. She is a cofounder of the Rational Dress Society, an experimental design collective that makes JUMPSUIT.
Imani Jacqueline Brown
Disentangling the Snarl of Industry
In Louisiana, the fossil fuel industry maintains the spatial, environmental, and economic logic of colonialism and slavery. Oil and gas corporations have laid over 50,000 miles of pipeline and dredged 10,000 miles of canals to drill and access 75,000 wells throughout the state’s coastal wetlands, eroding our ecosystem at one of the fastest rates in the world and disintegrating a critical buffer between human communities and the hurricanes and rising seas of the Gulf. Louisiana’s frontline communities also share property lines with some of the nation’s most polluting petrochemical plants, which occupy the footprints of fallow sugarcane plantations. This ecological violence against entangled communities of humans and nonhumans is the ‘great work’ of a 500-year-old cultural cosmology called “Extractivism.” Can a practice of revealing the multidimensional violence of Extractivism cultivate the cognitive and discursive conditions for accountability? This project is a major attempt to disentangle the snarl of fossil fuel infrastructure in Louisiana.
Imani Jacqueline Brown is an artist, activist, and researcher from New Orleans, LA. Her work investigates extractive environmental and economic practices to expose the violence and resistance that comprise the foundations of U.S. and Louisiana societies. Brown is a member of Occupy Museums, was a co-founder of Blights Out, and is the founder of New Orleans’ Fossil Free Festival (FFF). FFF celebrates the foreseeable end of the Fossil Fuel Era and frames public space to imagine and design a fossil fuel-free future with art, music, food and conversations about the ethical entrapments of fossil fuel philanthropy.
MALI’E is a cultural resurgence project engaging performance research as a methodology to explore indigenous worldviews and empower Matao communities to embody liberation with ancestral knowing. The project draws from the traditional Matao practice of embodied, improvisatory, collective, singing where oral history and prophecy converge to reclaim the spiritual and political power of the oral historian.
In the first installment, Tåno’ Uchan, Creation stories become allegories for how the diasporic navigate the violence of displacement. The Navigator journeys through their own family history, dancing rituals of respect and reciprocity with land, Oceanic, Black, & Native Turtle Island communities, and the cosmos. Future installments of MALI’E will invite a cohort of Matao artists to engage the emergent auto-ethnochoreographic methodology to deepen the articulation of cultural concepts, develop community powered ceremonies for personal and collective healing, and re-k/new inafa’maolek—harmony, balance, and unity with Creation.
Dakota Camacho is a Matao/CHamoru multi-disciplinary artist and researcher working in spaces of indigenous life ways, performance, musical composition, video, installation, community engagement, and education. Born, raised, and based in Coast Salish Territory (1991), Camacho creates indigenizing processes & ceremonies of encounter with ancestors, land, and spirit. Camacho is a chanter, adjunct instructor, and core researcher for I Fanlalai’an Oral History Project based at the University of Guåhan.
Abigail Raphael Collins
Out of Play
Out of Play is a seven channel video installation that explores relationships between the US military and the entertainment industry. Each episode focuses on one person caught at the intersection between Hollywood’s fictions and the military’s lived impact, and tries to pull apart some of the seamless integration of those two industries. In one episode Collins and her father discuss his acting roles in military TV shows like JAG, as well as PTSD from living through WWII. Another episode focuses on Ft Irwin, an army base in California with seven simulated Iraqi towns. Here, the artist speaks with an Iraqi-American role player who lived in character in one simulated town for eight years, drawing from his childhood memories of war. Exploring the slippage between fact and fiction both in content and form, all seven of these short experimental documentaries unhinge visual narratives about militarization, making space to assert our agency as viewers. How we consume media about war in our living rooms is both insular and local, while simultaneously systemic, shifting public approval of the US military and directly impacting how our military engages internationally. This project asks: what role are we being cast in through our viewership, and how can we reshape that role?
Abigail Raphael Collins, born in New York, uses experimental documentary and video installation to reconsider relationships between media and systemic violence through a queer feminist lens.
Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan
Exodus Stories: Voices from the Caravan explores the motivating fears and unwavering hopes that lead thousands of Central American immigrants to join the phenomenon that was the 2018-19 migrant caravans. Murder, gangs, corruption, violence, unemployment, and political instability gave way to an unprecedented mass exodus where thousands made the perilous journey North by foot and hitching rides, with a singular purpose: to find salvation. At the border, resources are scarce as they desperately wait for weeks to months for their chance at legal US entry. Once inside, they must endure a grueling detention process and navigate a complex and overburdened legal system to make their often life or death case for asylum. Exodus Stories presents a cross-section of immigrant experiences and aspires to show the human side of a highly politicized issue. Through their intimate stories, the film examines the effect of current immigration policies and practices on this vulnerable population who have placed their hopes on finding a better life in the US.
