Super/Natural: Excess, Ecologies, and Art in the Americas

APR 19, 2018 | 2:00 PM TO 7:30 PM

Eduardo Kac. GFP Bunny, 2000. Courtesy of the artist.



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue


1218: Segal Theatre


April 19, 2018: 2:00 PM-7:30 PM




Join us for "Super/Natural: Excess, Ecologies, and Art in the Americas," the Third Annual Symposium of Latin American Art Presented by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the Rewald Endowment and co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and the Grey Art Gallery, NYU on Thursday, April 19th at the Graduate Center, CUNY, in the Martin E. Segal Theatre from 2:00pm to 5:30pm (reception immediately following in the James Gallery, 6:00-7:30pm) and on Friday, April 20th at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University from 9:30am- to 7:30pm. Featuring keynote lectures by Daniela Bleichmar, Associate Professor of Art History and History, University of Southern California; and Eduardo Kac, artist and Professor of Art and Technology Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The recent natural disasters, environmental destruction, and mounting scientific evidence for the immediate dangers of climate change throughout the Americas have inspired this year’s symposium theme: Super/Natural. The supernatural is what exceeds nature and what is excessive in nature through the insertion of human or mystic interventions. Super/Natural, however, is not just the otherworldly, but the critical interstices between the human abstraction of nature, the tangible natural world, and that which exists around it.  

The complex relationship between humanity and its surrounding environment has been amply explored by artists and peoples in the Americas. Examples include pre-Columbian art and architecture embedded in the landscape, such as the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman near Cusco, eighteenth and nineteenth-century traveler artist’s tropical fantasies of the land, and contemporary projects in which the human body intervenes directly in the environment. All of these practices demonstrate artists’ and communities’ preoccupation with contesting the often incomprehensible structure of the natural world. By presenting multidisciplinary case studies from a diverse group of scholars, this symposium seeks to open a conversation about the role of cultural production in understanding and complicating our relationship with the environment. The proceedings will historically situate these narratives while keeping in mind current debates on climate change and sustainability throughout the Americas. In what ways do artists engage with and intervene in nature and the land to create extraordinary perspectives? Under what conditions do spiritual practices related to nature and land become visualized in art? When, if ever, are we forced to intervene in the natural world, and what are the risks of such endeavors?


Thursday, April 19
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
Martin E. Segal Theatre  

2:00-2:30pm  Welcome and Introduction by Gillian Sneed, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History, Graduate Center and Anna Indych-López, Professor of 20th-Century Latin American Art, The Graduate Center and City College, CUNY  

2:30-4:00pm  Panel 1: Agricultural Imaginaries  

-Paper 1: Lesley Wolff, "Mister Watermelon/Señor Sandía: Fruitful Anxieties in Rufino Tamayo's Naturaleza muerta (1954)", Ph.D. Candidate, Florida State University  

-Paper 2: Javier Rivero Ramos, “Radicalizing Cybernetics: Chilean Nitrate, Talking Forests and Juan Downey’s Ecopolitics,” Ph.D. Candidate, Art and Archaeology, Princeton University  

-Paper 3: Caroline Gillaspie, “Harvesting the Tropics: Representing Brazil's Nineteenth-Century Coffee Plantations,” Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, Graduate Center, CUNY  

-Discussant: Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Art of the United States, Latin America, and Their Cross-Currents, 1750-1950, Graduate Center, CUNY 

4:00-4:30pm  Coffee Break  

4:40-5:30pm Keynote: Daniela Bleichmar, Associate Professor of Art History and History at the University of Southern California  

6:00-7:30pm Reception in the James Gallery at the Graduate, Center, CUNY

Friday, April 20
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University
1 East 78th Street, Lecture Hall  

For more information and the schedule for the conference on Friday, April 20th, visit:

On the 19th, livestreaming can be accessed at:

The symposium is organized by current PhD candidates Brian Bentley, Gillian Sneed, Juanita Solano Roa, Danielle Stewart, and Madeline Murphy Turner, PhD student Horacio Ramos, and M.A. student Julián Sánchez González; in conjunction with Anna Indych-López, Katherine Manthorne, and Edward J. Sullivan.

Presented by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the Rewald Endowment and co-sponsored by The Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and the Grey Art Gallery, NYU.