Panel Discussion with Jamal Batts, Ariel René Jackson, Michael J. Love and Betelhem Makonnen


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Jamal Batts is a curator, writer, and doctoral candidate in the Department 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, and ONE National Lesbian & Gay Archives LGBTQ Research Fellow. 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.

Ariel René Jackson grew up between New Orleans & Mamou, LA. She currently lives and works in Austin, TX where she completed her MFA at The University of Texas at Austin in 2019. Jackson's lyrical video essays explore kinship with places and situations. Her multidisciplinary practice translates narratives of belonging, by way of performative and sculptural acts, utilizing repurposed imagery or objects. Black histories and Jackson's familial farming legacy sustain and inform her focus on land and landscape as sites of internal representation. Jackson is an alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has shown work nationally at institutions such as the SculptureCenter, CUE Art Foundation, Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, Depaul Art Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and RISD Museum. Jackson's work is currently on view in Dear Future, on view in Campus Commons Gallery through December 7, 2020.

Michael J. Love is an interdisciplinary tap dance artist whose research intermixes Black queer feminist theory and aesthetics with rigorous practice to engage in thinking on the Black cultural past and Black futurity. He is currently based in Austin, TX where his performance work has been supported and presented by Fusebox Festival, ARCOS Dance, and the Cohen New Works Festival. He has given lectures and presentations at Texas A&M University, the 2020 Collegium for African Diaspora Dance, and the 2019 Dance Studies Association conference. He has also curated live, interactive performance-based experiences for The Banton Museum of Art (Austin) and the Fusebox Festival Hub as a founding member of Block Party Collective in addition to designing Season 34 pre-show lobby experiences and communications strategies in-house at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Washington, DC). Love holds an M.F.A. in Performance as Public Practice from The University of Texas at Austin and is an alumnus of Emerson College. Most recently, Love’s performance collaborations with transmedia artist Ariel René Jackson have been featured in New York Time Magazine’s #TBlackArtBlackLife Instagram series, screened at the New Museum (New York), SXSW (Austin), PARA Foundation (Berlin), Vox Populi (Philadelphia), and presented at CUE Art Foundation (New York), the George Washington Carver Museum (Austin), and the Visual Arts Center (Austin). Past credits include the Broadway laboratory for Savion Glover and George C. Wolfe’s “Shuffle Along,” performances alongside Baakari Wilder, and roles in work by Andrew Nemr’s NYC-based Cats Paying Dues. Learn more by visiting DancerMLove.com and following love on Instagram at @dancermlove.

A native of Ethiopia (b. 1972), Betelhem Makonnen, currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. Her formal education consists of an MFA (2019) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a New Artists Society Merit Scholar and a B.A (1995) in History and Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora from University of Texas in Austin. Working with a variety of mediums that include video, photography, and installations, she researches questions on perception, presence, purpose and place within a trans-temporal and trans-locative topology that operates on the relational dynamics of a diasporic consciousness. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally. In addition to her practice she is an active member of the Austin-based contemporary arts collaborative Black Mountain Project.

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