Ilse Fernandez is a Colombian-born US immigrant who uses her filmmaking and photography to highlight social injustice to provoke discourse and activism. She has produced and directed over 200 hours of non-fiction/documentary series for networks including ABC, NBC, VICE, MTV, Netflix, Discovery Channel, A&E, National Geographic, and History Channel.
Four Directions is a four-part project that explores immersive ritual experiences, ceremonial practices and communal rites of passage to consciously channel, engage, and unravel ancestral memory for people of color (BIPOC). It is about healing trans-generational trauma, building intergenerational bridges and engaging in practices of deep rest, self-love, and self-preservation.
Referencing a crossroads—the four directions, four seasons, four stages of human life, etc—Four Directions is made up of four immersive ritual experiences falling into four different categories, that engage different social units within a larger community: Rest—an immersive installation and weekend retreat for Black-identifying women, reframing rest as revolutionary and traversing deep brain wave states to heal on a cellular level; Remembrance—Ghee and her grandfather will construct a very long wooden table with the focus of building and sustaining intergenerational bridges through the griot tradition, comestible storytelling, and traditions of hand-crafting; Reunion—A rite of passage ceremony near the ocean in celebration of people of color; Power—A site-specific performance centered around African American/Black-identifying people taking place at the ocean.
Taught by her grandfather at a very early age, Phylicia Ghee (Baltimore, MD) works in photography, performance, video, fibers, mixed media, installation, and painting. She brings art-based ritual to various communities in the forms of intergenerational storytelling, performance, ceremonial rites of passage, installation, sensory therapy and deep meditative rest experiences.
The Gymnast is a feature length film set in 1993 in a decaying, former mill-town outside of Pittsburgh. For most people there’s little to look forward to but for 14-year-old Monica, an Olympic-aspiring gymnast, and her single father who has dedicated himself to his daughter’s success, the future looks bright. When Monica suffers a potentially career-ending injury, cracks form in their once-strong relationship as they each struggle to understand who they are without gymnastics. The Gymnast is a story of reinvention after loss and what happens when you lose the thing that gives your life meaning.
For most of her filmmaking career, Charlotte Glynn has been hyper-focused on her hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drawn to the region’s labor history and how this history is visible in the landscape. Glynn makes character-driven films that explore larger social issues. Since she began making films in Southwestern PA, the region has become more relevant in national conversations, adding significance to the stories she wants to tell. Her goal with The Gymnast is to make a film that will inspire dialogue about pressing social issues that will reach and connect with a diverse audience throughout the country.
National Redress is an immersive performance aboard Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidential ship—the USS Potomac, referred to as the Floating White House—where the New Deal president thought through his famous speeches. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Constance Hockaday will reclaim this vessel and FDR’s Fireside Chats by commissioning artists to recast the Office of the President as a multi-vocal entourage. Each artist will be paired with a retired presidential speech writer to create a three-to-five minute State of the Union Redress. For two weekends, the ship transforms into a space that feels both like a press conference for the working class and a raucous wedding reception. As the ship cruises the San Francisco Bay, the audience will have the opportunity to drink, dine, and listen to the voices of legendary musicians, writers, performers, and emerging artists as they describe where we, the American public, can put our faith moving forward.
Constance Hockaday is a Chilean American artist who grew up on the US/Mexico border. She creates outsider maritime projects that confront issues surrounding public space, political voice, and belonging. In 2011, she began creating solo work on the water: from a floating boat hotel off the shores of New York City to a floating peepshow in the San Francisco Bay.
Mid-Century Modern Memorial Playground Sculpture Park
The Mid-Century Modern Memorial Playground Sculpture Park (MCMMPSP) project recovers, repurposes, reinvents, and installs vanishing playground sculptures created in the 1960s. The project began as an ongoing photo series capturing the disappearing playscapes that were once ubiquitous throughout Metropolitan Detroit and the Midwest—primarily focusing on the cast-concrete sculptures of Jim Miller-Melberg and his company, Form Incorporated, which were commonplace throughout American parks, schools, rest-stops, and apartment complexes for decades. Many of these works and others classified as part of the Mid-Century Modern movement have been removed and destroyed, making metal play-sculptures a rarity. Along with documenting existing sites, Hocking is acquiring as many remaining Miller-Melberg’s concrete works as possible, and continues to search for other Mid-Century Modern playscapes. His project will culminate with a permanent sculpture park memorializing these works and artists for future generations.
Scott Hocking was born in Redford Township, Michigan in 1975. He has lived and worked in Detroit proper since 1996. He creates site-specific installations, sculptures, and photography projects, often using found materials and neglected locations. Inspired by subjects ranging from ancient mythologies to current events, his artworks focus on transformation, ephemerality, chance, and the cycles of nature.
Brian House & Sue Huang
Freshkills in Eight Movements
Freshkills in Eight Movements is a sound/video installation that explores the relationship between human and environmental temporalities in a time of climate crisis. The project takes as its starting point New York City’s Freshkills, once known as Fresh Kills Landfill, the largest municipal dump in the world. Currently in the process of a decades-long transformation into a public park, Freshkills is a uniquely liminal space, where our long-term effects on the Earth are palpable.
