Moving Chains: Toward Abolition
May 21, 2023
On the occasion of Charles Gaines’s monumental work Moving Chains, Creative Time and Governors Island Arts present a day-long public program on Governors Island bringing together an interdisciplinary group of artists, scholars, and educators working on strategies for abolition in art, law, education, and political action.
The day’s workshops, talks, presentations, and walking tour center on the possibilities and limitations of achieving abolition through the law. The contested, moving, and blurred lines between people and property persists today as one of the foundations of racial capitalism, the economic and structural afterlife of slavery. As scholar, and panelist, Saidiya Hartman argues, while discussing the specters of freedom, the political and legal structure of liberty is a permutation of slavery—freedom can never be possessed, only shared. Moving Chains: Toward Abolition offers an opportunity to consider how freedom can be defined outside of the contours of property, considers past examples of movements using the law in the fight for freedom, and ultimately asks whether abolition and the law are compatible or not.
Organized by Diya Vij, Curator at Creative Time, with Che Gossett, scholar of abolition and contemporary Black art, co-organizing the session panels; and artist and educator Tiffany Lenoi Jones, co-organizing the drop-in workshops.
Click here to register via Eventbrite. All events are free and open to the public. Capacity is limited, please register for each of the day’s events you plan to attend in advance. See ferry schedule to plan your trip on and off the island.
10-10:45AM: BLACK GOTHAM EXPERIENCE GUIDED TOUR
Click here to register for walking tour
Join founder of Black Gotham Experience, Kamau Ware, to walk the River Years tour on Governors Island. The pathway chosen by Ware explores the colonial patterns that have informed a centuries-long relationship with what are known today as the East River, the Hudson River, and New York Harbor. The tour leaves from Soissons Landing where the Governors Island ferry arrives at 10AM sharp and returns to Castle Williams prior to the morning session.
Access note: The tour covers from Soissons Landing to Moving Chains and then back to Castle Williams for roughly one hour. The ground is paved and at times has an uphill incline. There will be no transportation available for this tour.
11AM-1PM: MORNING SESSION
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Grounding and Land Acknowledgement by Black Gotham Experience
Presentation by Tali Keren and Alex Strada, 28th Amendment Project
Abolition and the Law
Panelists: American Artist, Albert Fox Cahn, and Kameelah Janan Rasheed, moderated by Che Gossett
The panel “Abolition and the Law” brings together artists American Artist and Keemalah Janan Rasheed in conversation with lawyer Albert Fox Cahn, Founder and Executive Director of Surveillance Oversight Technology Project (S.T.O.P.), moderated by Che Gossett. Together, the panelists will discuss the intersection of art, law, surveillance, and abolition. How do redaction, bracketing, and constraint exist within the context of surveillance and the legal system? How might art become a vehicle for exposing, negotiating, and moving past the structure of the law and towards new possibilities for abolition?
Presentation by Sarah Abdelaziz, Executive Director, Abolitionist Teaching Network
Visit a selection of food trucks at Colonels Row outside the event or other Governors Island dining spots to purchase lunch. Guests are also welcome to pack their own lunch.
Black Gotham Experience Lunch Circle
Join Kamau Ware for a talk back on the history and ideas covered in the morning session.
28th Amendment Soap Box Installation
Visitors are invited to engage by listening to these sonic sculptures that build upon the history of soap boxes as sites of collective struggle and record their own additions to this work.
12-3PM: DROP-IN WORKSHOPS
Drop into multigenerational artmaking workshops and gatherings to collectively imagine freedom while learning about the possibility, necessity, and stakes of teaching abolition today. This program is organized by Tiffany Lenoi Jones with Akiea “Ki” Gross and Noor Jones-Bey, grantees of the Abolitionist Teaching Network.
Click here to register for session
Presentation by artist Russell Craig, Right of Return
Architectures of Freedom
Panelists: Torkwase Dyson, Cameron Rowland, and Rinaldo Walcott
Scholar Rinaldo Walcott will think alongside and in concert with artists Torkwase Dyson and Cameron Rowland about how freedom might be actualized and spatialized, the places freedom inhabits and takes. What are the architectures and infrastructures of freedom? How might freedom be shared, rather than monetized, privatized and racialized as property? What is the role of art in making freedom(s) possible in the midst of slavery’s global social and aesthetic afterlives?
