As part of her exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion, Simone Leigh brought together scholars, artists, and activists from around the world for a major project, Loophole of Retreat: Venice.
Organized by Rashida Bumbray with curatorial advisors Saidiya Hartman, University Professor at Columbia University, and Tina Campt, Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media, Brown University, the three-day symposium comprised dialogue, performances, and presentations centered on Black women’s intellectual and creative labor.
Loophole of Retreat: Venice built on an eponymous one-day convening held in 2019 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The conceptual frame is drawn from the 1861 autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, a formerly enslaved woman who, for seven years after her escape, lived in a crawlspace she described as a “loophole of retreat.” Jacobs claimed this site as simultaneously an enclosure and a space for enacting practices of freedom—practices of thinking, planning, writing, and imagining new forms of freedom.
The symposium was guided by key directives including:
Maroonage: Maroons refer to the people who escaped slavery and created independent communities on the outskirts of enslaved societies. This directive is informed by the artist Deborah Anzinger’s explorations of fugitivity and resistance in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, which is a site of historical refuge and resistance for Maroons.
Manual: This directive is inspired by the Manual for General Housework from Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. Meaning of or pertaining to the hand or hands.
Magical Realism: Magically real forms are the music, literature, and movement languages developed by Black people in the New World as a result of the catastrophes of colonialism and the middle passage. Rather than only a literary genre, Magical Realism as defined by Caribbean poet and theorist Kamau Brathwaite is a larger cacophonous movement with multiple representations, the plural instant and collective improvisation—a radical disruption of Western progressivist history.
Medicine: This directive is inspired by how we cope with the natural and supernatural world around us using the qualities of science, plants and animals. It draws on our approaches to diverse ailments; physical, spiritual, natural, and supernatural. For this gathering, we consider the work of root and leaf doctors, traditional healers and conjurors of the rural Black American South and the global South.
Sovereignty: The title of the U.S. Pavilion exhibition, Sovereignty, speaks to notions of self-determination, self-governance, and independence for both the intellectual and the collaborative.
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Read participant bios —>
Black Quantum Futurism
Aimee Meredith Cox
Denise Ferreira da Silva
Zakiyyah Iman Jackson
Daniella Rose King
Negarra A. Kudumu
Las Nietas de Nonó
Annette Lane Harrison Richter
Lisa Marie Simmons
Mabel O. Wilson