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Descendance Panel Discussion

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Submitted on February 8, 2021 - 6:16pm
Descendence by Ariel René Jackson and Michael J. Love
Ariel René Jackson and Michael J. Love. Descendance. December 2020. Photographed by Eliot Gray Fisher. Pool design by Eto Otitigbe, Subwaves, 2018.


Tuesday, February 23, 12–1:30pm PST

Streaming online through NW Film Forum; free with RSVP.

Join the Jacob Lawrence Gallery for a panel conversation exploring the themes of Ariel René Jackson’s Descendance, such as lineage, generational change, and the ways in which history is carried in the body. The panel features five leading artists and scholars whose work focuses on elements of Black culture and identity: Jackson, the 2021 Jacob Lawrence Legacy Resident; tap dance artist Michael J. Love, who collaborated on Descendance; and artists Nikita Gale and Betelhem Makonnen. Curator and writer Jamal Batts moderates the discussion. The panelists will discuss the way their own practices relate to history and identification, considering how the self transforms in relation to objects over time.

About the Panelists

Jamal Batts (moderator)

Jamal Batts is a curator, writer, and doctoral candidate in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at UC Berkeley. His dissertation project, Immoral Panics: Black Queer Aesthetics and the Construction of Risk, reflects on the relation between blackness, queerness, contemporary art, and the intricacies of sexual risk and risk-taking. His writing has appeared in the catalogue for The New Museum’s exhibit Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Open Space, ASAP/J, New Life Quarterly, and SFMOMA’s website in conjunction with their Modern Cinema series. He is a 2020 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Scholar-in-Residence, 2020 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, ONE National Lesbian & Gay Archives LGBTQ Research Fellow, and a member of The Center for Curatorial Leadership's 2020 Seminar Cohort. In 2019, he served as the SFMOMA Summer Curatorial Intern in Contemporary Art where he curated film screenings and artist discussions for the exhibit SOFT POWER. He is a member of the curatorial collective The Black Aesthetic who have programmed four seasons of black experimental film screenings and released three edited volumes.

Nikita Gale

Nikita Gale is an artist based in Los Angeles. Nikita Gale holds a BA in Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeological Studies from Yale University and an MFA in New Genres from UCLA. Gale’s work applies the lenses of material culture and sound studies to consider how authority is negotiated within political, social, and economic systems. Gale has exhibited with various national and international institutions, including MoMA PS1; The Studio Museum in Harlem; Cubitt (London); Nottingham Contemporary (London); Ceysson & Benetiere (Paris); and the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles). Gale’s work has been featured in various publications including Mousse, Texte Zur Kunst, The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, Art21, Frieze, Vogue, and Flash Art. Nikita Gale serves on the Board of Directors for Grex, the West Coast affiliate of the AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems, and is currently a visiting lecturer in UCLA’s Design Media Arts department.

Ariel René Jackson

Jackson’s film-based multidisciplinary practice considers land and landscape as sites of internal representation. Through sculpture, video, and performance, they explore themes of loss and transformation. Considering how culture is learned, Jackson modifies familial and antique farming, household, and educational tools and furniture, considering each object’s purpose before translation to a writing utensil, size expansion, or embedment within topsoil. Their recent work explores oral testaments and local histories, through repurposed meteorological tools and site-specific performances.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Jackson currently lives in Austin, Texas, where they completed their MFA at The University of Texas at Austin in 2019. Jackson is an alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2019) and completed an exchange program at the Royal College of Art in 2018. Their work has been shown at various galleries and institutions such as the SculptureCenter; CUE Art Foundation; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans; Depaul Art Museum; Studio Museum in Harlem, and RISD Museum.

Michael J. Love

Love is an interdisciplinary tap dance artist, a choreographer, scholar, and educator whose embodied research intermixes Black queer feminist theory and aesthetics with a rigorous practice to engage in thinking on the Black cultural past and Black futurity. He earned an MFA in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin and a BS in Marketing Communication from Emerson College. Love's work has been supported and presented by Fusebox Festival, ARCOS Dance, Ground Floor Theatre, and the Cohen New Works Festival. He has collaborated with Ariel René Jackson on a number of videos and performance pieces that have shown at CUE Art Foundation, the New Museum, SXSW, the University of Northern Colorado, PARA Foundation (Berlin), Vox Populi, and elsewhere. Love is an Austin Critics' Table Award winner and a B. Iden Payne Award nominee. He was a laboratory cast member of the Savion Glover and George C. Wolfe Broadway musical Shuffle Along.

Betelhem Makonnen

A native of Ethiopia, Betelhem Makonnen, lives and works in Austin, TX. She holds an MFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in History and Literature of Africa/African Diaspora from UT Austin. Her work researches perception, presence, and place within a trans-temporal and trans-locative topology that operates on the relational dynamics of an African diasporic consciousness. Makonnen has exhibited nationally and internationally – most recently, Big Medium (2020 Tito’s Prize Solo Exhibition, Austin), Women & Their Work (Austin), Le Musée des Abattoirs (Toulouse), and The Carver Museum (Austin), with performances and screenings at The Blanton Museum (Austin), IVAHM (Madrid), Casa Daros (Rio de Janeiro), and DakArt Off (Dakar). Her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including Frieze, Hyperallergic, Zoetrope, O Menelick 2º Ato, Revista Lampejo, Revista Caju, and Glasstire. In addition to her practice she co-organizes Addis Video Art Festival, a platform for video art in Ethiopia, and is an active co-founder member of the Austin-based arts collective Black Mountain Project.