On November 3, 2017, and introduced by New School Executive Dean Mary Watson, Maria Thereza Alves will receive the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018 including Yoko Ono's sculpture The Third Eye for Seeds of Change, the Brazil-born artist's long-term project in its first presentation in the Americas. Seeds of Change explores the social, political and cultural history of ballast flora in port cities and reveals patterns, temporalities and instruments of colonialism, commerce and migration over many centuries.
Following the prize presentation Carin Kuoni, Director/Curator of the Vera List Center, moderates a conversation on the prize-winning project and its repercussions in the current political moment between Maria Thereza Alves and Saidiya Hartman, Professor at Columbia University and author of Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-making in Nineteenth Century America and Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route.
The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Vera List Center in 1992, a time of rousing debates on freedom of speech and identity politics, the Culture Wars in the U.S, and challenges to society's investment in the arts. In a radically changed world, new articulations of related conflicts are now erupting with similar fervor throughout the world – and the Center is marking its 25th anniversary with two major assemblies: in November 2017, the international conference on art and social justice, celebrating the third Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics, and in April 2018, a celebration of twenty-five years of Vera List Center Fellows.
On the brink of the elimination of federal arts funding in the U.S., widespread xenophobia, forced global migration, environmental destruction, and ongoing systemic racism, the Vera List Center Prize Conference this November looks at the urgent and necessary work of the recipient of the third Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics and the five Prize Finalists: the London-based interdisciplinary research agency Forensic Architecture; the artist coalition Gulf Labor; House of Natural Fibers (HONF), a new media arts laboratory in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; IsumaTV, a collaborative multimedia platform for indigenous filmmakers and media organization in Canada; and MadeYouLook, an artist collective based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The conference will survey the field of art and social justice by mining the exemplary projects of the Vera List Center Prize Finalists for their capacity to make legible urgent issues around the world, and to model ways in which to successfully address them. Each exchange includes writers, thinkers and scholars from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, and respondents from The New School community. The Friday panels are centered on Maria Thereza Alves' prize winning project Seeds of Change and culminate in a keynote conversation between her and Saidiya Hartman. This is followed by the presentation of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018 to Alves and the opening of her exhibition Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization. On Saturday, the focus is on the projects of the Finalists, and the ways theirs resonate with Alves' Seeds of Change.