Image Credit: Dome Construction, August 1974, The Records of CHARAS, Inc., Archives of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY


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Join us for a conversation with cultural activists, artists, and scholars Nandini Bagchee, Libertad O.Guerra, and Todd Ayoung. Led by Gregory Sholette, and focusing on past, present, and future forms of collective self-organizing in the face of ongoing economic, political, environmental, and aesthetic crises, the group will discuss the construction of urban counter-institutions in the defunded ruins of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970s, as well as Community Land Trusts and ecologically structured social zones that have emerged since the 1980s, despite neoliberal privatization and displacement. As we confront present-day struggles over hyper-gentrification, racialized policing, and an insidious political threat from white supremacists recently targeting people of Asian descent, their conversation will outline how collective resistance can repurpose, repair, and re-imagine community liberation as a space of hope, resilience, and cultural emancipation.

Meet the Speakers

Todd Ayoung is a multimedia/media transdisciplinary cultural worker originally from Trinidad and Tobago. His art practice focuses on political and autobiographical themes and his work and research has been exhibited internationally. He is a founding member of the REPOhistory collective, on the steering committee for New York City’s PEOPLE’S CULTURAL PLAN, and a member of the Godzilla artist collective, which recently withdrew from the Museum of Chinese in America’s planned retrospective dedicated to the group’s activism in protest against the Museum’s complicity with and receipt of money from NYC’s interborough jail plan.

Nandini Bagchee is an associate professor at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College of New York (CUNY) and principal of Bagchee Architects. Her research focuses on activism in architecture and the ways in which ground-up collaborative building practices provide an alternative medium for the creation of public space. Nandini is the author of Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side (Fordham University Press, 2018). Her built-work and writing has been published in the New York Times, Interiors Now, Urban Omnibus, and the Journal of Architectural Education. She is the recipient of grants from the Graham Foundation, New York State Council ofn the Arts, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Her research-based design work involves ongoing engagement with politically active organizations such as the Western Queens Community Land Trust, Interference Archive, Cooperation Jackson, and the Laundromat Project.

Libertad O. Guerra is an urban anthropologist, curator, and cultural organizer / producer with 15 years of experience in arts management. Her academic research / symposia has focused on Puerto Rican, Latinx, and NYC’s social-artistic movements and cultural activism in im/migrant urban settings. Several of her exhibitions have been featured in Art Net best exhibitions of the year, and listed by the New York Times list of 10 Galleries to Visit Now on the Lower East Side. In 2020 she became the Executive Director of The Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Education Center in downtown Manhattan and was recently awarded the Mellon’s Foundation grant for New Director’s Vision. Guerra is also a co-founder of the South Bronx Unite environmental justice coalition and serves as a member of the Mott Haven / Port Morris Community Land Stewards board.

Dr. Gregory Sholette is a New York-based artist, writer, activist, and curator of Imaginary Archive: a peripatetic collection of documents speculating on a past whose future never arrived. His art and research theorize and document issues of collective cultural labor, activist art, and decolonial historical representation after 1968. A graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program (Critical Theory, 1996); Cooper Union (BFA, 1979); UC San Diego Visual Art Program (MFA, 1995); and the University of Amsterdam (PhD, 2017), Sholette is also co-founder of the collectives Political Art Documentation/Distribution (1980–88), REPOhistory (1989–2000), and Gulf Labor Coalition (2010–ongoing), and author of Delirium and Resistance: Activist Art and the Crisis of Capitalism (2017), Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (2011), Art As Social Action (with C. Bass, 2018), and the forthcoming book, The Art of Activism and the Activism of Art from Lund Humphries (2021). Along with his colleague Chloë Bass, Sholette co-directs Social Practice CUNY (SPCUNY), a new Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded art and social justice initiative at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.