The 2022 C-MAP seminar series, Transversal Orientations Part II, was held on Zoom across four panels on May 25 and 26, 2022. Included here are abstracts and recordings of the panels. In order to continue the conversations, written responses from Sarah Lookofsky, current Dean of the Oslo National Academy of the Arts and former Associate Director of the International Program at MoMA, and Irmgard Emmelhainz, independent translator, writer and researcher, will soon to be linked on this page. The seminar series was organized by Nancy Dantas, C-MAP Africa Fellow; Inga Lāce, C-MAP Central and Eastern Europe Fellow; Madeline Murphy Turner, Former Cisneros Institute Research Fellow for Latin America, and Wong Binghao, C-MAP Asia Fellow.
The Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (C-MAP) research groups periodically organize seminars, of which Transversal Orientations Part II forms part. These seminars connect the broad research interests of the four groups and enable members to think more deeply about how the Museum might best address a global view of modern and contemporary art.
Transversal Orientations Part II was conceived as a continuation of the conversations and possibilities raised in the 2021 seminar. Building on the ideas generated in this first iteration, which invoked transversalism’s potential for envisioning alliances and surpassing oppositions, this year’s seminar sought to explore and annotate the transversal as a methodology for working between geographical borders and beyond disciplinary and epistemological siloes, while also acknowledging the challenges of such an approach in our fractured, solipsistic present.
Some of the questions raised were: what can we learn by looking and speaking across geographies, histories, and epistemes? What patterns, knowledges, currents, and recognitions emerge when we interweave regional concepts and metaphors? What emancipatory worldviews arise or collapse at these unexpected intersections and gatherings? And, finally, how can we utilize a transversal perspective amid our present-day reality, in which right-wing nationalist leaders have come to power, borders have been fortified, and dialogical exchange often seems to be insufficient or even unattainable?
A term that originates in the field of mathematical geometry, the transversal has been taken up by thinkers to destabilize the ways in which relations are canonically accepted. Transversality “implies a desire in interdisciplinarity for knowledge and practices that are in some senses yet to be made proper.”1Rosi Braidotti and Matthew Fuller, “The Posthumanities in an Era of Unexpected Consequences,” Theory, Culture and Society 36:6 (2019): 18. While aspiring towards the transformative potential of the transversal approach, this year’s seminar came to terms with the lived limitations and violences of categorically closed designations.
Comprised of four panels over two days, each panel featured a distinct pair of speakers who engaged and acknowledged the limitations of transversalism in the historical present through issues of territory, colonial catastrophe, gender politics, and non-human ontologies.
Pamila Gupta, Daniel Lie, Sophio Medoidze, Nnenna Okore, Juno Salazar Parreñas, Isabel Sandoval, Diana Tamane, Daiara Tukano
The Fellows wish to thank the C-MAP Group Leaders (Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi, Roxana Marcoci, Inés Katzenstein, Stuart Comer, and Cara Manes) and Jay Levenson, Marta Dansie, Michelle Kuo, Josh Siegel, Howard Deitch, Christopher Brown, Mitchell Leitschuh, and Hayna Garcia for their invaluable input and assistance.
Panel 1: In Thick Co-Presence
This panel explores the co-dependence and kinship between humans and other-than-humans. Looking specifically at the co-constitutive relationship between care and harm, this panel relatedly investigates the roles that gender and sexuality play in the creation of shared ecologies. The panel title comes from Donna Haraway’s book, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, which discusses the importance of eschewing the future in favor of present realities and challenges.
Building on legacies of migration and queer studies, Daniel Lie’s work demonstrates how abjection can be a tool of subversion and expansion. Their practice celebrates natural cycles of transformation and the many interdependent exchanges that structure ecosystems. A fundamental aspect of Lie’s practice is their desire to develop works which decenter human agency and subjectivity. Working in collaboration with forces they term “other-than-human beings,” such as bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, minerals, spirits, and ancestors, Lie creates site- and time-specific works that can be experienced through multisensory channels. By giving visibility to materials that morph, decay, and evolve, Lie’s ecosystems highlight the intimate yet expansive coexistences among diverse beings, acknowledging our shared and continuous participation in the processes of living, dying, and decomposing.
Juno Salazar Parreñas is an assistant professor of science and technology studies and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies at Cornell University. She examines human-animal relations, environmental issues, and efforts to institutionalize justice. She is the author of Decolonizing Extinction: The Work of Care in Orangutan Rehabilitation (2018), which received the 2019 Michelle Rosaldo Prize from the Association for Feminist Anthropology and honorable mentions for the 2019 New Millennium Book Award and the 2019 Diana Forsythe Prize, both from the American Anthropological Association, and the 2020 Harry Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies.
