Precarity, Resistance, and Contemporary Art from the Americas

October 19–20, 2018

Supported by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

In 1967, Hélio Oiticica voiced the rallying cry “On Adversity We Thrive,” arguing through his art practice and his writings the tension between precarity and resistance. This tension persists in recent art from Latin America and the Latino United States, intensified by the rise of neoliberalism, crony democracy, and racist nationalism. Artists and architects from Abraham Cruzvillegas, Teddy Cruz, and Regina Galindo, to Oscar Muñoz, Milagros de la Torre, and Tania Bruguera have made precarity a central generative force in their work. A state of insecurity and uncertainty, whether economic, political, cultural, or physiological—the normalization of emergency—is a tool of late capitalism and biopolitical governance. It is also symptom of the profound dehumanization of life by the illicit drug trade, xenophobic immigration policy, and ecological degradation. However, we should not confuse one precarity for another, as states and capital operate unevenly across the world, and precarity, as the above artists posit, may also be both a wellspring and an archive of resistances. We should also, following Christine Ross, consider the unsettling and resettling of vision and spectatorship, and of identification and disidentification, that come from such processes. As Frantz Fanon and Raymond Williams both argue, resistance is not only the ejection of an oppressor or strategies for survival but also the transformation of the structures of injustice—as well as the representations (images, words, spaces) used to justify and maintain them.


Marc Gotlieb, Director of the Graduate Program and Class of 1955 Memorial Professor of Art, Williams College

George Flaherty and Robin Adèle Greeley


Mari Rodríguez Binnie, “Unfolding the Geometry of Dissent”
Megan Sullivan, “From Utopia to Resistance”

Sean Nesselrode Moncada, “Extractive Precarities: The Aesthetics and Economies of Petroculture in Venezuela”
Amy Sara Carroll, “Slow Cinema, Slow Violence: Resituating (Natalia Almada’s) Undocumentation”

Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, “Ana Kamien’s Mutable Bodies: A Precarious Systems’ Art and the Untold Story of CAyC”
Irene Small, “Subjecting Matter: How to Inhabit Networks”

Ana María Reyes, “Architecture of Vulnerability and Resilience in Symbolic Reparation”
Anna Dezeuze, “Alegria—por que não?”


Participants Included

Mari Rodríguez Binnie, Williams College
Amy Sara Carroll, University of Texas at Austin
Anna Dezeuze, École Supérieure d’Art et de Design, Marseille Méditerranée
George Flaherty, University of Texas at Austin (Convener)
Robin Adèle Greeley, University of Connecticut (Convener)
Sean Nesselrode Moncada, Rhode Island School of Design
Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, Birkbeck, University of London
Ana María Reyes, Boston University
Irene V. Small, Princeton University
Megan A. Sullivan, University of Chicago

Invited Guests
María Isabel Baldasarre, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Argentina
Fernanda Pitta, Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil