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Ethical Art: Shirin Neshat, Carol Becker and Anna Deavere Smith

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Date and time
Saturday, November 06, 2010

This discussion is part of "Bodies on the Line", a 9-day colloquium at New York University, bringing together 9 artists and writers from across genres and around the world to share work, ideas and process. Our subject is borders. There are the real borders, such as the ones that are the focus in debates about immigration policy in this country and around the world. There are also political and ideological borders that divide us. On the one hand, borders limit us, and make us vulnerable. On the other hand we want to look at the possibilities and opportunities at border lines. Bodies on the Line considers the border as a point of energy and creativity in different regions and spheres of life. The symposium is structured around small working groups and some public presentations. Assisted by respondents, expert witnesses, and the collaboration of several universities and cultural organizations, Bodies on the Line Fellows explore each other's artistic representations and investigations of immigration, statelessness, and identity in the contemporary world. The goal of the colloquium is to create new artistic partnerships, to inspire future projects, and to use artistic practice as a way of investigating new and historical ideas. Above all, we seek to bring artists around a table to discuss, in their own unique ways, and with their own unique creative resources, some of the world's most pressing problems.

Anna Deavere Smith is an actress and playwright who is said to have created a new form of theater. She has won numerous awards, among them two Obies, two Tony nominations, a Drama Desk Award, the Susan V. Berresford Fellowship from United States Artists, and a MacArthur fellowship. She was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Fires in the Mirror. Her work, in a series called "On The Road: A Search for American Character," combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. She currently plays hospital administrator Gloria Akalitus, a series regular, on Showtime's hit series Nurse Jackie. Additional screen credits include The West Wing, The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Life Support, and others. Honorary degrees include those from Juilliard, John Jay College of Criminal Justice at CUNY, Northwestern, Haverford, and Radcliffe. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She has also been the inaugural artist in residence at the Ford Foundation, MTV Networks, and the Aspen Institute. She is a professor at New York University. She is founding director of Anna Deavere Smith Works, Inc., a center that convenes artists whose work addresses the world's most pressing problems.
Shirin Neshat, is an Iranian born artist/filmmaker whose work addresses the complex social and religious forces shaping the identity of Muslim women. Neshat was recognised for her portraits of women overlaid with calligraphy in the Women of Allah series. She also directed several video installations, among them are: Rapture (1999), and Turbulent (1998), which won her the International Award at the 48th Venice Biennial. Her solo museum exhibitions include shows at the Whitney Museum, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Arts, Athens; The Serpentine Gallery, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin and Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal. Women Without Men is her feature directorial debut.
Carol Becker is Professor of the Arts and Dean of the School of the Arts at Columbia University. She is the author of several books and numerous articles. Her books include: The Invisible Drama: Women and the Anxiety of Change (with numerous foreign editions), Zones of Contention: Essays on Art, Institutions and Anxiety, Surpassing the Spectacle: Global Transformations and the Changing Politics of Art. She is also the editor of The Subversive Imagination: Essays on Art, Artists, and Social Responsibility. Her most recent collection of essays: Thinking in Place: Art, Action, and Cultural Production.