Loophole of Retreat: A Conference Part 3 of 3

From a peephole in her grandmother’s garret that rests on her master’s property, a young woman watches while remaining concealed. Inspired by the autobiography of writer, abolitionist, and escaped slave girl Harriet Jacobs (1813-97), “Loophole of Retreat” locates a space of creation within places of capture. This self-reflexive production of freedom within incarceration – a hidden reality carved from within the center of power – served as our metaphor for this convening. An international constellation of writers, artists, poets, filmmakers, academics, and activists came together for a daylong gathering dedicated to the intellectual life of black women. Invited by artist Simone Leigh, feminist scholar Tina Campt, and cultural historian Saidiya Hartman, participants responded through papers, readings, and performance.

Organized on the occasion of “The Hugo Boss Prize 2018: Simone Leigh, Loophole of Retreat”. The Hugo Boss Prize and the exhibition are made possible by HUGO BOSS.

Order of appearance:
Song “On Wishing and Superheroes” by Okwui Okpokwasili 1:04
Françoise Vergès 12:32
Denise Ferreira da Silva 26:03
Grada Kilomba 41:18
Lorraine O’Grady 1:08:42
Closing Remarks by Simone Leigh and Annette Richter 1:25:39

Participant bios:

Denise Ferreira da Silva is Professor and Director of The Social Justice Institute-GRSJ at the University of British Columbia. She is also the principal editor for the Routledge/Cavendish book series “Law, Race, and the Postcolonial” (with Mark Harris and Rashne Limki). Her academic writings and artistic practice address the ethical questions of the global present and target the metaphysical and ontoepistemological

Grada Kilomba is an interdisciplinary artist and writer. Her work draws on memory, trauma, race, gender, and the decolonization of knowledge. In her work, she creates a hybrid space between academic and artistic languages, and makes use of performance, staged readings, installations, and video to give body, voice, and image to her own texts. She is the author of “Plantation Memories: Episodes of Everyday Racism” (2008).

Simone Leigh is an artist who works with sculpture, video, performance, and social practice. In “Loophole of Retreat”, an exhibition presented on the occasion of Leigh winning the 2018 Hugo Boss Prize, she layers form, sound, and text to fashion narratives of resilience and resistance. Leigh’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions including solo projects at The Kitchen, New York (2016); the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016); and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (2017).

Lorraine O’Grady addresses issues of diaspora, hybridity, and black female subjectivity, framing them in images and texts that use the diptych’s “both/and” thinking to destabilize the hierarchical either/or categories underpinning Western philosophy. Her artwork has been acquired by the Tate Modern, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.

Okwui Okpokwasili is a performer, choreographer, and writer creating works that draw viewers into the interior lives of women of color, particularly African and African American women, whose stories have long been overlooked and rendered invisible. Her productions are experimental in form, bringing together elements of dance, theater, and the visual arts. She is currently a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.

Françoise Vergès was Chair of Global South(s) at the Collège d’études mondiales in Paris, part of the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme. Vergès was a feminist and antiracist journalist and editor in the 1980s, before doing her BA and PhD in the United States (PhD in Political Theory at University of California, Berkeley). Vergès is an active teacher, scholar, and curator.


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