House and Huang’s installation emerges from the multitemporal dynamics of this environment—the thousand-year decay of a Styrofoam cup, the multigenerational use of the land by humans, the seasonal cycle of the regenerating vegetation, and the gathering of clouds. Each of these temporal layers is translated into musical notation using municipal and public data, including statistical projections of weather patterns and methane and leachate emissions data from the Department of Sanitation.
The resulting eight scores are played by double bassist Robert Black (Bang on a Can All-Stars), whose performances are filmed and later projected onto a labyrinth of screens in an installation space. When heard simultaneously, these performances create a soundscape of data that coalesces multiple temporalities into one immersive experience.
Since 2004, American artists Brian House and Sue Huang have collaborated on projects concerned with the critical reconfiguration of media structures and contexts.
ADAM’S APPLE is a feature documentary in early production by Director Amy Jenkins with her teenage transgender son, Adam. Together they trace the transition of Adam from a pre-pubescent named Audrey to an evolving, charismatic young man named Adam in a resonant narrative that offers shared as well as contrasting perspectives.
As Adam, a vibrant 17-year-old, embarks on this much-anticipated physical transition to male, he and Jenkins document the struggles and triumphs of his emergence. With input from family, friends, and trans-male role models, Adam tells his own coming-of-age story as a trans-teen who is determining his path towards manhood. His story will be punctuated with monologues by older trans-males reading aloud their own teen journals in a performance-based manner, to bear witness to the experiences of transgender individuals from less supportive eras. Premiering in 2023, ADAM’S APPLE encourages understanding of and empathy for the transgender experience.
Amy Jenkins, a multi-disciplinary artist, was awarded the 2019 “Ewing Award for Interdisciplinary Art”, and the 2018 NHFF “Filmmaker of the Year.” Jenkins’ feature INSTRUCTIONS ON PARTING premiered at MoMA Doc Fortnight 2018; her short WISHES premiered at the Camden International Film Festival in 2019.
Tahir Carl Karmali
Nexus (Working Title)
Tahir Carl Karmali’s project investigates building vernaculars and makeshift tools created in refugee camps in East Africa. The project is rooted in research and criticality of the function of these camps in the wake of climate change. As the research developed over the past year, the project started to discuss notions of concretization of these camps and buildings with more permanent materials in resource-scarce areas.
Since 2019, the project has changed and developed further with the research. It now broadly discusses new concrete buildings that are built on arid land to contain mostly displaced Muslims. From learning that most of the refugee camps in Dadaab and Kakuma in Kenya have begun to create permanent structures, Karmali started looking at other structures in China and India that are built of involuntarily displaced people, most of which are Muslim. The project is still in research and development with plans to start testing and making later this year.
Tahir Carl Karmali (b. 1987, Nairobi) is an artist based in Brooklyn since 2014. His work spans photography, installation, papermaking, sculpture, and sound.
Untitled PRC Project
UNTITLED PRC PROJECT is a kaleidoscopic journey through China’s industrial supply chain, revealing paradoxes born from prosperity of the world’s emergent superpower. With a cinematic lens, the film questions what living the so-called “Chinese Dream” actually looks like today. China’s historic shift from “the world’s factory” to a hub of innovation is shaping the future of the world’s technologies and industries. It’s a place of struggle, hard work, monotony, conspicuous consumption, pollution, progress, and repression all at once. The film explores how new forms of economic cycles translate into day-to-day life for people across all class lines. The film weaves disparate places together to show an unexpected yet intrinsic interconnectedness. Through these divergent processes we see how innovation and (self) exploitation go hand-in-hand as people attempt to climb higher up the social ladder. The film delivers a nuanced understanding of the growing behemoth that is the nominally communist yet hyper-capitalist People’s Republic of China.
Jessica Kingdon is a Chinese-American filmmaker named one of 25 New Faces of Film by Filmmaker Magazine. Her upcoming feature documentary UNTITLED PRC PROJECT is supported by organizations including SFFILM, Chicken & Egg, Cinereach, Sundance, and Field of Vision. Kira Simon-Kennedy and Nathan Truesdell are producers for the film.
Extra Gravy is a multi-layered project examining the relationship between stand up comedy and music in Black American artistic and entertainment traditions through an interdisciplinary presentation of sound art, film screenings, video, and live performance.
Autumn Knight is an interdisciplinary artist working with performance, installation, video, and text. Her performance and video work is held in the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Knight participated in the 2019 Whitney Biennial as a performance and video artist.
Biography of X
Biography of X is a novel in the form of a biography. A blend of fiction, nonfiction, and speculative history, the book includes fabricated artifacts as well as intentionally misappropriated texts and images.
Catherine Lacey is the author of three novels, Nobody Is Ever Missing, The Answers, and Pew, as well as the story collection Certain American States. She is a 2019 Guggenheim Fellow and recipient of a Whiting Award. Born in Mississippi, she is now based in Chicago.
