About the Exhibition, Jurors, and Curators
What role does documentation play in the practice of protest- protest to forced silence, political oppression, and the inability to act? How does documentation work against the erasure of past violence from our collective memory? How does this form of documentation create new visions and new histories for the future? What unique strategies have women devised to reveal and address violence directed at disempowered social groups?
The guiding premise of “Women as Witness” is that the photograph has the power to insert memories that are all too often overlooked, into the context of resistance. “Women as Witness” re-energizes forgotten moments of past and present violence to create the conditions and motivations needed to bring about social change. By bringing together women artists, this exhibit unveils how women document resilience, resistance, and creative survival in an effort to propel all of us toward progress.
Asmara Pelupessy (US/NL) is editor, researcher and curator in photography and visual culture. She has enjoyed working in and between art and documentary practices in a range of capacities to support the creation, dissemination and contextualization of work that aims to broaden how we look at the world and each other. She received her MA in Photographic Studies from the University of Leiden and her BA in the Social History of Photography from University of California at Berkeley. She is co-editor of the book UNFIXED: Photography and Postcolonial Perspectives in Contemporary Art. The book concluded the multiplatform exhibition UNFIXED, conceived of and initiated by Asmara, together with artist and teacher Sara Blokland (NL). UNFIXED launched with an artist residency and commission from the city of Dordrecht by Keith Piper (UK). The group exhibition included five international artists and was the first time the work of American artists Hank Willis Thomas and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie was shown in the Netherlands. UNFIXED also included a graduate student workshop and a daylong symposium with a keynote from art historian and cultural critic Kobena Mercer (UK). Following this, Asmara was researcher and producer for Via PanAm, Dutch photojournalist Kadir van Lohuizen’s yearlong project on migration in the Americas. Throughout Van Lohuizen’s journey from Chile to Alaska, Via PanAm was published as an innovative iPad app and in top international media. Since then, the project has been published as a book and through an exhibition, which has toured Europe and Latin America. Asmara has also worked frequently at World Press Photo (NL) for various projects – most extensively as Archive Researcher – generating and expanding information and context for prize-winning photos from the organization’s contest archive, which was established in 1955. Asmara is currently Associate Editor at the Amsterdam-based photo agency NOOR Images. NOOR is a photographer-owned agency representing twelve documentary storytellers. Asmara runs communications for the agency, handles photographers’ materials and manages and works on special projects including exhibitions and educational initiatives.
Berette Macaulay was born in Sierra Leone of West African/Dominican/German-Czech descent. She was raised in Jamaica and the UK, is now based in New York. Her creative background is in the performing arts as an actor, dancer, theater technician, and as an avid creative and cultural writer – and each element consistently influences her visual arts practice.
Berette assumes the role of ‘soul witness’ in her photography and writing, introspectively observing her experiences and that of others to create traditional and conceptual portraiture, abstract imagery, and mixed media installations using digital, alternative, and analog work processes. She often works collaboratively with performers, choreographers, filmmakers, educators, and writers. She is most inspired by themes of inter-culturalism, spirituality, technology, memory, and mythology, and their effects on our behaviors and relationships. Berette is interested in creating work that reveals the source of human conflicts, as a subversive yet therapeutic effort to resolve them.
She has created, published, and exhibited works in Costa Rica, Germany, Hong Kong, Jamaica, UK, and cities within the US. Her recent writings have been featured in NPG London, OF Note Magazine, The Other Hundred, and the World Policy Journal. Berette has brought her experiences to young audiences as an educator, speaker, advocate, and board member in and for social art therapy projects with Caribbean and New York. She works with organizations such as Save Our Jamaica Foundation, INSCAPE Foundation, Art for Progress, Studio 174, CITYarts, ALATetc, and Trinity. This mix of expressive and social work also broadens her vocabulary in the active analysis of sociological and cultural matters as a curator, which she did most notably at NYFA-supported Taller Boricua Gallery for her originally proposed photo-based multimedia group show on immigration and its consequence of multicultural identities. The inauguration of the biennial show titled illusive self featured 46 works and 2 multi-piece installations by 18 emerging and established artists in this complex conversation of identity negotiations.
Berette’s concerns in advocacy and activism are first rooted by her own family history and exemplified by the legal and human rights work of her parents. Her particular interest in any work about women is rooted in the strong belief that any effort to strengthen our presence in arts, education, policy and leadership is the only way to sustainably bridge solutions for any other issue facing global citizens today. (insert) – A collection of her work is currently on view at the National Gallery of Jamaica in the exhibition: Explorations III: Seven Women Artists curated by Oneil Lawrence – a show that examines the relevance of ‘women’s art’ and if such a categorization aids or hinders gender parity in the arts.
Zoraida has studied art and activism across the world. She studied art history in Rome, Italy, interned at the Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, Italy, and studied photography at the University of the West Indies as well as Hunter College in New York City.
Zoraida’s installations, photographs, and performances pieces have been exhibited in galleries including Rush Arts, New York, Whitewall Gallery, New York, and the Paul Baldwell Gallery in Medellin, Colombia. She has curated shows throughout Latin America and the United States. Her images have been published in Vivienne Westwood’s “100 Days of Active Resistance,” Of Note Magazine, Good Magazine, World Policy Institute Journal, Women’s Voices for Change, El Diario, and most recently, NYU Alumni Magazine. She frequently lectures on her work and has given talks at institutions including Trinity College, Mt. Holyoke College, City College, and University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia.
In 2011, Zoraida received a grant co-sponsored by the United States Embassy to teach photography to youth in Medellin and create an installation based on the UN Declaration of Children’s Rights. During her time in Colombia, she also lived in a maximum security women’s prison in Medellin, taught photography to 12 inmates, and curated exhibitions, in both prison and galleries, based on this work; she returned to Colombia in January 2013 to continue her work, and focused on ways to improve community opinion, as a whole, on the incarcerated.
Zoraida is also the chair of the New York City chapter of National Black Female Photographers Group, a 400+ member group. She frequently teaches photography workshops to young boys and girls living in juvenile detention centers in New England and recently completed an artist residency teaching photography to adolescent girls in the South Bronx.
Qiana Mestrich is a photographer, writer, digital marketer and mother in Brooklyn, NY. In 2007, Mestrich founded the blog Dodge & Burn: Diversity in Photography History. With interviews and profiles of photographers of color, the blog aims to provide a more inclusive version of photography history, featuring contributions to the medium by underrepresented cultures. Mestrich is currently writing a book based on the blog scheduled for publication early 2017.
Mestrich is also co-editor of the book How We Do Both: Art and Motherhood (Secretary Press), a diverse collection of honest responses from contemporary artists who have walked—and are still walking—the tenuous tightrope of motherhood and making art. Now in its second edition, How We Do Both is available on Amazon with an eBook version coming soon.
A graduate of the ICP-Bard College MFA in Advanced Photographic Practice, Mestrich received her B.A. with a concentration in photography from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently the Associate Director, Digital Content and Engagement at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. This fall she will be speaking at the Fast Forward: Women in Photography conference at the Tate Modern in London.