Public Program

In Dialogue: On Aimé Césaire and “Specters of Noon”

In Dialogue: On Aimé Césaire and “Specters of Noon”

In conjunction with the exhibition at the Menil Collection, Allora & Calzadilla: Specters of Noon, the artists Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla are joined by writers Johanna Auguiac, Molly Nesbit, and Roberto Tejada for a conversation tracing the influences of the Martician poet and theoretician Aimé Césaire in the making of Specters of Noon.

In Allora & Calzadilla’s work Penumbra, 2020, a digital projection with sound, the artists recreate the effect of light passing through foliage in the tropical forest of the Absalon Valley in Martinique. This Caribbean location was the site of a series of now-mythic hikes that took place in 1941 with Césaire, his wife Suzanne, and a group of artists and Surrealists, including André Breton, who were temporarily stopped on the island as they fled war-torn France enroute to America. A series of scenes guided by images, sounds, poetry, storytelling, and improvisation, the program considers Césaire’s integral role in the explorations of colonialism, environmentalism, and the afflictions of the “noonday demon,” themes that are central to Specters of Noon.

Attending the program:

This program takes place online. The live event will stream directly on the museum’s website and on the Menil’s YouTube channel. Submit your questions for the speakers in advance and during the program to programs@menil.org.“

About the speakers:

Since 1995, Jennifer Allora (b. 1974, United States) and Guillermo Calzadilla (b. 1971, Cuba) have built a research-based practice that engages with the history of art and responds critically to the intersections among culture, history, and geopolitics. The duo produces interdisciplinary works combining performance, sculpture, sound, video, and photography. Their work has been exhibited extensively internationally, and they have participated in many biennales, including the 56th and 51st Venice Biennials. Allora & Calzadilla live and work in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Johanna Auguiac is currently the director of the Fondation Aimé Césaire in Martinique. She is the founder of the JM’Arts Gallery (2002-2012) as well as of the BIAC Martinique. She is an independent curator and has co-curated for the Festival Tout-Monde, Miami; the Memorial Act, Turning Tide, Guadeloupe; the Festival Les Météores, France; Les Francophonies, France; and Maditierra, Cuba, among others.

Molly Nesbit is an art historian, writer, and Professor of Art at Vassar College, where she teaches on modern and contemporary art, film, and photography. Her books include Atget’s Seven Albums, 1992; Their Common Sense, 2000; The Pragmatism in the History of Art, Periscope, 2013; and Midnight: The Tempest Essays, Inventory Press, 2017. She has received many awards, notably from the Guggenheim Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. In 2019 she received the College Art Association’s Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art. In the spring of 2020 she became a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Roberto Tejada is the author of Still Nowhere In an Empty Vastness, 2019, a Latinx collection of essays and poetics on colonial settlement and cultural counter-conquest in artworks and writing of the Americas. He is also the author of the poetry collections Full Foreground, 2012, Exposition Park, 2010, and Mirrors for Gold, 2006. His books of art history include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment, 2009, and Celia Alvarez Muñoz, 2009. He is the Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor in Creative Writing and Art History at the University of Houston.