‘Archival Alchemy’ SAWCC’s 20th Anniversary Exhibition

Curated by Saisha Grayson | At Abrons Art Center
April 6–May 10, 2017

Opening Reception: April 6, 6-8 pm

Venue: Abrons Arts Center​, H​enry Street Settlement, 466 Grand Street (at Pitt Street) New York, NY 10002

Participating Artists:​ Golnar Adili; Marium Agha; Blank Noise (Jasmeen Patheja & anonymous Action Heroes); Priyanka Dasgupta; Sabba Elahi; Index of the Disappeared (Chitra Ganesh & Mariam Ghani); Amy Khoshbin; Maya Mackrandilal; Zinnia Naqvi; Yamini Nayar; Nirmal Raja; Patience Rustomji; Himali Singh Soin

The South Asian Women’s Creative Collective (SAWCC) is pleased to present its 20th anniversary visual a​rts exhibition, ​Archival Alchemy, ​guest curated by Saisha Grayson. Opening April 6, the exhibition takes over all three gallery spaces at Abrons Arts Center through May 10, and features thirteen artists and collectives from throughout the diaspora, working across artistic media to investigate the resonances found in an archival past on the contingencies of the present.

Archives are often cast as places of nostalgia—institutions for anchoring flights of fancy with the hard reassurance of facts; repositories for reinforcing “History,” capital “H” singular “y.” But those who take issue with the historical narratives that these archives traditionally uphold also find them productive resources for contesting the very stability and authority that they seem to ensure. Artists, especially those from diasporic and postcolonial positions, are critically positioned to work their magic on this archival fodder—rich with mutable, malleable material that can be remixed to new ends. ​Through this process, conventional understandings of a given reality are put through the grinder of repressed narratives, alternate experiences and gaps filled in by desire, imagination, and intuition. Along the way, artists confront the voids where evidence of individual lives, subversive strategies, and subaltern histories has been erased.

At a moment when South Asian communities, women and immigrant neighborhoods like the Lower East Side are being targeted by an evidence-averse administration, ​this exhibition will also offer an opportunity for nuanced reflection on the complex global and personal histories that shape conflicting views of our contemporary moment. Several works explore the role that archives play in creating official histories, papering over dissent and managing the disappearance of non-citizens, while others present or produce counter archives that resist such erasure and offer strategies for empowerment. These include a new site-specific work for Abrons Arts Center’s street-facing windows from ​Index of the Disappeared (2004 – present) ​, a collaborative project by artists Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani that charts the documentary trail of U.S. immigration and international policies post 9/11, and now in the era of Trump.

Special events in conjunction with “Archival Alchemy”:

Sunday, May 7, 2017, Time TBA: “Archival Resistance”
Using Archival Alchemy as platform to creatively respond to the rapidly shifting political landscape, this afternoon of programming brings together artists, activist and community leaders for brainstorming sessions, skill-sharing and workshops for those seeking increased visibility or strategic invisibility within the bureaucratic and digital archives of our day. Pop-up performances and engaged art-making for all ages will be ongoing in the galleries.

About the Curator
Saisha Grayson is a curator, writer, art historian and teacher focused on the intersections of contemporary art, feminist politics, and cultural activism. From 2011 to 2016, she was Assistant Curator at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she organized the Museum’s presentation of Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey, curated Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time, and co-curated Agitprop!. Most recently, she co-organized I want a president…(a collective reading – DC), a socially-engaged public art project that culminated in an action at The White House during the 2016 Creative Time Summit in DC. Grayson is also a Ph.D candidate at the Graduate Center, CUNY where she is finishing her dissertation, Cellist, Catalyst, Collaborator: The Work of Charlotte Moorman.  Her writing has appeared in print and online journals, including n.paradoxa, Moving Image Review and Art Journal (MIRAJ)e-flux and in museum and gallery publications.

Image credit: Priyanka Dasgupta, Where Straight Lines Fail, 2016. Installation (video, sculpture, archival documents), dimensions vary. Courtesy of the artist.

For additional information & press images or inquiries email: press@sawcc.org

Download the Press Release for Archival Alchemy here

About Abrons Arts Center
Abrons Arts Center is the performing and visual arts center of Henry Street Settlement, supporting the presentation of innovative, multi-disciplinary work. The Center cultivates artists in all stages of their creative development through educational programs and residencies; and serves as an intersection of cultural engagement for local, national, and international audiences and art-workers.

Gallery Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 11 AM-6 PM;
Sunday: 12-6 PM; Exhibition Closed on Mondays.

This exhibition is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

 New York State Council on the ArtsDCA