11.3 Decolonialism, Pluralism & Plurality



Mignolo, W. D. (2007). Delinking: The Rhetoric of Modernity, the Logic of Coloniality and the Grammar of De-Coloniality. Cultural Studies (London, England)21(2-3), 449–514. https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380601162647  https://search.fanshawelibrary.ca/permalink/01OCLS_FANSH/1sj5l35/cdi_proquest_miscellaneous_61635085

Theaster Gates


Explore the Artist Website: https://www.theastergates.com/

Watch: ART21: Art in the Twenty-first Century – Season 8:  https://art21.org/artist/theaster-gates/


Theaster Gates, Dorchester Projects

Chicago-based artist, Theaster Gates, has developed an expanded practice that includes space development, object making, performance and critical engagement with many publics. Founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, Gates is currently Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago. Gates’ 2009 project Dorchester Projects is an investment of an abandoned 2 story property that has been recycled and turned into a Library, Slide Archive and Soul Food Kitchen. The Dorchester Projects includes a group of once abandoned buildings on Chicago’s South Side that Theaster Gates then renovated from what appeared to be sites of neglect, into lively cultural environments where the community gathered. Gates originally purchased a once storefront building on South Dorchester Avenue which he made his home before embarking upon the planned two year design-build project, that would be known as the Dorchester Projects, which is continuing to expand within Chicago. Gates began the project when he bought neighbouring two-story vacant houses and commenced a design project to reinstate and resurrect the home as a site of community interaction and uplift. The project was so successful that it led to the development of a third building across the street. With the support of grants, the building will be transformed into a site for film programming and artist residencies.

Gates’ Dorchester Projects utilizes repurposed materials from all over Chicago, giving the project both a practical and expressive aesthetic, connecting the development of new art with the economic reuse of material resources. The Dorchester Projects is an expanding, multi-functional space in which community-driven inventiveness and experiences allow neighbourhood resurrection to exist. This project clearly emulates a model for community building and cultural as well as socio-economic resumption. Moreover, the Dorchester Projects encourages neighbourhoods and local youth to rethink the ways in which we consider living environments as spaces worth reconstructing and investigating. Gates’ project empowers the community to engage in extreme neighbourliness by reconstructing their surroundings and emerging diversity within and amongst them. The Listening Room is large element of the project. Before the listening room was built, the space was a neighbourhood candy store. Gates then redesigned the front room to house 8,000 LPs comprising the final inventory from Dr Wax Records, a former record store in the nearby Hyde Park neighbourhood. The record collection has served both soulful, and educational purposes. The space has promoted and hosted listening parties and DJ events while still being made available to artists and musicians in residence at the Dorchester Projects. The large focus of The Listening Room lead to the collection travelling for roughly a year to the Seattle Art Museum to be installed in the exhibition Theaster Gates: The Listening Room. The plans for the future involve the residential half of the building being renovated into a reading room, and temporary space for the Johnson Library.

Gates speaks of FEAST being an opportunity for Dorchester to open up, and expand across the South Side of Chicago and reactivate spaces. Gates believes that concentrating on the creative practice first, which he describes as “the successful restoration of an abandoned building, and then its occupancy with stuff” will produce a by product that will encourage both people close to him and far from him to become curious and excited about it. Theaster believes that his choice in using repurposed materials that were on their way to becoming waste—over new materials—really adds to the quality of the space. Gates describes the project as something that “could embody ambition, curiosity, and sexiness.” Gates explains the main themes and intentions of the project being hospitality and the economy. Gates wants to ask “What does it mean to be generous to one another?” Moreover, “What does it mean for us to share the abundance of generosity that we have?” Theaster states “we have an opportunity to either live wherever we want—somewhere else—or make an amazing fresh, robust community here.”

Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects attracts a wide range of audiences. Despite being on Chicago’s South Side of town, the Dorchester Projects invites a diverse demographic of people. I believe Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects emulates the notion of performance of possibilities. Gates is working within the community of Southside of Chicago, sourcing repurposed materials from all around city to renovate abandoned buildings. Following the restoration and reactivation of these buildings, they are opened to the public as sites for community interaction and inspiration. It is evident to see how the Dorchester Projects illustrate the notion of performance of possibility, as the creation of a work, the renovation of the abandoned buildings, culminated in creation and change. Furthermore, the community experience of renovating these buildings evokes the emergence of a voice within the Southside Chicago community. Moreover, the Dorchester Projects place recognition of the audience as the citizens of the community and in doing so, evokes the potential for collective action, which is the foundation upon which the performance of possibilities is based.

