Given the coursework and dissertation requirements of a PhD program, it is rare that graduate students are able to find the time and resources to curate their own exhibitions. Realizing Itinerant Belongings therefore speaks to Cortez and Ickes’s drive and ingenuity. When asked how they were able to feature artists of such caliber, Ickes replies: “Iggy and I made a list of the artists we were interested in including in the show. We drafted a curatorial pitch, and we were thrilled that they all agreed.”
Noting that issues of displacement and uprooting are not exclusive to a single discipline, Cortez and Ickes worked with the School of Arts and Sciences, PennDesign, and Slought to realize Itinerant Belongings. “We wanted our exhibition to resonate across disciplines, and we are incredibly pleased that it has been cosponsored by so many different departments, from Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies, Annenberg School of Communication, The School of Social Policy and Practice, and many more,” states Cortez.
In addition to the exhibition, Cortez and Ickes are organizing several public programs where visitors can discuss ideas of home and belonging. On Thursday, November 20, Bartana will give a lecture and participate in a conversation with Nora M. Alter, Professor in the Department of Film and Media at Temple University, at the Institute of Contemporary Art. On Wednesday, November 5th, Slought will host a screening of Louis Massiah’s The Bombing of Osage Avenue, a 1986 documentary focusing on the Philadelphia Police Department’s bombing of MOVE, a black liberation group, on May 13, 1985. Ickes observes: “It’s an incredibly powerful documentary that was made only a year after the bombing. The film offers an interesting lens to talk not only about West Philadelphia but also recent events related to national and international police violence.” This event will include a conversation between Penn History of Art professor Karen Beckman; Massiah, who is also the founder and executive director of the Scribe Video Center; and artist Vaughn, who cites the 1985 bombing as influential to her work.
In addition to the official programming, Ickes and Cortez are reaching out to arts-oriented undergraduate students at Penn. “We are also organizing a series of specialized tours and conversations for undergraduates,” Cortez nods. “Enhancing accessibility was key to our mission so we wanted to create events where undergraduates can feel comfortable engaging and responding to the work.”