Published in the Spring / Summer 2017 ICI Brochure
Photo: Jennifer Myxter-Lino
How would you define your work as a curator?
As curators and artists we think about symbols, and are usually good at using them within galleries and public spaces. So I’ve been thinking about what kinds of symbols are useful going forward.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently organizing an exhibition that will open at Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center at the end of March called The Black Presidential Imaginary. The exhibition is a continuation of The Presidential Library Project that explores cultural and artistic production related to Barack Obama’s Presidency and Black presidents in U.S. popular culture. The symbolism of a Black president is enormously powerful. To some, it is a threatening symbol and to others it is an empowering symbol.
Who are the artists you are excited to work with right now?
There are some great artists working in this territory. Aisha Cousins from New York is an artist that has been organizing the Soulville Census, a symbolic census that targets the Black diaspora and is a critique of the U.S. Census. In recent history the Census has been used to build gerrymandered districts by the Democratic and Republican parties to make safe districts that reduce the power of dissenting votes. This reduces public power and amplifies the power of the two party system in the U.S. Cousins’ census asks value and identity based questions that are qualified and hard to quantify. The questions resist gerrymandering because they are subjective and nuanced. The Soulville Census presents a critical symbolic alternative that allows for conscience building about the Census.
Aram Han Sifuentes’s current project Official Unofficial Voting Station: Voting for Those Who Legally Can’t at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum is another project that uses symbolic power to critic political bureaucracy. There are 11 million immigrants and 6 million people with felony convictions that are barred from voting. We at the Hull-House were the hub for 15 Official Unofficial Voting Stations across the country and in Mexico that collected over two thousand unofficial ballots from disenfranchised and discontented voters.
I’m looking for artists and projects like these that offer and reveal symbolic alternatives of the political bureaucracies that confer power and maintain status quo. Symbols work in the imagination, and that is pretty powerful territory in which they are engaged.
Ross Jordan is Curatorial Manager at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago, IL. He participated in the Curatorial Intensive in New Orleans, 2016.