The notion of community that is described as the creative energy distinguished by those forced to live with a lack of resources caused by economic or political reason is a space of endless possibilities, which is exceptionally demonstrated by Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects. The expanding multi-practical community space of the Dorchester Projects has opened up avenues that cultivate socioeconomic resumption. Moreover, the project encourages the community to engage in the reconstruction of their environment with the notion of extreme hospitality, as they collectively work to revolutionize their community, inviting cultural diversity and inventiveness. The Dorchester Projects continues to emulate the performance of possibilities as the next site being renovated will be a space for a new artist in residency program. The feeling of hope and uplift is evident in the community, despite the violence, gang-related crimes, and poverty in the Southside Chicago community. There is a clear pedagogical, collective, and aesthetic dialogue taking place within the community regarding its delicate state, which is reflexive in the project as a whole. Author Sibylle Fischer states, “There are no limits here, there are so many things here. No limits to what I can do. Anything you find-just give it to me. Everything they throw in the garbage, I use it. This is the thing you see: old stuff. And then the transformation of objects into new things.” I believe the efforts put forth by Theaster Gates through the Dorchester Projects, will be a model for future projects involving community and the arts. Gates has successfully produced a space in which the community can gather and culture may flourish.


Shirin Neshat is a contemporary Iranian visual artist best known for her work in photography, video, and film (such as her 1999 film Rapture), which explores the relationship between women and the religious and cultural value systems of Islam. She has said that she hopes the viewers of her work “take away with them not some heavy political statement, but something that really touches them on the most emotional level.” Born on March 26, 1957 in Qazin, Iran, she left to study in the United States at the University of California at Berkeley before her the Iranian Revolution in 1979. While her early photographs were overtly political, her film narratives tend to be more abstract, focusing around themes of gender, identity, and society. Her Women of Allah series, created in the mid-1990s, introduced themes of the discrepancies of public and private identities in both Iranian and Western cultures. The split-screened video Turbulent (1998) won Neshat the First International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999. The artist currently lives and works in New York, NY. Her works are included in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others.  Source: Shirin Neshat

In Rebellious Silence, the central figure’s portrait is bisected along a vertical seam created by the long barrel of a rifle. Presumably, the rifle is clasped in her hands near her lap, but the image is cropped so that the gun rises perpendicular to the lower edge of the photo and grazes her face at the lips, nose, and forehead. The woman’s eyes stare intensely towards the viewer from both sides of this divide.

Shirin Neshat’s photographic series “Women of Allah” examines the complexities of women’s identities in the midst of a changing cultural landscape in the Middle East—both through the lens of Western representations of Muslim women, and through the more intimate subject of personal and religious conviction.

While the composition—defined by the hard edge of her black chador against the bright white background—appears sparse, measured and symmetrical, the split created by the weapon implies a more violent rupture or psychic fragmentation. A single subject, it suggests, might be host to internal contradictions alongside binaries such as tradition and modernity, East and West, beauty and violence. In the artist’s own words, “every image, every woman’s submissive gaze, suggests a far more complex and paradoxical reality

behind the surface.” [1]
Shirin Neshat, Rebellious Silence, Women of Allah series, 1994, B&W RC print & ink, photo by Cynthia Preston ©Shirin Neshat, courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels
The Women of Allah series confronts this “paradoxical reality” through a haunting suite of black-and-white images. Each contains a set of four symbols that are associated with Western representations of the Muslim world: the veil, the gun, the text and the gaze. While these symbols have taken on a particular charge since 9/11, the series was created earlier and reflects changes that have taken place in the region since 1979, the year of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
The veil is intended to protect women’s bodies from becoming the sexualized object of the male gaze, but it also protects women from being seen at all. The “gaze” in this context becomes a charged signifier of sexuality, sin, shame, and power. Neshat is cognizant of feminist theories that explain how the “male gaze” is normalized in visual and popular culture: Women’s bodies are commonly paraded as objects of desire in advertising and film, available to be looked at without consequence. Many feminist artists have used the action of “gazing back” as a means to free the female body from this objectification. The gaze, here, might also reflect exotic fantasies of the East. In Orientalist painting of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, for instance, Eastern women are often depicted nude, surrounded by richly colored and patterned textiles and decorations; women are envisaged amongst other beautiful objects that can be possessed. In Neshat’s images, women return the gaze, breaking free from centuries of subservience to male or European desire.
ience to male or European desire.
Shirin Neshat, Faceless, Women of Allah series, 1994, B&W RC print & ink, photo by Cynthia Preston ©Shirin Neshat, courtesy Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussel)
Most of the subjects in the series are photographed holding a gun, sometimes passively, as in Rebellious Silence, and sometimes threateningly, with the muzzle pointed directly towards the camera lens. With the complex ideas of the “gaze” in mind, we might reflect on the double meaning of the word “shoot,” and consider that the camera—especially during the colonial era—was used to violate women’s bodies. The gun, aside from its obvious references to control, also represents religious martyrdom, a subject about which the artist feels ambivalently, as an outsider to Iranian revolutionary culture.  Source: Rebellious Silence
For further reading: http://www.alraidajournal.com/index.php/ALRJ/article/view/1778/1802