Three Types of Freedom, performance by Rena Anakwe
A live sound collage inspired by the rhythms of waterways, abolition and the pieces of light crackling at the surface when considering “how to (truly) get free.” Featuring sounds from Charles Gaines’s Moving Chains, Anakwe creates an improvisational live score featuring field recordings, found sounds, cassette tape, voice, tank drum and synth textures.
In Conversation: Charles Gaines and Saidiya Hartman
Join artist Charles Gaines and luminary scholar Saidiya Hartman for an intimate conversation on Gaines’s monumental work Moving Chains, with Hartman stepping in to fill the place of the previously scheduled Christina Sharpe. Gaines and Hartman will discuss aesthetic strategies addressing race and power within the United States project, in order to reorient ways of seeing, being and doing amidst the afterlives of slavery. Considering Christina Sharpe’s framework of “wake work,” introduced in In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (Duke University Press, 2016), the two will theorize on the capacity of art to engage with the contours of Black life that emerge in the wake.
5:00 & 5:30PM: Governors Island ferries depart for Manhattan
6:00PM: Last ferry to Manhattan departs
Ferries to Governors Island are wheelchair accessible with ramps that lead on and off the ferry. There is an uphill incline after getting off the ferry near a set of concrete stairs and an accessible ramp.
Wheelchair-accessible trams leaving from Soissons Landing at the Governors Island ferry stop are available to guests, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for travel to the event by tram.
All presentations and panels will have ASL interpretation.
For questions or to request other accommodations, please contact: email@example.com
Kamau Ware, Black Gotham Experience
Established in 2010 by artist/historian Kamau Ware, Black Gotham Experience creates media at the intersection of scholarship and aesthetics that illustrates the impact of the African Diaspora missing from collective consciousness as well as the public square. We reimagine the spaces directly impacted by the African Diaspora as human stories explored through interactive walks, talks, events, and art. The heart of these experiences are five core stories that revisit Manhattan in 1623 and move forward through three centuries: Other Side of Wall Street, Sarah’s Fire, Caesar’s Rebellion, Citizen Hope, and State of Mirrors.
Alex Strada and Tali Keren, 28th Amendment Project
Alex Strada (she/hers) and Tali Keren (she/hers) are NYC-based artists and educators who have been collaborating together since 2016. Their projects have been shown at the Queens Museum, NY; Yerba Buena Center for the Art, San Francisco, CA; Anthology Film Archives, NY; Socrates Sculpture Park, NY; Goethe-Institut, NY; Museum of Moving Image, NY; MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Austria; Kaunas Biennial, Kaunas, Lithuania; and on the screens of Times Square with Times Square Arts’ Midnight Moment. Their projects have been featured in The New Yorker, New York Times, Vice, Montez Press Radio, New York Magazine, and on NPR’s The Brian Lehrer Show. Strada and Keren both received an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University. They are recipients of the 2022 New York Artadia Award and are 2022-2023 artists-in-residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts.
American Artist makes thought experiments that mine the history of technology, race, and knowledge production, beginning with their legal name change in 2013. Their artwork primarily takes the form of sculpture, software, and video. Artist is a 2022 Creative Capital and United States Artists grantee, and a 2021 LACMA Art & Tech Lab Grantee. They are a former resident of Smack Mellon, Red Bull Arts Detroit, Abrons Art Center, Recess, EYEBEAM, Pioneer Works, and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. They have exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art; MoMA PS1; Studio Museum in Harlem; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland; and Nam June Paik Center, Seoul. Their work has been featured in New York Times, Cultured, Artforum, and Art in America. Artist is a co-director of the School for Poetic Computation and a full-time faculty at Yale.
Kameelah Janan Rasheed
A learner, Kameelah Janan Rasheed (she/they), grapples with the poetics-pleasures-politics of Black knowledge production, information technologies, [un]learning, and belief formation. They are a recipient of a 2022 Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research, a 2022 Creative Capital Award, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Rasheed is the author of three artist’s books: An Alphabetical Accumulation of Approximate Observations (Endless Editions, 2019), No New Theories (Printed Matter, 2019), and the digital publication Scoring the Stacks (Brooklyn Public Library, 2021). Their writing has appeared in Triple Canopy, The New Inquiry, Shift Space, Active Cultures, and The Believer. They are an adjunct instructor at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a Critic at Yale School of Art, Sculpture, and a Mentor-in-Residence with NEW Inc. Rasheed is represented by NOME Gallery in Berlin, Germany.
