Hitting Close to Home: Art and Human Rights from Slavery to Guantanamo

An interdisciplinary symposium
Brandeis University

UNDER DEVELOPMENT: Conference proceedings on YouTube (with student YouTube commentaries)

In conjunction with an exhibition organized by Atem Aleu on artistic explorations of genocide in Sudan, the Cultural Production program organized a symposium on art and human rights, February 2-3, 2009 at Brandeis University.

Artistic and literary representational practices have long been vital in human rights discourses, as they were in discursive formations, including anti-slavery and anti-suttee campaigns, that preceded the emergence of "human rights" as a recognized site of knowledge and action. At times, such representations have allowed viewers a comforting or palatable degree of emotional and conceptual distance in contemplating far-away atrocities. This symposium is specifically concerned with works of art, witnessing, and documentation that profoundly collapse or challenge conventional mechanisms of "distance," forcing viewers and readers to confront violations of dignity and rights in their immediate environs, or that demand interlocutors reflect on their complicity in seemingly distant scenarios of violence and oppression. We give particular attention to representations of slavery and slave trades (historical and contemporary) and to the artistic, representational and documentary challenges raised by recent U.S.-sponsored practices of torture, detention and extraordinary rendition.

Monday, Feb 2, 2009 (4:00-5:00 pm.) Starting the Conversation: Memorializing Guantanamo, Part I. Roundtable participants: Julian Bonder, Janet Echelman, Michael Ratner, Moderated by Mark Auslander. (Feldberg Lounge, Hassenfeld Conference Center) Once the U.S. detention camps in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are closed, what should become of them? What art, monumental, memorial or museum projects might emerge on the sites or related locations around the world?

See YouTube segments on this roundtable:

Segment One. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E8xCof1o04
Segment Two (habeus corpus and related legal issues; Janet Echelman on the creative process) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1krz3B85tk
Segment Three (with Julian Bonder on 'premature' memorial efforts) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF7F51J458k
Segment Four (on memorializing under conditions of absence; Julian Bonder) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2S_r8hLfHw

Student YouTube commentaries on the first day of symposium (Museums and Public Memory, Anth 159a):

Monday, February 2, 2009 (7:00-8:30 p.m.)

Keynote address
. Beyond the Shadows of Guantanamo: Restoring the Rule of Law in the Post-Bush World
Michael Ratner, (President, Center for Constitutional Rights)
Zinner Forum, Heller School, Brandeis University

Responses by Sharon Fray-Witzer, Andreas Teuber, Mark Auslander

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 from 12:00 noon-4:30 p.m.
Brandeis University
International Lounge, Usdan.

12:10 pm. Roundtable discussion on "Memorializing Trauma" Julian Bonder reviews his recent memorial projects, including the Nantes Memorial to the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Cindy Cohen, discussant.

* Theresa on the impossibilty of memorialization after 9-11 (not open to public) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoqHLskMY6w&feature=email

1:00 p.m. Fernanda Senatori. (Cultural Production) Acting Together on the World Stage: An Emerging Video Project

1:15 Christine del Castillo. (Cultural Production) "The body is and is and has nowhere to go": Jenny Holzerā€™s Xenon Projections

1:30-1:40 p.m Break.

1:40-2:30 p.m. Amahl Bishara (Anthropology, Tufts University)
"Pride, Prison, & Politics: The Circulation of an Intifada Image."
Commentary by Gannit Ankori (Hebrew University), Ellen Schattschneider, and Charlie Radin.

  • See Pennie Taylor's YouTube commentary on Amahl Bishara's presentation in light of Julian Bonder:

2:30-3:00 p.m. Mark Auslander. Memorializing Slavery in the American South: The Visual Politics of a Wounded Landscape

3:00-3:10 p.m. Break

3:10 p.m. Mark Falkoff (Northeastern Illinois University) Presentation on Human Rights and Literature: Poetry from Guantanamo.
Discussants: John Plotz and Mary Baine Campbell

4:30 p.m. Reception and Gallery talk by Atem Aleu. Schwartz Gallery. Exhibition opening: ""Painting Faces on War: Spirit and Witness in the Art of Southern Sudanese Refugees"

See a video essay by Mark Auslander about the imagery of flags at Camp Justice, the detention camp in Guantanamo, Cuba:

Organized by the M.A. Program in Cultural Production

  • Co-sponsors include: International and Global Studies; the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.//