November 28, 2014

“Going the Distance: Cultural Work in Far-flung Political and Geographical Spheres”

Vera List Center for Art and Politics

Yevgeniy Fiks, Postcards from the Revolutionary Pleshka, 2013. Courtesy the artist.

The third of a series of seminars investigating political engagement through various artistic and cultural practices including dis-engagement, boycotts, or other modes of withdrawal, Going the Distance” delves into cultural and political work over great distances—physical, political, philosophical, social, financial, or cultural. In a world in which technological innovation characteristic of late capitalism has collapsed time and space to diminish distance, how do we connect with other geographies and people via artistic production? In locations where the political situations on the ground are unclear, complex, dangerous or unstable, and information and news are unreliable and nuanced, how do cultural workers contend with knowledge-gathering, research, communication, and production? What methodologies do artists and cultural producers employ to activate the power of digital communication when the power of in-person human contact has been paralyzed?

The Back Room’s Ava Ansari and Molly Kleiman kick off the seminar at 5pm with the screening of a short film featuring architectural historian Craig L. Wilkins and Ava Ansari’s joint reading of the Remix Section of his Aesthetic of Equity, respectively in English and in Farsi. A discussion follows with Ansari and Kleiman on the translation process and Wilkins’s notion of “code switching” from academic to vernacular black register; the politics and challenges of translating vernacular speech; and specific examples of “untranslatables” in the English and Farsi text.

From 6:30 to 9pm Ansari and Kleinman present their work more broadly, connecting their specific practices to the larger problematics of cross-border engagement. They are joined by artists Melanie Crean and Yevgeniy Fiks in this conversation on modes of engagement that transcend various borders of geography, culture, language; abstract notions of working across great distances, and the specific practicalities of their realization; and the importance of deconstructing perception in the face of the reality of cultural assumptions.

Film screening and discussion

Presentations by participants

Discussion with questions & answers

Melanie Crean
Yevgeniy Fiks
Ava Ansari and Molly Kleiman, The Back Room


This is third of five seminars, which will culminate in a public colloquium in spring 2015, examining how culture can enact and perform change within a politics of disengagement.

The program is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics as part of the center’s 2013–2015 curatorial focus on Alignment. It is curated by Carin Kuoni, director/curator, Vera List Center, and Laura Raicovich, CreativeTime’s Director of Global Initiatives.

For the Resource Guide—featuring related readings—and additional information on past and future programming in the boycott series, please visit our website.


Vera List Center for Art and Politics
Founded in 1992 and named in honor of the late philanthropist Vera List, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics is a public forum for discussion on the role of the arts in society and their relationship to the sociopolitical climate in which they are created. The Center organizes programs, seminars, workshops, performances, exhibitions, classes and publications that respond to some of the pressing social and political issues of our time. It focuses on cultural production that emerges from within and outside the traditional art world and seeks to intervene in contemporary political debates. Positioned where scholarship develops into resource, policy and civic engagement, the center calls on the university community, the people of New York, and national and international audiences to explore new possibilities for civic engagement.

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