Bodies of Power and Desire for a New Architecture / Unsuspending Disbelief Working Session #3

 Mar 04, 2016, 9:30 PM – 11:30 PM
 Gray Center Lab in Midway Studios, 929 E. 60th St., Chicago

Yamini Nayar, Head Over Heels, C-print, 2013. Image coutesy of the artist and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.

Laura Letinsky (Dept. of Visual Arts) hosts a series of working sessions with artists, curators, and scholars on topics related to the exhibition Unsuspending Disbelief in the Logan Center Gallery.  Join us for the conversation and reception. Free and open to the public.  RSVP appreciated but not required.

Bodies of Power and Desire for a New Architecture

Friday March 4, 3:30p in the Gray Center Lab

with Laura Letinsky, Sarah Luna, Yamini Nayar, DN Rodowick, Tejal Shah (remotely), and Yesomi Umolu.  

Photography's architecture engenders conventions and ideologies that organize not only spaces but the bodies within.  Working with an expansive notion of ‘bodies' (human, queer, architectural, institutional), this conversation seeks to explore how contemporary artists and curators contend with the long history of photography’s gaze and employ tactics of disruption and empowerment in their work.

About the participants

Sarah Luna is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Womens', Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Houston (2014-2016). Luna earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Chicago in 2013, and is currently working on her first book manuscript, Sex Workers and Missionaries Transforming Value on the U.S./Mexico Border.  Luna’s book project is based on her Fulbright-Hays funded dissertation research, which examined the projects of two kinds of migrants to a Mexican border city prostitution zone: (mostly Mexican) women who migrated to labor as sex workers and (mostly American) evangelical missionaries who migrated to build relationships with a 'modern day monastery' for sex workers. Luna has also participated in collaborative feminist conceptual art projects and performances with artists, academics, and curators in San Diego, Oaxaca, and Mexico City, and she hopes to continue these projects in Houston.

Yamini Nayar is a contemporary artist based in Brooklyn, New York who has exhibited nationally and internationally.  Nayar's practice focuses on "how architecture translates history and memory in the present and suppresses narratives and ideas of the uncanny, legibility and difference."  Nayar uses methods of abstraction through piecing together found materials and constructing images that are transformative, ephemeral, and reminiscent of ruined histories.  The architectural formations in the photographs become layered narratives that viewers are able to enter.  Nayar has exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum, Saatchi Gallery, Queensland Art Gallery, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Queens Museum, and United States Arts in Embassies (

DN Rodowick is the Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Sevice Professor in the Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago, with research interests in aesethetics and the philosophy of art, history of film theory, philosophical approaches to contemporary art and culture, and the impact of new technologies on contemporary society.  Publications include The Virtual Life of Film; Reading the Figural, or, Philosophy after the New Media; Gilles Deleuze's Time Machine; The Difficulty of Difference: Psychoanalysis, Sexual Difference, and Film Theory; The Crisis of Politicial Mondernism: Criticism and Ideology in Contemporary Film Theory; Elegy for Theory; and Philosophy’s Artful Conversation.

Tejal Shah (joining remotely) is a contemporary artist based in Goa, India, who incorporates video, photography, performance and installation into their work. Shah has had solo exhibitions in India, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States.  Shah's work has also been exhibited at the Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou, and Documenta 13.  Shah has a Bachelor of Arts in Photography from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and spent a year as an exchange student at the School of the Art Institute Chicago (

Yesomi Umolu is the curator at the University of Chicago's Logan Exhibitions.  Umolu specializes in discourses on art and globalization, with a particular focus on experimental film/video and spatial practices.  Before coming to Chicago, Umolu was assistant curator at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.  Umolu has been a Curatorial Fellow for Visual Arts at Minneapolis' Walker Art Center and held curatorial positions at the European Biennale of Contemporary Art Manifesta 8, region of Murcia, Spain and the Serpentine Gallery, London.  Umolu has contributed to programming at the Institute of International Visual Arts and Tate Modern, London.  Her writing has appeared in numerous catalogues and journals including Art in America and Afterimage; the Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism.

About Unsuspending Disbelief, the exhibition

Unsuspending Disbelief questions the notion of a straightforward relationship between the photograph, what it pictures, and what it 'means.' Drawing on traditional categories of picture making from portraits of a beloved to documentary and architectural photography, this exhibition considers strategies of recontextualization that displace the authority of the camera’s gaze. The exhibition features the work of eleven contemporary international artists, including Yamini Nayar, Mickalene Thomas, Paul Graham, Thasnai Sethaseree, An-My Le, Gauri Gill, Matthew Connors, Tejal Shah, Shumon Ahmed, and Lidwien van de Ven. Curated by Laura Letinsky, Professor in the Department of Visual Arts.  Read more here.