Albert Fox Cahn, Esq., Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
Albert Fox Cahn is the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project’s ( S.T.O.P.’s) founder and executive director. He is also a Practitioner-in-Residence at N.Y.U Law School’s Information Law Institute and a fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project, Ashoka, and TED. As a lawyer, technologist, and activist, Albert has become a leading voice on how to govern and build the technologies of the future. He started S.T.O.P. with the belief that local surveillance is an unprecedented threat to public safety, equity, and democracy.
Albert is a frequent commentator, with more than 100 articles in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Guardian, WIRED, Slate, NBC Think, Newsweek, and other publications. His TED Talk has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times. He frequently lectures at leading universities and speaks at leading technology governance forums. Albert previously served as an associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where he advised Fortune 50 companies on technology policy, antitrust law, and consumer privacy. Albert also serves on the New York Immigration Coalition’s Immigrant Leaders Council, IEEE Standards Association P3119 AI Procurement Working Group, and is an editorial board member for the Anthem Ethics of Personal Data Collection. He was also a founding member of the the New York Immigrant Freedom Fund’s Advisory Council. Albert received his J.D., cum laude, from Harvard Law School (where he was an editor of the Harvard Law & Policy Review), and his B.A. in Politics and Philosophy from Brandeis University.
Sarah Abdelaziz, Abolitionist Teaching Network
Sarah Abdelaziz is a former classroom educator as well as an organizer/activist who has worked in fostering and supporting community centered struggles for over 10 years. Sarah is from the global and national south and finds inspiration and meaning in fighting alongside the communities they find themself in: queer people of color who are rowdy because they know they deserve more.
Abolitionist Teaching Network’s (ATN) is an organization committed to developing and supporting those in the struggle for educational liberation by utilizing the intellectual work and direct action of abolitionists in many forms. We work to realize the freedom dream of abolition by amplifying, resourcing, and bringing together the educators, organizers, parents/caregivers, and students who have been in the trenches for years or who are beginning to struggle today. ATN is working to constructively build a vision of education that is rooted in abolition, self-determination, Black & indigenous feminisms, and disability justice that can act as a north star for our movements. We believe that in order to fight for more than survival we must invest in the radical imaginings of our visions through rest, strategizing, movement work, and community.
Tiffany Lenoi Jones, Co-organizer, Moving Chains: Toward Abolition
Tiffany Lenoi Jones is an artist, educator, activist, storyteller, and healer. She is committed to unearthing the intersections of our stories to provide opportunities for transformation and healing. She believes in the power and alchemy of imagination and creativity as essential tools of liberation. Her life mission is to provide a dose of TLC (tender love and care) within each interaction to foster a community that shares the ability to teach, learn, change, create, and/or challenge (TLC).
She is a proud Harriet’s Apothecary Leadership Circle Member & Healer. She works collaboratively with the collective to foster spaces that encourage wellness, care, and liberation of black people through the creation of healing spaces. She is the first Educator in Residence for Art & Social Justice at the New Museum. She co-founded and organized the New Museum’s Convening for Contemporary Art, Social Justice, and Education. She is a 2021 Abolitionist Teaching Network Grant Winner and a 2021 FLAG Award: Teaching Excellence Award Finalist. Since 2010, she has served New York City as a High School Art Teacher in the New York City Public School system. During her career as an art educator, she has created curricula and experiences rooted in critical pedagogy of love, liberation, healing, and transformative justice.
Akiea “Ki” Gross, Woke Kindergarten
Akiea “Ki” Gross (they/them), a former instructional coach and classroom teacher, is an abolitionist early childhood educator, creator and cultural organizer currently innovating ways to resist, heal, liberate and create with their pedagogy, Woke Kindergarten. Woke Kindergarten is a visionary, creative portal and abolitionist early learning ecosystem supporting children, families, educators and organizations in their commitment to abolitionist early education and pro-Black, queer & trans liberation.
