MFA thesis exhibition 2021: Carrying the Thick Present

MFA thesis exhibition 2021: Carrying the Thick Present

Syracuse University

Courtesy of Yasser Aggour.

July 20, 2021
MFA thesis exhibition 2021
Carrying the Thick Present
July 23–August 8, 2021
Opening Reception: July 24, 3–8pm
Governors Island
House 406B Colonels Row
New York NY

“The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present.” —Donna J. Haraway[1]

In her book Staying with the Trouble, Donna Haraway names her notion of the “thick present” as “the temporality of the thick, fibrous, and lumpy ‘now’ which is ancient and not,”1 an ongoing now that “collects up inheritances and makes ongoing possible.”[2] The thick present is Haraway’s expanded notion of temporality, one that is attached to the past that is not reduced to the instantaneous present. Before Covid-19 hit the world, Anna Tsing wrote that “precarity is the condition of our time.”[3] For Tsing, precarity is about being vulnerable to others, is indeterminacy, is living and dying “in capitalist ruins.” Tsing suggested that “one value of keeping precarity in mind is that it makes us remember that changing with circumstances is the stuff of survival.”[4] Thinking with Haraway and Tsing, this exhibition understands the ongoing temporalities of the thick present as ongoing precarity, and conceives these artists’ works as engaging with and telling their life stories by Carrying the Thick Present.

During the last year, the participating artists in this exhibition have experienced lockdown and the adoption of social and physical distancing. They experienced isolation, loss and grief, just like the rest of us. These works emerged out of such conditions, out of the uncertainty of precarious thick presents. Artists had to reconsider their practice and to rethink their (and our) ways of being with others. Under such circumstances, they have found in art-making a way to cultivate their conditions for ongoingness, for healing and for staying alive.

The overarching themes of Carrying the Thick Present takes shape by reflecting upon three interrelated notions: intimacy (companionship, affect and love), fabulation (fabricating the real through speculative storytelling), and trauma (traumatic histories and presents, from war, violence and social conflicts). It is by working through these notions that these artists have found their ways for engaging with, telling and carrying the thick present we live in. 

[1] Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), 206.
[2] Donna J. Haraway, “Making Oddkin in the Chthulucene,” in The Anthropocene Consortium Lecture Series (Evergreen State College, 2016),
[3] Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins (Ewing: Princeton University Press, 2015), 20.
[4] Tsing, 20; 27.

Participating artists: Matthew John Apol, Joshua David Baker, Katlyn Brumfield, Allison DeBritz, Jiayu Kang, Gregory G. Mizak, Linda Moses, Brett Morgan, Aanchal Raisahib, Ayesha Rumi, Ryan Somelofske, Catherine Spencer, Kristina Starowitz, Maya Stern, Britton Matthew Thorp, Katherine Virag, Faezeh Tabatabaeimanesh, Shane Zhang II

Curated by Manuela Hansen.

Manuela Hansen’s field of research includes contemporary art with a focus on the posthuman turn, institutional critique, and Latin America. Through a posthumanist feminist lens, she focuses on artists that can be seen as challenging pervasive dualisms in Western thought. Hansen served on the steering committee of Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery and on MALBA Joven’s steering committee (Young Friends Association of the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires). She has worked as Adjunct Professor of Latin American and Argentinean Art in Universidad del Salvador, Argentina (2016-2019); as Project Manager of Art Basel Cities: Buenos Aires (2017-2019); and as Artistic Director of Buenos Aires Art Week (2019). Manuela earned her Bachelor of Arts (with Honors Diploma) in Arts Management and Art History at Universidad del Salvador, Argentina, and received her MA in Modern and Contemporary Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies from Columbia University with a Fulbright scholarship. Manuela is Assistant to the Curator and Managing Editor for the 2022 Biennale Arte, Venice.

Governors Island is accessible by ferry. Visit the Governors Island website for visitor information.

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Syracuse University
July 20, 2021

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