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Tracing Apparitions: Inaugural Thesis Exhibition of the MA in Human Rights & the Arts

April 27May 7

The MA Program at the OSUN Center for Human Rights & the Arts is pleased to announce its inaugural MA thesis exhibition, featuring the capstone projects of the Class of 2023.

Tracing Apparitions is taking place from April 27 through May 7 across the Bard College campus as well as off-campus sites in Tivoli and Barrytown. The exhibition features installations, live performances, and written works by the graduating cohort. The artistic and academic theses take a variety of forms, making interventions at both the analytic and methodological levels of analysis. All thesis projects are based on original research by the students.

Written Thesis Display Room (Showing April 27 – May 7, 12pm–5pm)

Repurposed student lab displaying various elements of our written thesis projects, including photographs, posters, illustrations, and comics.

Location: Barringer House, 1402 Annandale Road, Room 102, Bard College

Purity Is A Matter of An Effective Sewage System: Human Rights and Contemporary Art from Institution to Infrastructure
By Ali Hussein Al-Adawy

Weaving the Threads: Labor Protection of Maya Weavers in Guatemala
By Iris Luo

Tasakko’ ( تَسَــــكُّعْ ): The Politics of Street Art Culture in Amman
By Majd Al-Rafie

“We’re with the Church”: Religion and Humanitarian Aid along the U.S.-Mexico Border
By Hattie Wilder Karlstrom

Installations (Showing April 27 – May 7, 12pm–6pm)

Phantasy: Tezcatlipoca and The Ruins of the Mind [Anti-Ethnography versus Surrogate Dissidences]
By Oscar Gardea
Location: Plane Hall, 104 Broadway, Tivoli

Carnal Politics: Sex, Desire, and Anti-Colonial Deviance in Mandate Palestine
By Adam HajYahia
Location: 57 Broadway, Tivoli

Howls in the Mountains
By Carol Montealegre
Location: Ottaway Film Center: A219 Gallery, Bard College

Live Performances (Various Dates & Times)

The Golden Age Is Out of Joint: Photography, Catastrophe, and the Politics of Nostalgia in Lebanon
By Nour Annan
Lecture Performance (30 minutes)
Location: Olin 102, Bard College
Dates & Times: April 29 & May 6–7 @ 1pm
Reservations: Not Needed.

Breaking the Seal
By Garrett Sager
Interactive Performance (30 minutes)
Location: 1077 River Road, Barrytown
Dates & Times: At the half-hour mark on: April 28–30 & May 4–7 @ 2:30pm-5pm

Leave the Community Alone: The Ethics of Curating Contemporary Art in Villages
By Isabella Indolfi
Lecture Performance (30 minutes)
Location: Suminski Innski, 8 Friendship Street, Tivoli
Dates & Times:  April 28–29 & May 6–7 @ 6pm

Howls in the Mountains
By Carol Montealegre
Live Performance (30 minutes)
Location: Ottaway Film Center: A219 Gallery, Bard College
Dates & Times: April 29 & May 4–5 @ 2pm

Phantasy: Tezcatlipoca and The Ruins of the Mind [Anti-Ethnography versus Surrogate Dissidences]
By Oscar Gardea
Live Performance (30 minutes)
Location: Plane Hall, 104 Broadway, Tivoli
Dates & Times: April 28–30 @ 5pm
Reservations: Not Needed

Thesis Project Abstracts

Ali Hussein Al-Adawy: Purity Is A Matter of An Effective Sewage is a written thesis that revisits the common theoretical interventions that limit the critique of the intersections human rights (HR) and contemporary art (CA) to the institutional level. The thesis project analyzes a selection of artistic practices—such as those of Renzo Martens and Natascha Sadr Haghighian—and curatorial strategies—such as Documenta 15—as examples of a paradigmatic shift to view the institutions of HR and CA as both mediators of ideology and a critique of ideology.  These institutions are not only sites of power dynamics, class hierarchies, and economic hegemonies, but also offer self-reflective infrastructures of actualized utopias, durable solutions for intersectional solidarity, and speculative fictions of possible futures.

Majd Al-Rafie: Tassako’: The Politics of Street Art Culture in Amman investigates transformations in the way street art functions in Amman, Jordan in the context the neoliberal economic policies and cultural diplomacy. Drawing on Michel De Certeau’s framework, the thesis explores the changing nature of street art in the city, from a subversive “tactic” to a “strategy” used for alleged beautification and political repression. The research is grounded in interviews with artists, local and foreign funders, and government representatives, as well as a spatial and visual analysis of street art across Amman. Tasakko’ examines street art as a medium of gentrification projects, the promotion of cultural tourism, and artistic censorship—all of which contribute to the decontextualization of the streets of the city and alienation of its residents. The study also highlights the importance of observing lesser-discussed forms of street art, such as scribbles, love confessions, and everyday writings on city walls, which can only be encountered by physically wandering the streets and engaging with the built environment.

Nour Annan: The Golden Age Is Out of Joint is a hybrid project taking the form of a written article and a lecture performance  that examines the photographic archive of 1960s Lebanon through the processes that produce its historical meaning. Departing from the common misreading of Lebanon’s so-called golden age and the bourgeois nostalgia that continues to resuscitate it, this project presents another reading of the archive: searching for the pasts and presents that are left out of frame. Building on Walter Benjamin’s notion of “the dialectical image,” a revelatory image that is activated by present readers gazing upon the past, the project presents the photograph as a dialectical image in an alternate temporality of permanent catastrophe. Through repositioning the golden age archive against the purported progress of capitalism, The Golden Age Is Out of Joint asks if and how photographs of the past can fuel our radical imaginations of the future.

