Bringing Forward the Past (VIDEO)

July 24, 2018

February 16-17, 2018 | MISSISSIPPI MUSEUM OF ART


Using the bicentennial exhibition Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise as a lens through which to consider historical conceptions of Mississippi, as well as the larger South, this symposium engaged artists and scholars who are translating this history into new, multi-dimensional narratives and helping to chart a new path forward.

This event was sponsored by Ellen and Eason Leake and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council. Rhiannon Giddens appeared in concert with support from Maison Weiss and Caroll, Warren, and Parker. Our hotel sponsor was The Westin Jackson.


Keynote - Dr. Sarah Lewis


This address, delivered by noted author and Harvard art historian Dr. Sarah Lewis, marks the beginning of “Bringing Forward the Past: Art, Identity, and the American South” and lays out the overarching themes of the symposium. What is the relationship between art, justice, and the contestation for citizenship in a radicalized America, from the Civil War to the Black Lives Matter movement, from World War I to the Muslim Ban? This keynote will address this urgent question through a framework inspired by Frederick Douglass’ ideas about the role of images for American progress. Today, protests, state violence, natural disasters, grief and loss are all played out in photos and videos in real time unlike anything we thought possible just a few decades ago. This address makes a case for why images are playing an increasingly crucial role in justice in contemporary life.


Place in Contemporary Practice


This panel explores the ways that personal histories have shaped the artistic practices of two Mississippi-born artists, McArthur Binion and Noah Saterstrom. Using the Mississippi landscape and its literary precedents as the backdrop of the conversation, this panel looks at how drawing on memories of a place expands upon contemporary readings of identity, memory, history, and even myth. Moderated by Museum Curator Elizabeth Abston | Panelists include McArthur Binion and Noah Saterstrom.


Trauma and Memory


From the institution of slavery to the racial terror of the Jim Crow era to the present, pain has marked the history of Mississippi, the larger South, and the nation at large. This panel considers the role that visual art, particularly monuments and memorials, plays in constructions of history, heritage, and collective memory. Moderated by art historian Dr. La Tanya Autry | Panelists include artist Nona Faustine and scholars Dr. Dell Upton, professor in the Department of Art History at UCLA, and Dr. Robert Luckett, associate professor in the Department of History at Jackson State University.


Race, Space, and Abstraction


This panel investigates race, space, and abstraction as it relates to the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement. The panelists are artists whose work brings these issues to the surface: imagined space, space regulated and sectioned by laws (the black body in space), and forms of visionary representation which respond to the world and imagine it differently … the convergence of poetics and politics. Their work also leads into a broader question: What does it mean to make art at this heated moment and in the wake of segregation’s legacy? Moderated by LeRonn P. Brooks | Panelists include artists Torkwase Dyson, Felandus Thames, and Sheila Pree Bright.


Concluding Conversations


Concluding conversation moderated by Director Betsy Bradley.

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