The Group: A Memoir
The Group is a graphic novel memoir that tells the story of growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in New York City as part of a communist psychotherapy cult known as the Sullivanians. Part therapy clinic, part polyamorous commune, and part political theater company, the Sullivan Institute/4th Wall community was a radical experiment in communal living that combined the controversial therapy of the Sullivan Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis with a devotion to revolutionary communist ideals. From the vantage of middle age, Jesse Lambert, both the author and artist, reflects on his childhood experience, and the adult aftermath of an utopian dream gone wrong.
Jesse Lambert has been painting and drawing in a fine art context for over 20 years. He recently began writing and drawing nonfiction comics. Jesse’s short graphic memoir, That’s Not What We’re Called, explores community, belonging, and identity formed in a cult environment saturated with counterculture ideals and radical politics. It will be included in the anthology, American Cult, to be published by Paper Rocket Comics in 2020.
Karen Langevin, Lydia Platón, Lilianna Rivera, Ivette Román, and Paloma Todd
Novenario reflects on the relationship to mourning offered by Puerto Rican contemporary artists as part of the recovery from Hurricanes Irma and María, while situating mourning and loss at the center of contemporary art practice as transformation in the history of art production in Puerto Rico. It showcases the rich relationship that abounds in the Caribbean to ritual, community solidarity, and self-representation challenges related to the regions’ particular histories, and traumatic events—like colonialism, slavery, environmental upheaval, and the devastation caused by storms and hurricanes. The artists’ collaborations include a community choir, a movement guided tour through the visual art exhibit, and documentary video of “dead” practices around the work of an older generation of practitioners.
Novenario is a multi-media, visual art and performance event set to take place in the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in San Juan, Puerto Rico between April-September of 2021. The collaborative is a group of women who hail from the visual arts, experimental vocal performance, dance, and writing, under the organization of Lydia Platón. They are looking to co-create a performance narrative around the project that can have its own life outside of the exhibit parameters.
In the late 80’s, Lisa Leeman spent three years intimately filming devout Christian and animation artist Gabi P’s gender transition. That film, Metamorphosis, won Sundance’s Filmmakers’ Trophy and aired on POV/PBS (1990). Metamorphosis seemed like a happy ending for them both—Gabi was thriving, and the film launched Leeman’s career—and they eventually lost touch. Twenty five years later, when they reconnected, Gabi was at a new crossroads—one Leeman would never have predicted. Agreeing to make a new film together, Leeman has been documenting the last six years as Gabi navigates a series of challenges, and as Leeman confronts thorny questions around the filmmaker/subject relationship, the effects documentaries have on the people filmed, and the blind spots inherent in being a cis-gender filmmaker profiling a gender-non-conforming person.
Director/Producer: Lisa Leeman; Executive Producer: Kim Reed. Editors: Chris McNabb and Yongle Wang; Consulting Editor: Kate Amend. Trans*Formed is supported by Sundance, Catapult Film Fund, USC, and private donors.
Lisa Leeman believes films can change the world, one story at a time. Over thirty years, she’s made longitudinal portraits of people navigating critical turning points, to illuminate contemporary social issues. Leeman’s work has been supported by Sundance, Catapult Film Fund, the Producers Guild, AFI, NEA, & Cal Humanities.
Xin Liu & Lucia Monge
Unearthing Futures: the decolonizing potential of potatoes
Unearthing Futures is a collaborative project that calls on potatoes to carry diverse and non-colonial visions of the future and space travel. The project is rooted in the rise of biological and social monocultures in agriculture and the urgency for space exploration, which is linked to environmental degradation on earth and envisioned as a continuation of Western colonialism.
The project began in March 2020 by sending 90 true potato seeds into low earth orbit for a month. When the potatoes return from the International Space Station, Liu and Monge will germinate them alongside control groups in search for any morphological changes. The artists want to engage with other immigrants to exchange visions of space travel and a multiplicity of future visions, experiment with multi-gravitational farming, and remember their grandmothers’ recipes and stories. Liu and Monge are already designing a rotating sculpture where they can grow potatoes with artificial gravity, to be built in the coming months.
Native to Peru, potatoes have over 4,000 varieties and are the fifth most grown crop worldwide. They are also among the first choices to be grown by the Chinese Space Agency’s Moon landing. Xin Liu and Lucia Monge’s project take their Chinese and Peruvian backgrounds as starting points and engage other immigrants to exchange visions of space travel, to experiment with multi-gravitational farming, and to explore different spatial-temporal relationships across cultures.
