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Play, Concentrate, Remember: The Interwoven Histories of Latinos and Mainstream USA

February 11, 2012 @ 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Listen to a recording of this event recorded by WBEZ as a part of Chicago Amplified. Chicago Amplified is a web-based audio library of diverse educational events recorded throughout the Chicago region.

Distinguished scholars in the fields of art history, anthropology, cultural studies, political sciences and sociology engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue about a number of the themes and issues raised in Suarez’s Memoria (Memory) installation. The symposium will run from 1 pm to3 pm, followed by a reception sponsored by the Center for Latino Research at DePaul University.

The conversation will be moderated by artist and DePaul University professor, Bibiana Suarez and includes the following participants:

  • Gilberto Cárdenas, Professor of Sociology, Julián Samora Chair in Latino Studies, Assistant Provost, Director, Institute for Latino Studies and The Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) at the University of Notre Dame
  • Delia Cosentino, Associate Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, DePaul University
  • Arlene Dávila, Professor of Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU
  • Maria de los Angeles Torres, Professor and Director of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program at UIC.
  • Juana Goergen, Associate Professor of Modern Languages, DePaul University

Each panelist will present for approximately 20 minutes on the proposed topic in the following order (beginning at 1 pm):

Utopias de latinidad: Espacios donde la memoria re-configura realidades /
Latino Utopias: Spaces Where Memory Re-Configures Realities
Presenter: Juana Goergen
Associate Professor of Modern Languages, DePaul University

Inspired by Suárez representations of the ‘collective memory’ as a ‘collective game’, Dr. Goergen will explore how these topics are relevant to the U.S. Puerto Rican imaginary. Through the works of several U.S. Puerto Rican artists, such as Juan Sánchez (Ricanstructions), and Pepón Osorio (I Have a Story to Tell You) the presentation aims to demonstrate how these artists are creating new definitions of Latinidad by: 1) using mass-produced denominators in their exploration of stereotypes and cultural identities and, 2) mixing aspects of their Puerto Rican and U.S. Latino experiences to challenge traditional aesthetics.  These artistic strategies of contemporary artists like Sánchez and Osorio ultimately create a ‘utopist and/or dystopic’ reality in which a cultural history and cultural identity emerge and reconfigure the boundaries of their particular Latinidad and sense of social justice. For these explorations, Goergen will follow the precepts of Juan Pablo Dabove in his seminal work, Utopia and the Politics of Memory.

Through Commerce, For Community
Presenter: Arlene Dávila
Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, New York University

Dr. Dávila will examine Suárez’s work and will place it in conversation with that of Miguel Luciano, another artist whose work questions notions of mainstream and commercial culture, as conduit to a larger conversation about how Latino artists navigate a mainstream art world that shuns matters of identity and race. More specifically, Dávila will explore how their artistic play on commercial culture helps to revalidate and anchor the value of communities through art-work that is simultaneously assertive and critical of identities, especially of narrow and commodifiable forms, while systematically questioning the preeminence of neoliberal logics and economies. Foremost, this presentation will reflect on some of the larger processes that affect the fate of most Latino artists, involving the narrowing of spaces for showcasing their work, and the limiting of their creations through frameworks that either narrowly fit them into strict identity categories or entirely disavow matters of community and identity.

Mapping Memory and Bridging Borders in Post-Revolutionary Mexico City: Edwards, Wyman and the Transnational Construction of Identity
Presenter: Delia Cosentino
Associate Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, DePaul University

Building out from Suárez’s interest in a “history of exchanges” Dr. Cosentino‘s talk considers the work of two US artists working in post-revolutionary Mexico City: painter Emily Edwards in the 1930s, and graphic designer Lance Wyman in the 1960s. In keeping with interests of the Mexican intellectuals supporting them, their visions of that capital city were both locally and internationally significant. Their creative works bridged national, artistic, temporal, linguistic and spatial boundaries in ways that may help us explore the dynamic ways in which the construction of memory itself might be seen as a transnational process.

At the Heart of the Matter: Latin American immigration and the Changing Contours of Nations
Presenter: Maria de los Angeles Torres
Professor and Director of the Latino and Latin American Studies Program, University of Illinois at Chicago

Latin America and the United States share a colonial European past that contributes to a broader hemispheric identity, even if it is not always understood in this way. Still there is an intimate relationship that has included the presence of Latin Americans in the US. Peoples from Latin America have in multiple ways found themselves in the geographic boundaries of the United States.

Through conquest, colonization and labor arrangements, people from Latin America have become part of the United States. At times, laborers and political refugees have been accepted, but more often people have been marginalized, racialized and kept out of the political community. Globalization has accelerated the movements of people across borders. In the context of the declining power of the United States and in the midst of an economic crisis, fear of the immigrant has reached historic proportions.

More immigrants have been deported than in any other time of US history at the same time that Latinos are have become the “largest minority” in the population. Latinos of multiple generations and countries are contributing to the changing contours of not only the United States but their own home countries as well. Even as borders are reinforced, they are also more porous. Their contributions are economic, political and cultural. In addition, they are creating new identity formations that are based on common destinies and languages. Dr. Torres will be talking about how artist Bibiana Suárez’s work presents and interrogates the linear renditions of Latin American immigration and suggests new ways of understanding and experiencing the presence of Latinos in the US.

Illuminating the American Story for All
Presenter: Gilberto Cárdenas
Professor of Sociology, Assistant Provost and Director of the Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame

Drawing from a report to the President and Congress by a commission he is part of, Dr. Cárdenas’ presentation will address the role of a proposed national museum dedicated to the American Latino on the mall of our nation’s capitol. The proposed National Museum  of the American Latinoseeks to re-center Latino life and culture into the core of the American formation. Dr. Cárdenas will explain how a museum in our nation’s capitol will help us to better understand and value Latino life and culture, thus enabling us to remember the past, encounter the present, and negotiate the future through collections, preservation, exhibitions and programs.

This event is free and open to the public and held in conjunction with the current exhibition Memoria (Memory), lead sponsor Sara Lee Foundation


February 11, 2012
1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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5020 S. Cornell Avenue
Chicago, 60615
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