Panel 2: Cycles and Reclamations
Cycles and Reclamations probes the relationship between art and social engagement pertaining to ecological crises and territory disputes. It asks, how do practitioners draw attention to these challenges by transversing professional and cultural silos? When working with the subjects of land and sea, how do creators engage with politics to call attention to the adversities we endure? Finally, what kinds of creative encounters can be proposed as solutions?
Nnenna Okore is an artist-researcher-teacher who uses artistic practice, pedagogy, and social engagements to address ecological issues. She has been involved in numerous participatory art projects and exhibitions designed to produce dialogue, art making, and an awareness of current environmental issues. Working largely with eco-based materials, Okore uses food-based bioplastic materials to create delicate works of art that engender dialogue about waste reduction and sustainable practices in art making. Okore has a BA from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa. She is a recipient of the 2012 Fulbright Scholar Award and Creative Victoria Award from Australia.
Daiara Hori Figueroa Sampaio – Duhigô, known as Daiara Tukano, of the Tukano Indigenous people – Yé’pá Mahsã, Eremiri Húusiro Parameri clan of the Upper Rio Negro in the Brazilian Amazon, was born in São Paulo. She is an artist, activist, educator, and communicator who graduated in visual arts and master in human rights from the University of Brasília. She researches the right to memory and truth of Indigenous peoples. From 2015 to 2021 she was the coordinator of Rádio Yandê, the first indigenous Internet-radio in Brazil. Recently, she won the 2021 PIPA Online Award, organized by the PIPA Institute, the most renowned Brazilian visual arts prize. She studies the culture, history, and traditional spirituality of its people together with their family. She lives in Brasília.
Panel 3: (Im)possible Returns
Taking up the call for critical (art) geography to think about the complexity of communities, and an awareness of the issue of scales when we discuss and employ a transversal vision, this panel draws on the transversal as an intense interdisciplinary mode whereby different topologies, for instance, colonial or post-Soviet migration, come into communication, bringing newfound understanding and literacy to the consequences of imperialism.
Pamila Gupta is a professor at WiSER, University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University. Her research and writing interests include Portuguese colonial and Jesuit missionary history in India; diasporas, islands, tourism, heritage, and design in the Indian Ocean; photography, tailoring, and visual cultures in East Africa; and architecture, infrastructure, and affect in South Africa. She is the author of two monographs: The Relic State: St. Francis Xavier and the Politics of Ritual in Portuguese India (2014) and Portuguese Decolonization in the Indian Ocean World: History and Ethnography (2019).
Diana Tamane (b. 1986, Latvia/Estonia). In the artist’s works, family albums, documents, and private correspondence are transformed into catalysts, making it possible to reveal not only touching autobiographical stories but also apt portrayals of society and how a complex political history and presence intertwines with the needs and dreams of ordinary people. Tamane graduated from the Tartu Art College, the LUCA School of Arts, Brussels, and HISK post-academic program, Ghent. In 2020, with APE, she published Flower Smuggler, which has received the Authors Book Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles Book Awards and been shortlisted in the Paris-Photo Aperture Foundation PhotoBook Awards.
Panel 4: Rituals and Rapture
Joyous, occult, or banal, rituals are a part of our everyday lives and imaginations. This panel explores how rituals – religious, social, daily, or otherwise – are depicted in art and film. In particular, the significance of gender in rituals will be discussed to shore up how supposedly fixed borders (material, bodily, territorial, epistemological) can be crossed.
This panel featured screenings of film and moving image works by Sophio Medoidze and Isabel Sandoval that have not been reproduced here. Watch the pre-recorded conversation between Medoidze, Sandoval, and C-MAP Fellows Inga Lace and Wong Binghao in the video link below.
Sophio Medoidze is an artist, writer, and filmmaker based in London. Her work has been exhibited and screened worldwide, including at the OUTPOST gallery, Ermes Ermes, LUX, CAC Bretigny, Serpentine Cinema (Peckhamplex), Kunstmuseum Luzern, Tate Modern (upcoming), and others. She was a recipient of Tyneside cinema’s Projections commissions and Feature Expanded development and Sub-ti awards for her latest film Let us flow! (ვიდინოთ!). A collection of Medoidze’s short stories, Bastard Sun, will be published in 2022.
Recognized by the Criterion Collection as “one of the most exciting and multitalented filmmakers on the indie scene,” Isabel Sandoval has made three dramatic features, including Señorita, Apparition and the Independent Spirit Award–nominated Lingua Franca. Her films have played at major international festivals like Venice, Locarno, London, and Busan. She is currently in development on her fourth feature, Tropical Gothic, which won a development prize at the 2021 Berlinale. She recently directed the FX limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, based on Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction book, starring Andrew Garfield.
- 1Rosi Braidotti and Matthew Fuller, “The Posthumanities in an Era of Unexpected Consequences,” Theory, Culture and Society 36:6 (2019): 18.