LOUDER THAN WORDS (S.A. Bachman and Neda Moridpour) and Patrisse Cullors
Vehicle for Change (VFC)
Vehicle for Change (VFC) transforms a 26 foot truck into a mobile billboard, classroom, gathering space, and multimedia resource center addressing jail reform and incarceration alternatives in LA County. At the heart of this multidisciplinary project is a commitment to collective dialogue, collaborative art making and events, and building sustainable coalitions. VFC is partnering with two organizations: Dignity and Power Now, a Black and Brown led abolitionist movement rooted in community power to achieve transformative justice for incarcerated people, their families, and communities; and Reform LA Jails, which demands more effective strategies to reduce recidivism, prevent crime, and decrease populations cycling in and out of jail. VFC is designed to achieve positive political outcomes including passage of the 2020 “Reform Jails and Community Reinvestment” ballot initiative; a comprehensive strategic plan; and an extensive online platform containing curriculum for youth and adults nationwide.
Artists, educators, and activists S.A. Bachman and Neda Moridpour cofounded Louder Than Words (LTW), a cross-cultural intergenerational art collective that targets sexual assault, domestic violence, women and migration, LGBTQ+ equality, and jail reform. LTW engages multiple aesthetic strategies including outdoor projection, mobile billboards, round-table nomadic seminars, offset, and video. Patrisse Cullors is an artist, organizer, performer, and freedom fighter. She is the Cofounder of BlackLivesMatter and Founder of Dignity and Power Now, with a lifetime of experience advocating against police brutality, unjust imprisonment, systemic racism and LGBTQ+ liberation.
The basements of Mexicali/Calexico are remnants of an extensive tunnel system built at the beginning of the 20th century, when the city’s population swelled with Chinese and Chinese-Mexican laborers—who were brought in commercially by the coolie trade and American corporations, and funneled there politically by the US Exclusionary Act and the Anti-Chinista movement of the Mexican Revolution. La Chinesca, the namesake of the Mexicali Chinatown, is an investigation into architecture as a historical vessel. Steel sculptures model the inside surfaces of the La Chinesca basements and photogravure prints show stage sets that are fabricated in the tunnels, propagating a certain vision. The works explore the built environment as a personal manifestation of tensions related to nationalism.
Yeni Mao was born in Canada, and spent his developmental years in the US, Sweden, and Taiwan. He received a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and subsequently trained in foundry work in California and the architectural industries of New York. Mao lives and works in Mexico City.
The Most FACE Ever
The Most FACE Ever builds intuition for how neural networks are used for face analysis by inviting users to play a game where they undertake challenges to trick an algorithm into mis-analyzing their face. The experience starts by detecting mundane attributes like SUNGLASSES or SMILE, but becomes increasingly problematic: detecting race, criminality, sexual orientation. Based on real machine learning research, it builds intuition for algorithms running the world. Typically computer vision happens slowly, it happens behind the scenes. An image captured by surveillance cameras, uploaded to Facebook, or scraped by a web crawler: they are ingested by the machines of corporations and governments, and analyzed out of sight. We never have an opportunity to inspect or interrogate these systems. The goal of The Most FACE Ever is to give people an opportunity to play with these dangerous tools in realtime, to playfully grow an intuition for what it means to see like a machine, and to understand how machines can fail.
Kyle McDonald is an artist working with code. He crafts interactive installations, sneaky interventions, playful websites, workshops, and toolkits for other artists working with code. Exploring possibilities of new technologies: to understand how they affect society, to misuse them, and build alternative futures; aiming to share a laugh, spark curiosity, create confusion, and share spaces with magical vibes. Working with machine learning, computer vision, social and surveillance tech spanning commercial and arts spaces.
The Codex Silex Vallis (The Silicon Valley Codex)
The Codex Silex Vallis (The Silicon Valley Codex) attempts to visualize how the growing tech industry is infiltrating traditional Latinx family customs in the United States. Menchaca wants to demystify the Latinx perspective regarding innovative technology by narrating the ways in which Latinx cultural traditions, ancestral bonds, and familial communication are currently undergoing a 21st century evolution by way of Silicon Valley tech. It represents Latinx usage of social media apps, video chat services, ride-share technology, and online marketplace experiences in order to document a current generational transformation. In large scale, he explores the imagery and themes from this eponymously-titled series through a variety of media, including site-specific wallpaper installation, new paintings, drawings, screen and digital prints, digital animation, and virtual reality.
Born in 1985 in San Antonio, TX, Michael Menchaca received his BFA from Texas State University in 2011, and his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2015. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (ME), Vermont Studio Center (VT), The Wassaic Project (NY), The Segura Arts Studio (IN), and The Studios at MASS MoCA (MA).
Sylvia Milo & Nathan Davis (Little Matchstick Factory)
I am the utterance of my name
For 2000 years, societies have projected onto Mary Magdalene a wide range of roles—faithful witness, prostitute, priestess, goddess, wife, witch, mother—archetypes that adhere closely to attitudes held about femininity. Utterance is a music-theatre piece on the mythic and historic Mary Magdalene, elucidating this lattice of contradictions. It gives voice and agency to each archetype while illuminating the problematic nature of labels given by male authors and religious systems. This piece uncovers roots of gender inequality, male privilege, #MeToo, body rights, etc—our social inheritance.
