SSMF 2022: “Pause”

Rest & Renewal

How can we rest at a time like this? This panel addresses pause as rest and its potential for renewal in the midst of capitalist labor expectations. From hammock dreamscapes at the Piazza Roma, to poetic prose on shorelines of the island of Antigua, the projects in this panel show what the body knows to do. From timescapes spanning a decade on one single city block, to unrestful artistic practices during Covid, the projects help us make peace with time and space.

Moderated by Florence Madenga, University of Pennsylvania
Saturday, March 26, 9:30 AM — 10:45 AM Eastern

Riposo / Pasithea

Lena Chen
Carnegie Mellon University

with Michael Neumann (Riposo) & Isadora Söderström (Pasithea)

Riposo is a site-specific installation at the Piazza Roma in Vimercate exploring rest and relaxation as politically subversive antidotes to our current system of production. The city square is surrounded by banks, restaurants, and other businesses. Riposo disrupts this system of profit and dominance with a hammock installation in which the public is invited to rest, meditate, and sleep. The hammock is designed with a fabric that features the Piazza Roma digitally manipulated into a surreal dreamscape.

In Pasithea, The artists carry a hammock from MUST Museum to the city center of Vimercate. They walk clockwise in Piazza Roma as church bells ring. By interrupting the town’s commercial activity through public acts of meditation and sleep, they use rest to become receptive to inner wisdom and to spiritually fortify themselves.

Lena Chen is a Chinese American artist creating performances and socially engaged art that examine labor, gender, and intimacy. Awarded Mozilla Foundation’s 2022 Creative Media Award and “Best Emerging Talent” at the 2019 B3 Biennial of the Moving Image, her work has appeared at Transmediale (Berlin), Färgfabriken (Stockholm), Baltimore Museum of Art, Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Museum of Contemporary Art (Jacksonville), among others. She is founder of Heal Her, an expressive arts initiative that supports survivors of gender-based violence.

Michael Charles Neumann is an interdisciplinary artist who has created photography, sculpture, and installations. He has been in playful and critical engagement with the emerging technologies to find where virtual and physical space overlap. Exploring bodies and virtual magic, his most recent body of work creates a virtual body through a series of analog and digital procedures that question the boundaries of our bodies and experiences.

Isadora aka Cristina Söderström, was born in Sweden, grew up in England and Spain, and lived in Berlin before moving to Cork, Ireland. Building upon a theatrical background, her latest artistic research focuses on the crossroad between theatre, performance art, and rituals. She has toured and performed internationally, most recently in Sex Toy, a feminist play about sexual objectification of women.

No Theories for the Liquidity of this Desire

Amber Rose Johnson
University of Pennsylvania

No Theories for the Liquidity of this Desire is inspired by Dionne Brand’s writing, in Map To The Door of No Return, on desire as a navigational tool for diasporic subjects. In the text and in the film, desire is mobilized as a method of embodied knowledge production. The film also draws influence from the prompts of Alexis Pauline Gumbs’, Dub: Finding Ceremony. Filmed on the shorelines of the island of Anguilla in March 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the visual work captures a ritual practice performed by a female figure with salt, stone, and sand at the ocean’s edge. The visuals of the film are overlaid with original poetic prose on desire, misdirection, and what the body knows.

Amber Rose Johnson is a writer and artist pursuing a PhD in English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She has edited two exhibition catalogues, Colored People Time (ICA Philadelphia, 2020) and Great Force (ICA VCU, 2020). Her writing can be found in ArtForum, BookForum, Jacket2, and BOMB.

Reflecting, Realigning and Rearing

Indu Lalitha Harikumar

When the pandemic began, there was only panic, inside my head, and outside in the world. In the first year of the pandemic there was no sense of security, everything was changing constantly. Financial security loomed large. What if one of us got the dreaded Corona at a time where hospital beds were few, and ones in private hospitals were too expensive. Somehow to cut down all the anxiety, I paused to look at larger problems other than me. I used my Instagram account to raise funds for migrant labourers, which made me feel that I was being useful, I felt I was in control, it made me not worry about the what ifs. It somehow made me feel like someone would look after us if Corona came closer home. Was I able to stop work? Not at all. The Pandemic has meant reflection, reinventing and showing up for others and me. Slowly, as one year became two, I began to pause. I went deeper within, and seeking a space of rest began looking inwards rather than everywhere else. My art became a way of thinking through, documenting, and sharing that inner journey. At the same time, I began to slowly amass the mental resources to work on a longer project, a story of my grandfather, that intimately links my personal history with what is not there in history books.

Indu Harikumar has the internet to thank for the space she has found and created for conversations. Indu is an award-winning artist, writer and storyteller from India. She tells stories of body, desire, love, and belonging. She has authored and illustrated children’s books, and has written for major media houses across the world. Her art has been exhibited globally at Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany 2018-19, The Biennial of Illustrations, Bratislava 2013-14, and the Kochi Muziris Biennial 2015.


Dick Blau
University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Yinan Wang
Temple University

A photofilm. Distilled from ten years of looking at one square block in the middle of an American city. A film made from stills that challenges them to move. Beauty, pathos, and turmoil, all in the course of a Joycean day.

Dick Blau is the author of five photo books and a number of films on subjects ranging from family dynamics to the music of the Roma. He is Professor Emeritus in (and co-founder of) the UWM Department of Film.