Watch Now! Chicago… and other such stories

Watch Now! Chicago…and other such stories: a conversation about the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Monday, October 5 at 1pm EST
ICI Online
FREE and open to the public.
Register for this online event here

In September 2019, the third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial opened with projects by over 80 architects, designers, and artists. Titled …and other such stories, the Biennial was curated by Yesomi Umolu, Sepake Angiama, and Paulo Tavares.

Taking an approach that has since only increased in relevance, the curators looked beyond Chicago’s place in the canon of modern architecture and proposed a reading of the city and its built environment that drew from a history of colonial expansion, extraction economies, migration, and ecological concerns.

A year later, we revisited the exhibition with its curatorial team, based in Chicago, London, and Brasilia. The discussion focused on their take on the Biennial, their research-driven methodology, and how their interest in pedagogy manifested throughout the exhibition.

The 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial is rooted in close readings of the spatial realities of its host city. Sitting at the crossroads of the Great Plains and the Great Lakes, Chicago has been shaped by planetary forces: colonial expansion, mass migration, extraction economies, and rapid industrialization. Thus, Chicago’s urbanism is inextricable from the flows of people, goods, and capital—and the concurrent exploitation of bodies, labor, and nature—that have contributed to its making. Today, despite the promise of economic development, Chicago, like many other established and emergent global metropolises, faces challenging urban conditions that require the reimagining of forms of exchange between human activity, technology, and the natural world. By extension, owing to its physical geography, Chicago is a singular context in which to address climate and ecological concerns shared by many postindustrial societies.
More info on the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial here.


This program is a part of our ICI’s Curator’s Perspective series. The Curator’s Perspective is a free, itinerant public talk series featuring established U.S. and international curators, who present on their work and research. It was developed to offer audiences ways to connect with timely information and a wide variety of international perspectives on contemporary art and curating today. The series sheds light on movements and models that are shaping the curatorial field today, addressing questions about art, culture, and the artists and exhibitions that curators look to.

The Curator’s Perspective series has been made possible, in part, by a grant from the James Howell Foundation and by generous contributions from the ICI Board of Trustees and ICI Access Fund. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with City Council.


Image Caption: ConstructLab, ‘How Together,’ 2019. Courtesy of Chicago Architecture Biennial/Cory Dewald, 2019

October 5, 2020


Sepake Angiama

Sepake Angiama is the artistic director of the institute for international visual art in London- a curator and educator, whose praxis lies in the discursive and social framework, in order to collectively rewrite our understanding of the world. This has inspired her to work with artists who disrupt or provoke aspects of the social sphere through action, radical forms of pedagogy, and architecture. While in her position as Head of Education, Documenta 14 she initiated the project Under the Mango Tree - a self-organized gathering of unlearning practices. The second edition (Visva Bharati, Santineketan) brought together artist-led spaces, libraries, and schools interested in unfolding discourses around decolonizing education practices that destabilize the European canon, through examining alternative epistemologies, notions of unlearning, and indigenous knowledge. Sepake was the co-curator for the third edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial where her research led her to engage with architects who are embedded in transforming the city through pedagogy, direct action, and community engagement.

Paulo Tavares

Paulo Tavares is an architect and writer based in South America. He is the author of Forest Law (2014), Des-Habitat (2019), and Memória da Terra (2018). Tavares’s work has been featured in exhibitions and publications worldwide, including the São Paulo Art Biennial, the Oslo Architecture Trienniale, and the Istanbul Design Biennial. Tavares co-curated the Chicago Architecture Biennial 2019.

Yesomi Umolu

Yesomi Umolu is Director and Curator, Logan Center Exhibitions at the University of Chicago where she leads an ambitious program of international contemporary art focused on emerging interdisciplinary practices. Umolu also teaches courses in contemporary visual art and spatial practices as a lecturer in the humanities division. Prior to joining the Logan, Umolu held curatorial positions at the MSU Broad Museum; Walker Art Center; and Manifesta 8, the European Biennial of Contemporary Art. She has also contributed to programming at the Serpentine Galleries and Tate Modern.

Umolu has worked on key solo exhibitions and commissioned projects with Assemble, Ursula Biemann, and Paulo Tavares, John Akomfrah, Mike Cloud, Mariana Castillo Deball, Kapwani Kiwanga, Candice Lin, Harold Mendez, Camille Norment, Karthik Pandian, and Andros Zins-Browne, among others. As Artistic Director of the 2019 Chicago Architecture Biennial (2018-2020), Umolu oversaw a critically acclaimed curatorial program featuring new commissions, off-site installations, and a host of performances, talks, workshops, and community engagements with over 80 international contributors.

Umolu is a 2016 recipient of the prestigious Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship. She has been a visiting lecturer and critic at numerous universities including Williams College; University College London; University of Michigan; and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, among others. She served on the curatorial advisory board for the United States Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. She is a trustee of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Chicago.

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