Through extensive research in feminist theology, Milo has sculpted a text that weaves her own writing and these various threads of faith, tradition, and geography together with the ages of cultural and religious sediment that binds them. Davis composes and performs the score on hammered dulcimer, harmonium, small drums and bells, with electronic processing and spatialization surrounding the audience. It includes field recordings that Davis made in Sainte-Baume, an extraordinary cave in Provence where legend holds she lived the last 30 years of her life.
Little Matchstick Factory is comprised of Sylvia Milo, actress and playwright originally from Poland and based in NYC, and Nathan Davis, composer and percussionist. This is their second project together, following the acclaimed play The Other Mozart about the forgotten genius sister of Amadeus. Equal parts theater, experimental music performance, and ritual, it will premiere for audiences in NYC and subsequently tour.
Angelo Madsen Minax
North By Current
Filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax returns to his home town after the mysterious death of his two-year-old niece and the arrest of his brother-in-law as the culprit. Weaving the real and imagined links between death, incarceration, and trans embodiment, Madsen probes the family’s history of addiction and Mormonism to create a relentless portrait of enduring rural bonds.
Angelo Madsen Minax works in documentary and hybrid filmmaking, narrative cinema, experimental and essay film, sound and music performance, text, and media installation.
Five Fables of Aesop
Five Fables of Aesop is Mitchell’s latest manifestation of storytelling across cultures. Each fable integrates the carved object and its relationship to myth-making across the Americas and the importance of the influence of African culture. Coupled with his ongoing research into storytelling is an interest in animal symbology and its possible utility in contemporary culture. Throughout history animals have been seen as possessive of a different kind of knowledge and awareness than humans. There is no better place to explore this than in Mexico. With the aid of woodcrafters in Mexico, Mitchell will be creating objects that average three and one-half to four feet in height and two feet in diameter, with surfaces that may contain text or patination pertinent to the story or its relevance to contemporary life.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Tyrone Mitchell has travelled throughout Mexico, India, Europe, and West Africa. He is a recipient of the Guggenheim, Readers Digest at Giverny, and MacDowell Colony fellowships, and a recent recipient of an Art Omi Artis in Residence. Mitchell sees himself as reintegrating the practice of stone and woodcarving into his wheelhouse of tapestry, installation, performance, and discreet objects.
Grass-Fed Bone China
Bone china, being the only ceramic material comprised from the remains of once-living organic tissue, has the unique potential to express our shared human ecological values. Since its inception, bone china has been used to make objects that express the owner’s social status. Despite taking the form of functional vessels like tea cups and plates, bone china has not been the historical workhorse of the kitchen or dining room. Over the past five years, Gregg Moore has been reconsidering this material, working with Chef Dan Barber in the creation of the ceramic tableware for his Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurant. This project has included the development of a unique bone china composed of bone ash derived from waste bone from the restaurant’s kitchen.
Gregg Moore is an artist, designer, and educator. His studio practice explores the relationship between ceramics and new media, drawing from historical foundations while questioning and investigating perceptions of the ceramics field. His current work ranges from ceramic tableware, mixed media sculpture, and multimedia and video-based installation that examines the practices of gardening, farming, cooking and eating. Moore’s work with Chef Dan Barber investigates even deeper relationships by creating objects that reflect the historical and ongoing co-evolution of ceramics and cuisine.
Sublimation focuses on the silent-state of riot, the surreal and absurd space of inequity that generates these proverbial shifts in matter. Kambui Olujimi is interested in the insurrections as a telltale, not just of the socio-economic conditions they belie, but of an invisible psychological terrain that must be negotiated daily. Olujimi will examine the reoccurring forces acting as tinder for these upheavals. Focusing on nine occurrences, he will create fragrances, sculptural installations, and a companion catalog of interviews and research.
The sculptural and installation components of Sublimation will explore the innocuous object, describing a chilling inequity and a persistent, implicit threat to LGBT and Black communities. Olfactory memory is inextricably tied to our long-term memory and scent recognition predates even language. If we consider the riot as a visceral spontaneous response to untenable conditions, then smell is a crucial element of cataloging the human condition.
Kambui Olujimi was born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. His work challenges established modes of thinking that commonly function as “inevitabilities.” This pursuit takes shape through interdisciplinary bodies of work spanning sculpture, installation, photography, writing, video, and performance.
Myrmecorpus: Wearable Interactive Ant-farms
Ants are Earth’s dominant animal, but their ubiquitous networks go unnoticed by humans. This project helps us feel their presence by viscerally connecting with a superorganism.
The project is realized as a set of three types of wearable ant-farms that invert the agency between humans and ants: a) Wearable Ant-Farm Accessories: the first stage redesigns traditional scientific formicaria (ant-farms) into small wearable devices—like watches, hats, and shoes—embedded with sensors monitoring ambient features of the enclosed colonies. The sensed data is mapped to haptic actuators that let humans feel real-time changes as the colony eats, sleeps, and forages. b) Full Formicarium Suit: Multiple “accessory” designs are merged to create a full-body ant-farm suit for an entirely immersive experience. c) Open-Embedded Formicarium: The final design type installs the full-body haptic-suit in the rainforest atop a wild leaf-cutter ant mound. The suit redirects the normal ant paths through its sensors. This lets ants freely forage, while removing human agency, making them the accessory, and completing the role-reversal of human-ant co-actors.