Matana Roberts By Jennifer Lorraine Fraser

Matana Roberts


Matana Roberts. Roberts is a musician based in New York City and works as a performance artist, saxophonist, filmmaker, poet, and dancer. Her primary practice involves what she has termed as Panoramic Sound Quilting (PSQ), a process of layering the sounds of her saxophone with her own voice, to create a new sensory landscape of meaning. Describing, PSQ as “an ode to my ancestral history, a siren call to my dreams, and a consideration of a constructional force that amuses, inspires, jars, and incites me,” Roberts embraces concepts and ideas of how memories of her ancestral past leave traces in her own body, and how collective memories of African American experiences have become ‘tradition.’ She hopes for her work to enter into the historical mapping of a people and to sit as a testimony to the formation of knowledge and meaning in disparate American cultures. She states,

(Block Quote) “I have a deep interest in American history and old oral traditions developed, deconstructed, merged together oftentimes through profoundly contradictory means. I am charmed by co-existing histories that exist within a single framed event but yet are not synchronous. I am fascinated by narrative and the problems that perception of linearity creates in a re-telling of victory, triumph, tragedy. I use multi-genre methods of improvisation, alternative composition, and performance to explore these themes. I am profoundly intrigued by human trace; the whispers, the secrets, left behind, sometimes by those never given a chance to really claim them. I wish for my work to sit firmly as a historical document of these universal, sometimes forgotten, moments.”[1]

Roberts’ latest album, COIN COIN Chapter Four, was released in 2019 and is absolutely haunting. Blending storytelling with her use of PSQ, she has created a master-work of emotion, history, and communicative destructuring.

The critic Jackson Scott, reviewed the third chapter of her series by first introducing his own practice as one of ‘conversation,’ highlighting the fact that during the conversation there is an expectation that two (or more) people have equality of space within the exchange, however, this is often not the case, especially when led by shifting power dynamics. Scott states, approaching critical criticism through conversation is “flawed because (a) “conversation” implies (often egregiously incorrectly) that each position enjoys an equal footing, and (b) its presentness often belies its members storied pasts.”[2] There is a hint of violence in conversation, for one is usually attempting to sway the other with their own understanding of situations. Metaphorically, there is also violence in discursive deconstruction. To approach the work by Roberts, as a lessening of conversation and more about listening to truly feel and understand the inherent qualities of sound, narrative and voice can be also a system to approach American diasporic studies and one in which the theorist Stuart Hall could attest for. A conversation equates to the discourse of representations, Hall suggests finding a point where we can stand outside of representation, outside of the battle for discursive or theoretical building and unbuilding.[3]

Roberts’ use of PSQ, in how she quilts her voice within storytelling, music, and historical visual culture speaks to layers of identity that transpose themselves onto people, and communities. Through a deep and embodied rupture, is where we can find hints of who we can be regardless of overbearing and violent systems of regulation. In his review, Scott goes on to say, “American History is present in full, (in COIN COIN Chapter Three: river run thee) its untold diversity presented in intersecting layers rather than in separate vignettes. Critical deconstruction then seems just as asinine as dismantling a quilt into incomplete squares, especially when you consider that this is one made from a history of rebuilding and reconstructing a still broken nation. Of course, ignoring its compositional process would be ignoring what’s beneath these expressions and what ties them together.”[4]


Canadian Indigenous Art

Please Read the Article and/or watch one of the videos found on this website https://wapatah.com/indigenizing-the-art-museum/

McMaster, Gerald. “Under Indigenous Eyes.” Art in America, vol. 105, no. 9, Oct. 2017, pp. 64–71. https://search.fanshawelibrary.ca/permalink/01OCLS_FANSH/1sj5l35/cdi_proquest_miscellaneous_1974562771



Esma Mohamoud, Dorchester Projects for the course Art in the Public Sphere, OCAD University 2015 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Creative Spirit: 1550-Present by Elizabeth Cook is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


  1. https://www.matanaroberts.com/menu/
  2. Scott, Jackson. "Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee | Music Review | Tiny Mix Tapes." Tiny Mix Tapes. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/matana-roberts-coin-coin-chapter-three-river-run-thee>.
  3. Hall, Stuart. “Cultural Identity and Diaspora” Framework 36 (1989). Reprinted in Identity, Community, Cutural Differences, 1990, & Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory, 1994.P. 393
  4. Scott, Jackson. "Matana Roberts - COIN COIN Chapter Three: River Run Thee | Music Review | Tiny Mix Tapes." Tiny Mix Tapes. 1 Jan. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <http://www.tinymixtapes.com/music-review/matana-roberts-coin-coin-chapter-three-river-run-thee>.


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Origins of Contemporary Art, Design, and Interiors Copyright © by Jennifer Lorraine Fraser is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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