Angela Davis and Isaac Julien in Conversation
Activist, educator, and author Angela Davis joins artist Isaac Julien to discuss his immersive, moving-image installation Lessons of the Hour and Frederick Douglass’ resonant voice in contemporary racial and social justice movements. Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” Davis now urges her audiences to consider the future possibility of a world without carceral systems and to help forge a twenty-first-century abolitionist movement. The program is moderated by Sarah Lewis, associate professor of history of art and architecture and African and African American studies at Harvard University.
The West Coast premiere of Lessons of the Hour at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts includes an exhibition of Julien’s related photography and selections from the McEvoy Family Collection that further explore questions of identity, justice, history, and image-making in the film installation. New Labor Movements, a resonant original program of film and video shorts curated by Leila Weefur, explores contemporary visions of America and concepts of transnational Blackness. A series of online conversations with these artists and invited thinkers and scholars take place throughout the run of the exhibition.
Angela Davis is an activist and scholar who has been deeply involved in movements for social justice around the world. Her work as an educator—both at the university level and in the larger public sphere—has emphasized the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice. She is the author of ten books, including Women, Race and Class (New York, NY: Vintage, 1981); Blues Women and Black Feminisms: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday (New York, NY: Vintage, 1999); Are Prisons Obsolete? (New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003); The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues (San Francisco, CA: City Lights, 2012);and most recently, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement (Chicago, IL: Haymarket Book, 2016). She draws upon her own experiences in the early seventies as a person who spent eighteen months in jail and on trial, after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.” Having helped to popularize the notion of a “prison industrial complex,” she now urges her audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without carceral systems and to help forge a 21st century abolitionist movement. Davis is professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Isaac Julien, CBE RA (b. 1960) is an artist, filmmaker, and educator whose multi-screen film installations and photographs incorporate different artistic disciplines to create a poetic and unique visual language. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark; The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; MAC Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the De Pont Museum, Netherlands; Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Pompidou Centre Paris; and MoCA Miami. He has exhibited at the La Biennale de Venezia, Johannesburg Biennale, Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, and Shanghai Biennale. Julien is the recipient of The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston Award 2017 and was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2017. He is currently a Distinguished Professor of the Arts at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he is developing the Isaac Julien Lab. He lives and works in London and Santa Cruz.
Sarah Elizabeth Lewis is an associate professor at Harvard University in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of African and African American Studies. She is the founder of the Vision and Justice Project. Lewis has published essays on race, contemporary art, and culture, with forthcoming publications including a book on race, whiteness, and photography (Harvard University Press, 2021), Vision and Justice (Random House), an anthology on the work of Carrie Mae Weems (MIT Press, 2021), and an article focusing on the groundwork of contemporary arts in the context of Stand Your Ground Laws (Art Journal, Winter 2020). In 2019, she became the inaugural recipient of the Freedom Scholar Award, presented by The Association for the Study of African American Life and History to honor Lewis for her body of work and its “direct positive impact on the life of African Americans.”