Isabella Indolfi: Leave the Community Alone: The Ethics of Curating Contemporary Art in Villages is a lecture performance exploring the politics and ethics of “community art” in rural contexts. Through a journey to remote and depopulated villages in Italy, Iceland, Russia, and the United States, the research focuses on four case studies of community-based art projects. The residencies and festivals that make up the projects activate an exchange between the villagers and the artists and organizers, often triggering problematic dynamics of representation. Leave The Community Alone questions the practices and the effects of these art initiatives on their environments through challenging idyllic notions of “community” and reasserting the complexity of the rural as a contested cultural space.

Oscar Gardea: Phantasy: Tezcatlipoca and the Ruins of the Mind builds on the ritual vestiges of the jaguar deity, lord of the night, and draws on the artist’s own practice as a mask maker as well as from study with older generations of mask makers and the history of mask making in the peripheries of Mexico. The work synthesizes two years of practice research and explores the use of phantasy as a double paradox: on one hand, it is exercised as a weaponized aporia of sovereignty; on the other hand, it is simultaneously a refuge for the oppressed through song, the sacred, and the imaginal. Unearthing the chains of new forms of enslavement bound by the captivity of the mind, the jaguar represents the mind in an unrestrained state: tempestuous, destructive yet sublime, and a symbol dispossessed to mere savagery. The jaguar in its subversive manifestation maintains the illusion of reality or decides to shred it. The enemy, or obsidian mirror [the obsidian which is the heart of the mountain in Mexican thought], regent and patron of slaves, prisoners, warriors and outlaws, enters another realm of corrupting hybridity through the synthetic. Working from arte povera to create a Gesamtkunstwerk that transforms the artist’s night walks in the forest alongside the Hudson River in an attempt to render the healing call of the heart.

Adam HajYahia: Carnal Politics: Sex, Desire, and Anti-Colonial Deviance in Mandate Palestine is a hybrid project taking the form of a written article and a speculative photo exhibition that investigates the intricate relations between sex, desire, and anti-colonial deviance in Mandate Palestine (1918–1948). The work is based on archival research, including police records and court proceedings, internal and external colonial correspondences, and public statements and press writings. The 1918–48 period was a critical one. This project moves beyond well-studied institutional structures and social formations—such as the establishment of British colonial rule, the concomitant shifting terrain of Zionist settlement practices, and instances of Palestinian mass anti-colonial resistance—to focus on the carnal as a libidinal force that permeates all these transformation. Carnal Politics works with and beyond the colonial archive to uncover the politics of sex and desire in Mandatory Palestine.

Iris Luo: Weaving the Threads: Labor Protection of Maya Weavers in Guatemala is a written thesis focusing on indigenous Maya weavers in Guatemala and labor exploitation in mass garment production. It explores handmade garment as a research medium to analyze the relationship between the design and production of textiles and patterns. Centering indigenous rights, the analysis highlights the chronic exploitation of indigenous weavers as embedded in colonial history and multi-dimensional racism stemming from the nation-state form. The analysis also addresses the legislative dilemma surrounding intellectual property law for indigenous knowledge (e.g., weaving methods and patterns) in Guatemala. It further considers the actions and movements taken by Maya weavers, the border indigenous community, and their allies to resist this status-quo. By doing so, the study aims to promote ethical practices and a sustainable future.

Carol Montealegre: Howls in the Mountains is an installation performance based on research conducted in El Huila, Colombia with Asociación de Mujeres Huilenses Por La Paz (Asomhupaz). The association is comprised of women who are former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a guerrilla group better known by its Spanish acronym FARC and which in November 2016 signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government. This project explores at the political context of the so-called “post-conflict agenda” and attends to the therapeutic potential of ancestral medicine within the context of the reincorporation of these women into their broader communities. Howls in the Mountains is an audio-visual experiment where the activists testify and reflect on their past experiences and their present healing journey. The installation is activated by a performance.

Garrett Sager: Breaking the Seal is an interactive performance that positions the Catholic confessional as a site of violence—a key element in the sexual abuse of children by clergy. Taking cues from the landmark 2002 Boston Globe Spotlight investigation that publicly revealed the Archdiocese of Boston’s institutional cover-up of child sexual abuse, Breaking the Seal asks the audience to join the artist in his exploration of the spatial nature of Catholic confessionals in the Boston area. Bringing together press coverage, legal documents, illustrations, audio recordings, and a designed confessional booth, this intimate performance exposes the politics of Catholic confessionals.

Hattie Wilder Karlstrom: “We’re with the Church”: Religion and Humanitarian Aid along the U.S.-Mexico Border is based on personal experience volunteering in the service of migrants and refugees in southern Arizona and Texas. It focuses on the people who provide humanitarian aid and investigates the role religion plays in that work. The research for this project primarily draws on the author’s time spent at the border between 2019 and 2023, as well as interviews with fellow volunteers who self-identify as religious or otherwise. Told through an intertwining of academic and creative nonfiction writing, this project explores some of the complex relational dynamics present in the border region. In particular, it analyzes the ways religion functions as a moral and legal force in support of aid work, centering the personal experiences of providing aid.


April 27
May 7
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