Context & Conversation: “Who’s There?”
Co-presented with Providence Public Library
Community Partner: Sophia Academy
Inspired by Tanya Saracho’s Fade
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At every encounter with a new person we are looking for cues to tell us who’s there. How do we analyze features, clothing, build, coloring, accent, mannerisms – and what assumptions do we make from those? And is the other person focused on the same cues when meeting us? Do they interpret what they see as we would? Can they see past what we want to present to what we hope no one might notice? Can either of us trust our judgement? Or do first impressions always tell us more about ourselves than the other person? Join artist Josephine Devanbu of “Look At Art. Get Paid.” and Pegah Rahmanian, the Director of the Unity Center at Rhode Island College, for a conversation about learning to doubt our eyes and ears, if only momentarily, in order to better see and hear the world around us.
Panelists and Scholar:
Madison Paulk is a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Brown University. Her primary focus is urban anthropology and public art in South Africa. Specifically, she is interested in the ways in which visual artistic practice transforms and transects multiple experiences of the city. As South Africa moves into its twenty-fifth year of democratic governance, she engages with the ways in which black South African artists interpret and reflect socio-political changes, frustrations around the unchanged, and visions and promises for the future. Furthermore, she is interested in the ways in which visual artists incorporate indigenous knowledges into their works and what aspects of this are reflected in a re-imagining of Durban as both a post-apartheid city and an African city.
Josephine Devanbu sees art making as a vital space to prototype new ways of being and working together. She is committed to fighting for a more just distribution of the resources that support artistic production. In collaboration with fellow artist Maia Chao, Josephine runs Look at Art. Get Paid., a socially engaged artwork that pays people who don’t visit art museums to visit as a critic of the art and institution. Cash payment reframes museum attendance as work rather than leisure, reversing flows of knowledge and capital and bringing new energy to discussions about the future of art museums by investing in the expertise of those who haven’t been served by them. First piloted at the RISD Museum, Look at Art. Get Paid. is now expanding to a cohort of museums through a partnership with the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Josephine lives and works at the Dirt Palace, an artist-run space in Olneyville. She also works at RISD where she helps students and faculty develop and fund inquiry-based art and design projects.
Pegah Rahmanian is the Director of the Unity Center at Rhode Island College and was formerly the Executive Director of Youth in Action. Originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio her work and heart have taken her to Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland, and now Providence. While making her way across the country, she has had the opportunity to develop and grow a youth-led HIV Prevention Program, instituted citywide and institution wide programming on gender, race, class, and sexuality; guided youth steering committees to design community schools, pioneered digital media arts programs, and has taken over 300 urban youth outdoors, backpacking and camping. Pegah holds a B.A. from Oberlin College in Anthropology, Comparative American Studies, and Gender and Women Studies; and a M.A. from Wright State University in Sociology.