Dr. Andrew Quitmeyer is a hacker adventurer studying intersections between wild animals and computational devices. He started his own Field Station Makerspace in Gamboa, Panama: Digital Naturalism Laboratories where he blends biological fieldwork and DIY digital crafting with a community of scientists, artists, designers, and engineers from around the world. He runs mobile workshops called “Hiking Hacks” where participants build interactive technology in outdoor, natural contexts.
26 Planned Parenthoods
Since arriving in Columbus, Ohio and traveling across the state, Jared Thorne has witnessed the unsettling reality that our Supreme Court recognized in Women’s Whole Health v. Hellerstedt: that the locations of Planned Parenthoods draw a complicated map marking distinct territories of access and belonging, power and desire, class and race. Calls to defund or otherwise restrict Planned Parenthood continue despite recent Supreme Court rulings, posing catastrophic threats to women and girls in predominantly African-American and Latino communities.
Thorne plans to photograph all of the Planned Parenthoods in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania—states where disproportionate amounts of Black and Latino women use their services—and collect stories from the critical staff who work and bear witness to the essential role that Planned Parenthood plays there. Throne will explore the interplay between landscapes and the identities, desires, and power of the women whose access to reproductive healthcare is an object of political contest.
Jared Thorne holds a B.A. in English Literature from Dartmouth College and a Master in Fine Arts from Columbia University. His work speaks to issues of identity and subjectivity as they relate to class and race in America and abroad. As a Black artist investigating the culture of his people, Jared Thorne seeks to challenge both hegemonic and self-imposed constructs of Black identity in America and beyond.
Joonam is a non-fiction film that combines observational footage, mixed-media animation/video collage, and home video to tell a story about one filmmaker’s search for belonging in her family’s unreachable Iranian past. The film explores the complex relationships between mother and daughter, Iran and America, and exile and identity.
As the filmmaker digs through her family’s memories, the story slips through time to relive the formative experiences of three generations of women. We follow the filmmaker’s grandmother, Behjat, as an adolescent bride dreaming of independence in the last years of a traditional Persia, and her mother, Mitra, as a righteous teenager caught between Iran and America during the Islamic Revolution. The film exists in this reimagined space until a forgotten story comes to light, rocketing the narrative back into the present as the family confronts their fears of Iran and the film’s potentially dangerous consequences.
Sierra Urich is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker, whose work blends animation, performance, video art, and hybrid filmmaking. She holds a BFA in Illustration and Film/Animation from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been awarded fellowships, grants, and support from Sundance Institute, Cinereach, Catapult Film Fund, Tribeca Institute, The Banff Centre for the Arts, LEF Foundation, and the Points North Institute.
In the Camps: A Refugee Musical
An older woman turns a storage hut into a beauty parlor, offering hair washing, scalp massages, and haircuts to remind herself that there is still beauty in the world. An elder erects a martial arts gym and trains young Laotians how to regain their strength, confidence, and power. An ex-communist soldier tries to blend in, fearing violent retaliation from victims and their families if he is found out, yet hopeful that in a camp full of Buddhists, he will be forgiven. A young mother must decide on the length that she will go and the boundaries she will cross to reunite with her husband who is missing.
In the Camps takes place in a refugee camp and uses songs, dance, and humor to tell the story of Laotians who’ve escaped communist Laos. An exhibit with documents, photographs, and personal items from survivors and a popup cafe (refugee camp-style) will accompany the production to provide audiences a better understanding of refugees’ daily life in camps. This project fights cultural ventriloquism and erasure of Laotian-centered stories in American theater by non-Laotians—a giant middle finger to empire and trauma.
Saymoukda Vongsay is a Lao writer. She’s a recipient of a Sally Award for Initiative from the Ordway Center for Performing Arts which “recognizes bold new steps and strategic leadership undertaken by an individual…in creating projects or artistic programs never before seen in Minnesota that will have a significant impact on strengthening Minnesota’s artistic/cultural community.”
4 Malcolm X Greenhouse is an architectural and programmatic artwork built from an ideation of community holistic health. The greenhouse mimics the shape of Malcolm X’s childhood home built on his birth site in Omaha, and features meditation programs, phytoremediation plant distribution, and youth art workshops focused on urban sustainability and environmental justice.
