Past Events

Art Criticism and the Pandemic II - Safer Spaces

Research Lunch – Chris McCormack, Stella Nyanzi, Sria Chatterjee, Ariane Sutthavong, Isobel Harbison

  • 5 May 2021
  • 1:00 – 2:30 pm
  • Art Criticism and the Pandemic II is organised in collaboration with Chris McCormack (Associate Editor) at Art Monthly, the UK’s leading magazine of contemporary visual art. It brings together a range of art critics, artists and art historians to discuss the implications of current conditions for their work and the broader field of art criticism and writing on art and culture.
  • Zoom Webinar

Art Criticism and the Pandemic II continues and reshapes the discussions had at two events in 2020 which considered how the structures of a globalised art world had been interrupted or changed and whether, in the context of renewed activism, the art world is addressing problems of inequity and injustice in its own order. These ideas remain urgent as the art world negotiates the legacies and ramifications of making, thinking, and writing about art in the context of a global pandemic. Two live research lunch events across two days will provide spaces for testing out ideas voiced by a panel of speakers, followed by discussion and questions from attendees.

Session 1: Safer Spaces

How might the tension between individual body control and collective health security during this current ‘disruption’ of the pandemic be constructed through a timeline of conflicting modernities and vaccination? Further, considering the global as one continually remade by colonial forces and extraction, how might histories of pandemics chart our understanding of the way state-craft narratives have made visible the infected, the sick or dangerous body through border control. How might these broader forces be manifested at a cultural and art institutional level, and how might art confront these forces of ‘progression’ or continue to trade in these values?

  • Stella Nyanzi (Scholar and Human Rights Activist)
  • Sria Chatterjee (Contributing Editor, British Art Studies)
  • Ariane Sutthavong (Independent Curator)
  • Isobel Harbison (Lecturer, Goldsmiths, University of London)


Session 3: Safer Spaces

Papers from Stella Nyanzi, Sria Chatterjee, Ariane Sutthavong, and Isobel Harbison.

About the speakers

  • Chris McCormack standing in front of building complex

    Chris McCormack is a writer, associate editor of Art Monthly, co-deviser of The Producers, a series of talks in collaboration with Art Monthly and Newcastle University and co-founder and judge of the Michael O’Pray prize for new writing on moving image with Film and Video Umbrella. He is the editor of Charlotte Prodger’s forthcoming monograph (Koenig), commissioning editor of ON&BY Andy Warhol (MIT/Whitechapel) and has contributed numerous essays and texts for catalogues, including James Richards’s Requests and Antisongs. He also writes fiction and has collaborated with numerous artists including Hilary Lloyd and Ursula Mayer, while his research into vocal development was published as part of Richards’s Welsh Pavilion in Venice, Voce di testa. He also curated the exhibition and edited the book Anarchic Sexual Desires of Plain Unmarried Schoolteachers

  • Dr Stella Nyanzi in matching red & black hat and dress, looking slightly away from camera

    Dr. Stella Nyanzi is a multiple award-winning medical anthropologist with specialization in sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights and human sexualities in Uganda and The Gambia. She self-identifies as a radical queer feminist scholar, social justice activist, human rights defender, non-violent protester, poet, Facebooker, opposition politician belonging to the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), former aspirant for Kampala Woman Member of Parliament (2020-2021), an ex-prisoner from Luzira Women’s Maximum-Security Prison, and mother of three teenagers.

    She obtained her doctoral degree from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (2009), a Master of Science degree in Medical Anthropology from University College London (1999), and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Literature from Makerere University (1997).

  • Sria Chatterjee standing in front of a white background

    Sria Chatterjee is an art historian and environmental humanities scholar. She is the Head of Research and Learning at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art in London. She specialises in the political ecologies of art and design from the colonial to the contemporary. She is currently working on her first book, which provides a close look at the deep links between nationalism, agriculture and the natural environment through the history of art, design and media. Sria is the founder and project lead for Visualizing the Virus, which investigates the diverse ways in which pandemics are visualised and the inequalities they make visible.

    In Autumn 2022, she launched the multi-year research project, Art, Climate & Colonialism at the Paul Mellon Centre. Sria received her PhD from the Art & Archaeology department at Princeton University in 2019. Sria has held fellowships and research positions at the Max-Planck Kunsthistorisches Institute and the Swiss National Science Foundation. She has published numerous chapters, essays and articles some of which are forthcoming in Cultural PoliticsBritish Art StudiesMuseums History JournalContemporary Political Theory and other outlets including Noema magazine

  • Black and White headshot of Ariane Sutthavong

    Ariane Sutthavong is an independent curator and writer based in Bangkok, Thailand. Through her practice and working closely with both Thai and international artists, she likes to pick apart dominant narratives and framings, inviting audiences to collectively redefine them. Together with Lara Van Meeteren and Bart Wissink, she has co-initiated and is co-organising the inappropriate BOOK CLUB, a part of the Bangkok Biennial 2020. This public engagement programme is aimed at grounding ideas on the relationship between art and politics in Thailand. She is co-editor of Common Dissent: Texts on Art and Politics in the Age of Radical Appropriation (2021). She was also a writer for the Bangkok Post, focusing on contemporary art in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Other selected publications include catalogue essays commissioned by Gallery VER and MAIIAM Museum of Contemporary Art. She holds an MA in Art and Politics from Goldsmiths, University of London.

  • Isobel Harbison wearing a blue shirt

    Dr Isobel Harbison is an Irish art historian and critic, and Lecturer in Critical Studies in the Art Department at Goldsmiths, London. Her research interests lie at the intersections of art, politics and media and she regularly writes about artists working with performance and moving image. Her current academic research focuses on the history of artists’ moving image in Northern Ireland from 1968 to present day, in relation to political and media history.