EADJ to explore artistic activism with online panel discussions

Vanderbilt University’s Engine for Art, Democracy and Justice will focus on art as a means of resistance and achieving societal change when it resumes its two-year program, Artistic Activism and the Power of Collective Resistance, on Sept. 7.

 EADJ, founded by María Magdalena Campos Pons, an Afro-Cuban American artist and the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Art, is a trans-institutional partnership involving Vanderbilt and Fisk universities, the Frist Art Museum and Millions of Conversations.

“By launching Art, Democracy, and Justice in 2018 as part of my appointment at Vanderbilt, I encouraged a hard and frank series of conversations on the difficulties and entanglement of art today, its imbrication in our imperfect American democracy and its unbalanced justice system—in the South, particularly,” Campos Pons said.

“Our current program, curated by Selene Wendt, an art historian, independent curator and writer based in Oslo, speaks to the significance of this movement.”

Wendt is the author of Beyond the Door of No Return: Confronting Hidden Colonial Histories through Contemporary Art, published recently by the Africa Institute.

image of Selene Wendt standing in front of gray wall
Selene Wendt, EADJ 2022/2023 curator

“We are at a time in history when socially engaged art practices are more important than ever,” Wendt said. “In direct response to the countless social, economic and racial injustices experienced by individuals throughout the world, an increasing number of contemporary artists are extending beyond their studio practice and leading the way in terms of increasing socio-political awareness and implementing societal change through art. We hope to foster inclusive, meaningful dialogues and collaborations that go beyond academia and the art world.”

Artistic Activism and the Power of Collective Resistance will feature a series of panel discussions, also called “episodes,” along with more than 30 artworks—including installations, performances, film screenings, sonic works, poetry readings, creative workshops and collaborative projects—throughout Nashville during 2022 and 2023.

To view the episodes from spring 2022, please visit the EADJ website.


Episode 4: “The Future of Unity: Artists Leading the Way,” Sept. 7, 10 a.m. CT

Register here.

This panel focuses on three artist-led platforms in the Global South where local actions, initiatives and opportunities are prioritized. Each of these spaces reflects a clear artistic vision conveyed through dynamic, interdisciplinary programming that also provides an opportunity for artists to engage in residencies, exhibitions, talks and other initiatives. Located in Trinidad (Alice Yard), Kenya (the Nest Collective) and Jamaica (NLS Kingston), the platforms are thriving local spaces that set the standard for what is possible in terms of artist-led initiatives.

Moderated by Rashida Bumbray, panelists include Christopher Cozier, Jim Chuchu, Deborah Anzinger and Joseph “doughjoe” Love.

Episode 5: “Global Black Consciousness through Time and across Geographies,” Sept. 21, 10 a.m. CT

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This panel, moderated by Salah M. Hassan, brings together contemporary African and African diasporic artists whose research and artistic practices are in keeping with the idea of global Black consciousness as a unifying concept of solidarity. As addressed in the award-winning special issue of NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art: Global Black Consciousness and throughout Hassan’s extensive research and scholarship on the topic, the panel focuses on global Black consciousness, understood as “both a citing of diasporic flows and a grounded site of decolonizing movement.”

Panelists include Manthia Diawara, Joy Gregory, Adama Delphine Fawundu and Ndidi Dike.

Staying Power Monument Lab by Ebony G. Patterson, who will be installing a reprint of the same project from Philadelphia in Nashville this fall.

Episode 6: “Healing and Transcendence through Radical Decolonial Gestures,” Oct. 5, 10 a.m. CT

Register here.

This panel brings together four contemporary artists whose research and artistic practice put them at the forefront of decolonial thinking. These artists effectively challenge the legacy of colonialism and the continued prevalence of colonial power structures. More specifically, their work helps to rewrite and reframe the past, enabling individuals to rethink how they can fight the social injustices of our time and imagine a more just future for all.

Moderated by Selene Wendt, EADJ program curator for 2022–23, the panel discussion includes Sasha Huber, Nyugen E. Smith, Cosmo Whyte and Grada Kilomba.

Episode 7: “Poetic Justice,” Oct. 19, 10 a.m. CT

Register here.

This panel highlights the works of several poets whose poems, spoken-word performances, collaborative initiatives and community-based workshops convey the power of poetry to raise societal awareness and to foster community engagement. The inherent musicality of poetry, as well as its potential sociopolitical function, is reflected in poetic practices that also resonate on a societal level, as witnessed through artistic collaborations that speak the language of solidarity and empowerment.

Moderated by Selene Wendt, EADJ program curator for 2022–23, the panel discussion includes Ishion Hutchinson and Aja Monet, among others.

Visit the EADJ website for details about the fall 2022 artist interventions and 2023 panel discussions to be announced soon, or email Anaïs Daly, EADJ program manager.