Noor Jones-Bey is a transdisciplinary educator, researcher and artist from the Bay Area, CA. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY where she is pursuing a PHD in Urban Education at the Steinhardt School and holds fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Urban Doctoral Research Initiative and the Graduate Research Institute at NYU. Noor is program director of EXCEL at NYU, a critical literacy and college access program for youth in the South Bronx housed at the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. Noor received an M.A. in Sociology of Education from New York University and a B.A. in American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Noor’s interests engage across disciplines of sociology, education, Black and Native studies, and visual culture to examine issues of liminality, identity, space and power as they relate to education. Her dissertation work examines intergenerational knowledge of Black womxn and girls navigating in and out of schools. In her spare time, she loves to cook, dance, run marathons, travel, and stir up good vibes.
Russell Craig, Right of Return
Russell Craig (b. 1980, Philadelphia, PA) is a self-taught Philadelphia-based artist. Craig is the co-founder of Right of Return, USA, the first national fellowship dedicated to supporting formerly incarcerated artists. Craig’s work is a part of the Brooklyn Museum’s permanent collection and has been featured in institutional exhibitions including Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration at MoMA PS1; an installation at the Philadelphia African American Museum; Truth to Power as part of the 2016 Democratic National Convention; State Goods: Art in the Era of Mass Incarceration, a collaboration with the Center for Justice at Columbia University; and Blood, Sweat, and Tears, his first solo exhibition, at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. He has been a featured speaker on panels focused on the criminal justice system, and was recently a guest speaker at the 10th Annual Student Engagement Lecture Series at Manhattan College, organized by the Black Student Union and Student Engagement. Craig’s work has also been featured in group exhibitions at Martos Gallery, Aperture Gallery, and Malin Gallery. Dark Reflections at Malin Gallery is Craig’s first solo exhibition in New York City.
Torkwase Dyson describes herself as a painter working across multiple mediums to explore the continuity between ecology, infrastructure, and architecture. In addition to participating in group exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; and California African American Museum, Los Angeles, Dyson has had solo exhibitions and installations at Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago; Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Philadelphia; and Suzanne Lemberg Usdan Gallery, Bennington College, Vermont.
Cameron Rowland lives and works in New York. Their work is grounded in a critique of property. Rowland’s work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Museum MMK für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Galerie Buchholz, Cologne, Germany; Établissement d’en face, Brussels; Artists Space, New York and Essex Street / Maxwell Graham, New York. They have participated in group exhibitions at the The National Gallery, Washington D.C.; 33rd Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil; Secession, Vienna; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York and elsewhere.
Rinaldo Walcott is Professor and Chair in the Department of Africana and American Studies at the University of Buffalo; there he is also the Carl V. Granger Chair in Africana and American Studies. Rinaldo’s research focuses on the cultural expression of Black life with an interest in the transnational, diasporic and the national crosscurrents of Black creativities. Rinaldo is the author of a number of single authored, co-authored, and co-edited books. His more recent work is The Long Emancipation: Moving Toward Black Freedom (Duke, 2021) and On Property: Policing, Prisons, and the Call for Abolition (Biblioasis, 2021) which was short-listed for the Toronto Book Award in 2021. Currently Rinaldo is working on two monographs, one on freedom and the sea, and another on Black queer expressive culture. A third work seeks to grapple with the possibilities of achieving utopia from the grips of the catastrophe that threatens to consume all of planetary life. Rinaldo was born in Barbados. He divides his time between the city of Buffalo and the city of Toronto.
Rena Anakwe (she/her), based in Brooklyn, New York, by way of Nigeria and Canada, is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, poet and healer working primarily with sound, visuals, and scent. Exploring intersections between traditional healing practices, spirituality and performance, she creates works focused on sensory-based, experiential interactions using creative technology. Most recently, she was awarded a 2022 Art Matters Artist2Artist Fellowship, a 2021-2022 MacDowell Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Arts, a 2022 Jack Nusbaum Artist Residency at BAM and the 2021 Canadian Women Artists’ Award from NYFA & the CWC of New York. Rena has collaborated, produced, and shown work at (select list): The Guggenheim Museum, SCAD Museum of Art, Counterpublic, The Momentary, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Basilica Hudson, TFNA (Theatre for a New Audience), Park Avenue Armory/NY Live Arts, En Garde Arts/Brookfield Place, Weeksville Heritage Center and the Dia Foundation.
