For our first Third Thursday of Spring Semester 2021, CEE opened with Deborah Thomas offering comments on Jenny Chio's work as a filmmaker, a writer, and also as a fieldworker, followed by an introduction to the work and background of Reggie Wilson, who is a choreographer, researcher, and artist
Jenny offered preliminary comments on her experience of returning to teaching and the change in priorities since COVID-19 and quarantine, as well has how impressed she has been with the resilience she has seen in LA and around the world.
Reggie spoke about identifying as a "lay anthropologist" in his artistic practice, drawing from his experiences reading Zora Neale Hurston. While reading Hurston as a student, Reggie began asking questions about what it means for him to examine cultures and communities that he is a part of. He reflected on his virtual travel back and forth between home sites, like Milwaukee, and the place of his work in New York, given the exigencies of COVID, and how the places you are, and who you are and what you are shape what your questions are and what your questions have been
Deb, asking after the way Jenny works, followed with a provocation about the relationship between people and place and what holds that relationship together. Jenny responded with the obligation to locality, and not the same as the obligation to countries. As well as the different ways she herself is coming to terms with both critique of nation and the support experienced within nations, contributing to who she is as ascholar. She spoke of the need for space to define such relationships ina way that is both critical and empathetic, critical and supportive.
Reggie spoke both of people and place as concepts that are both "infinite," the difference groups we expand into. It plays out in who you are and what you are trained to do, that influence of locality, of place, is not small in who we are. If people is the body, or the bodies, then place, or choreographic space, is the "where the body does its things". Also, Reggie offered reflections on place not just as a physical site outside the body, but place as site---place can be within one's head, or a specific spot on a wrist.
Jenny continued with reflections on portraiture and people and place, specifically, in portraiture asking what is the place that gets created in the contact between person and place. Furthermore, how people and objects come to make a place within the realm of portraiture.
In the question and answer session, Ore asked after process and positionality starting with Reggie who spoke of going first to begin research, the ways it moves between non-linear explorations and the pressure to make it linear for the sake of grant writing. But once established, there is a a research period, followed by being in the space, feeling it out, then sometimes the need to bring the company in, or part of the company, so that several people can begin moving in a space, then external forces and pressures to define it, to find definitions for the sake of presenting and funding.
Jenny Chio reflected on being introduced to a particular site for her PhD, and how things have unraveled between one village she worked in, the loss of touch with the field, and the way that a difference developed in relationship between towns and between times. She is thinking critically about preserving and nurturing relationships, and the work that it takes. And the difference in time in the research relationship, both over time, and in the way the length of time spent in research changes so dramatically.
Jenny also went on to speak of portraiture as context, the roll of setting, the relationship between the sitter and the photographer, and also the sitter and all the objects, the sites involved.
Jasmine Blanks-Jones posed a question about personhood to the speakers, asking for comments about how and where personhood is located. doesn't just reside in a body but between bodies, between individual bodies.
Reggie than offered reflections on site and place---the example of dance exploring site, diving into it. The need to understand different definitions of site.
Va Bene Elikem Fiatsi, posed a question about place in the context of the term "Africans in the Americas", and the mutations and relationships that the term implies. Reggie responded by turning attention tot the importance of local specifities and places in the lives of artists and people, and the critical process of "local" sites in shaping who people are.
PENN MUSEUM 336