4MX Greenhouse is positioned at a high architectural vantage point overlooking seventeen acres of native grassland once inhabited by the Omaha Tribe. The project itself occurs across four related pillars of health, M1–M4. M-1 is the self-identifier and reflects a legacy of self-empowerment and determination through architecture. M-2 cleanses soil and air toxins via a phytoremediation plant nursery and EPA-lead soil remediation program to mitigate violence upon black owned land. M-3 is meditation put into practice with perennialism-based programming featuring a Zendo and Salah prayer space overlooking the grasslands. M-4, the foundation, is medicinal food supply. This is the farm to table identity of the greenhouse edified by holistic health derived from vegetation grown on site.
Jordan Weber is a Des Moines-based multidisciplinary artist and activist who works at the cross section of social justice and environmental justice. Jordan is best known for a series of deconstructed police vehicles turned community gardens/workout equipment and re-contextualized abandoned structures.
Keith S. Wilson
Cotton Sweating Coolly
Keith S. Wilson’s project is a manuscript of lyric and visual poems dealing with the complicated history and continued proliferation of American violence, especially as it pertains to antebellum concepts of liberty and modern values of identity, class, and power. Specifically, this manuscript deals with late 18th and early 19th century slave insurrections, as told through a series of vignettes as foreseen by enslaved African American lay preachers. One of the questions Wilson asks is ‘what is the role of violence in the liberation of disenfranchised and enslaved peoples?’ He has written and designed a portion of this work already—one epic poem entitled Cotton Sweating Coolly. The project will also incorporate images, diagrams, photography, and found documents.
Keith S. Wilson is an Affrilachian Poet and a Cave Canem fellow. He is a recipient of an NEA Fellowship, an Elizabeth George Foundation Grant, and an Illinois Arts Council Agency Award, and has received a Kenyon Review Fellowship. Additionally, he has received fellowships or grants from Bread Loaf, Tin House, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. His book, Fieldnotes on Ordinary Love (Copper Canyon), was recognized by the New York Times as a best new book of poetry.
Children of NAN: Survival Guide
Children of NAN: Survival Guide is a film for future black women. It depicts philosophies, myths, rituals, and performances that Wormsley has been compiling for over a decade to document the ways black women care for themselves, for their fellow humans, and for the earth.
Alisha B. Wormsley is an interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer. Her work is about collective memory and the synchronicity of time, specifically through the stories of women of color. Wormsley is an artist who has worked in communities around the world, helping to develop artistic ideas and celebrate identities, and has organized public art initiatives for national and international audiences. In 2019, Wormsley was awarded the Presidential Post Doctoral Research Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University to research and create work around the resurgence of matriarchal energy (defined as witchcraft by white supremacy) in the African American community.
The Indigenous Pipeline Council
Peter Ybarra uses humor as a less confrontational tool to help people realize the importance of protecting our planet as the world moves in a new direction.
Peter Ybarra is a champion native singer, stand up and sketch comedian, and has done some acting work. They have a large following in both the US and Canada.
Unaccompanied: A Memoir
Unaccompanied: A Memoir, was supposed to be a mixed-genre juxtaposition of: 1. Javier Zamora’s own unaccompanied migration in 1999 when he was nine years old and 2. the current “immigration crisis” that began to flood the headlines beginning in 2014. The personal part of the project took the shape of prose vignettes and the second part of the project as poems in the form of headlines.
While Zamora was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard, he began writing these poems and vignettes while researching how the New York Times covered Central American migrant children from April 2018–19. His findings were not surprising, children were usually written about by non-immigrants and photographed in dire situations, rarely, were they photographed smiling or having fun. His project aims to provide a fuller picture of what occurs during migration. It is not all trauma, although that is a huge aspect of it, there are also moments of joy, of community, of agency. Currently, Zamora thinks the prose and poems will be separated, but will see where the project takes him.
Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US when he was nine. He is the author of Unaccompanied (Copper Canyon Press, 2017) and his poems appear in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New York Times, and others. He lives in Harlem where he’s working on his memoir and second collection of poems.
Sunbirds is Yared Zeleke’s second feature, part of a coming-of-age drama/part road-trip thriller set in Africa’s Great Rift Valley with brave, brilliant, and beautiful Ethiopian women as the complex heroines. The film will be the first to depict both (climate) migration as well as culture clash from within the vastly diverse, complex continent. It will be a rare cinematic experience portraying the issue “colorism” with dark-complected young women as the protagonists—a demographic that remains grossly underrepresented in films. Sunbirds will be shot in the remote and vast Omo Valley of Ethiopia—a place scientists call the cradle of modern humanity and one of our planet’s last remaining pristine wilderness with intact tribal cultures.
Ethiopia is in a transitional period right now, as the nation leaves its traumatic past behind and fast forwards into the future. This homecoming is the time for Africans to redefine who they are for the world, and themselves. Sunbirds will be made within the conditions of a country trying desperately to pull out of poverty and transcend into something new. As a genderqueer Ethiopian-American, Zeleke is very proud to be part of that wave of change.
Yared Zeleke’s first feature, Lamb, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. Zeleke’s second feature script, Sunbirds, was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and a San Francisco Film Society grant. The Sundance Institute is mentoring Zeleke through its FilmTwo Initiative.