Under the moniker A Space for Sound, Anakwe released the first in an ongoing audio series titled “Sound Bath Mixtape vol. 1,” through New York City-based label and collective PTP. In Fall 2021, her album “Sometimes underwater (feels like home)” was released through RVNG Intl’s Commend THERE series.
A pivotal figure in the field of conceptual art, Charles Gaines’ body of work engages formulas and systems that interrogate relationships between the objective and the subjective realms. Using a generative approach to create a series of works in a variety of mediums, he has built a bridge between the early conceptual artists of the 1960s and 1970s and subsequent generations of artists pushing the limits of conceptualism today. Gaines lives and works in Los Angeles. He recently retired from the CalArts School of Art, where he was on faculty for over 30 years and established a fellowship to provide critical scholarship support for Black students in the M.F.A. program. A survey exhibition of his work will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in the fall of 2023. His work has also been the subject of numerous other exhibitions in the United States and around the world, most notably at Dia:Beacon, San Francisco Museum of Art, The Studio Museum, Harlem NY, and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles CA. His work has also been presented at the 1975 Whitney Biennial and the Venice Biennale in 2007 and 2015. In addition to his artistic practice, Gaines has published several essays on contemporary art, including ‘Theater of Refusal: Black Art and Mainstream Criticism’ (University of California, Irvine, 1993) and ‘The New Cosmopolitanism’ (California State University, Fullerton, 2008). In 2019, Gaines received the 60th Edward MacDowell Medal. He was inducted into the National Academy of Design’s 2020 class of National Academicians and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in May 2022.
Saidiya Hartman is the author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (1997; Norton, 2022); Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007) and Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (Norton, 2019), which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, and the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction, the Mary Nickliss Prize from the Organization of American Historians, the Judy Grahn Prize for Lesbian Nonfiction, and the John Hope Franklin Prize from the American Studies Association. She received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2019 and was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2022. She is a member of the Royal Society of Literature and University Professor at Columbia University.
Che Gossett, Co-organizer, Moving Chains: Toward Abolition
Che Gossett is a Black non-binary critical theorist specializing in queer & trans studies, abolitionist thought and black study. They are currently the Racial Justice Postdoctoral Fellow at the Initiative for a Just Society at Columbia Law School. Recently, Che was a visiting fellow at Harvard Law School in the Animal Law & Policy Program, and a visiting fellow in Art History at the University of Cambridge, at Corpus Christi College and the Centre for Visual Culture. Che is an alum of the Whitney Independent Study Program. They received a Ruth Stephan Fellowship from Beinecke Library at Yale University for the summer of 2022, working with Barbara Hammer’s archive. In fall 2022 they served as a visiting art critic at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. They are currently completing two book projects with Duke University Press, one on the activation of the aesthetics of abolition in Black contemporary art — and the other — a political biography of queer Japanese American AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya.
Diya Vij, Curator, Creative Time & Co-organizer, Moving Chains: Toward Abolition
Diya Vij is the Curator at Creative Time and is committed to critically investigating the evolving role of public art in politics and civic life. Over the past decade, she has held programming, curatorial, and communications positions at major New York City Institutions. At Creative Time, she commissions and stewards large-scale public art work, initiates public programs, and helps guide the curatorial direction of the organization. As the Associate Curator of Public Programs at the High Line, she organized dozens of live events and performances with artists, activists, practitioners, and healers. At the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Vij launched and co-directed the Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program. Additionally, she helped lead the Agency’s citywide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative, and played an active role in public monument efforts, as well as CreateNYC—New York City’s first strategic long-term plan for culture. She was a curatorial fellow and the communications manager at the Queens Museum from 2010–2014. She currently serves on the Board of the Laundromat Project and as the Co-Chair of the Board of A Blade of Grass. She is part of the Curatorial Ensemble for the Counterpublic 2023 public art triennial in St. Louis (on view from April 15 to July 15, 2023).