Announc­ing Mov­ing Chains: Toward Abo­li­tion A Con­ven­ing on Abo­li­tion Today at Charles Gaines’ Mon­u­men­tal Pub­lic Artwork


Cre­ative Time and Gov­er­nors Island Arts announce a day of dynam­ic new dis­cus­sions and spe­cial events in response to artist Charles Gaines’ mon­u­men­tal pub­lic art­work Mov­ing Chains. Host­ed on Gov­er­nors Island on Sat­ur­day, May 20th, 2023, Mov­ing Chains: Toward Abo­li­tion will bring togeth­er an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group of artists, schol­ars, and edu­ca­tors work­ing on strate­gies for abo­li­tion with­in art, law, edu­ca­tion, and polit­i­cal action. The event con­tin­ues a crit­i­cal dia­logue exam­in­ing the Amer­i­can ori­gin sto­ry, ini­ti­at­ed by Charles Gaines last sum­mer with the launch of his mul­ti-year, mul­ti-site pub­lic art project anchored by Mov­ing Chains, which will be acti­vat­ed dur­ing the event and reopens for reg­u­lar pub­lic hours this sum­mer on Gov­er­nors Island.

Mov­ing Chains is the sec­ond chap­ter of Charles Gaines’ The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest, which launched in Times Square in July 2022 with per­for­mances of Man­i­festos 4: The Dred and Har­ri­et Scott Deci­sion and Roots. The 110-foot kinet­ic sculp­ture acti­vat­ed by colos­sal chains rotat­ing over­head anchors a pub­lic art project that address­es the real­i­ty of sys­temic racism in the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca through embod­ied and visu­al expe­ri­ence, and pro­vides crit­i­cal his­tor­i­cal con­text on our extra­or­di­nary polit­i­cal divi­sion today. The Amer­i­can Man­i­fest is the first major pub­lic art com­mis­sion by Charles Gaines, a laud­ed con­cep­tu­al artist rec­og­nized for his near­ly 50-year career exam­in­ing the nature of per­cep­tion, social sys­tems, and abstraction. 

The day-long con­ven­ing will take place in Cas­tle Williams, a site locat­ed with­in the Gov­er­nors Island Nation­al Mon­u­ment near Mov­ing Chains. A his­toric fort that for­mer­ly served as a jail for Con­fed­er­ate sol­diers dur­ing the Civ­il War, the loca­tion under­scores the rehash­ing of Amer­i­can his­to­ry cur­rent­ly gal­va­niz­ing the polit­i­cal land­scape today. 

Mov­ing Chains: Toward Abo­li­tion is orga­nized by Diya Vij, Cura­tor at Cre­ative Time, with Che Gos­sett, schol­ar of abo­li­tion and con­tem­po­rary Black art, co-orga­niz­ing the ses­sion pan­els; and artist and edu­ca­tor Tiffany Lenoi Jones, co-orga­niz­ing the drop-in workshops. 



Black Gotham Expe­ri­ence Walk­ing Tour

10am — 10:45am | Leaves from Gov­er­nors Island fer­ry landing

Join founder of Black Gotham Expe­ri­ence, Kamau Ware, for an in-per­son guid­ed tour of Riv­er Years.. The path­way cho­sen by Ware explores the colo­nial pat­terns that have informed a cen­­turies-long rela­tion­ship with what are known today as the East Riv­er, the Hud­son Riv­er, and New York Harbor. 

Abo­li­tion and the Law

Pan­elists: Amer­i­can Artist, Kamee­lah Janan Rasheed, and Albert Fox Cahn, mod­er­at­ed by Che Gossett 

12pm | Cas­tle Williams, Gov­er­nors Island

The pan­el Abo­li­tion and the Law” brings togeth­er artists Amer­i­can Artist and Keemalah Janan Rasheed in con­ver­sa­tion with lawyer Albert Fox Cahn, Founder and Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Sur­veil­lance Over­sight Tech­nol­o­gy Project (S.T.O.P.), mod­er­at­ed by Che Gos­sett. Togeth­er, the pan­elists will dis­cuss the inter­sec­tion of art, law, sur­veil­lance, and abo­li­tion. How do redac­tion, brack­et­ing, and con­straint exist with­in the con­text of sur­veil­lance and the legal sys­tem? How might art become a vehi­cle for expos­ing, nego­ti­at­ing, and mov­ing past the struc­ture of the law and towards new pos­si­bil­i­ties for abolition? 

Drop-In Work­shops

12 — 3pm | Colonels Row, Gov­er­nors Island

Drop into multi­gen­er­a­tional art­mak­ing work­shops and gath­er­ings to col­lec­tive­ly imag­ine free­dom while learn­ing about the pos­si­bil­i­ty, neces­si­ty, and stakes of teach­ing abo­li­tion today. This pro­gram is orga­nized by Tiffany Lenoi Jones with Akiea Ki” Gross and Noor Jones-Bey, grantees of the Abo­li­tion­ist Teach­ing Network. 

Archi­tec­tures of Freedom

Pan­elists: Tork­wase Dyson, Saidiya Hart­man, and Rinal­do Walcott 

2:30pm | Cas­tle Williams, Gov­er­nors Island

Schol­ars Saidiya Hart­man and Rinal­do Wal­cott will think along­side and in con­cert with artist Tork­wase Dyson about how free­dom might be actu­al­ized and spa­tial­ized, the places free­dom inhab­its and takes. What are the archi­tec­tures and infra­struc­tures of free­dom? How might free­dom be shared, rather than mon­e­tized, pri­va­tized and racial­ized as prop­er­ty? What is the role of art in mak­ing freedom(s) pos­si­ble in the midst of slavery’s glob­al social and aes­thet­ic afterlives?

In Con­ver­sa­tion: Charles Gaines and Christi­na Sharpe

4:00pm | Cas­tle Williams, Gov­er­nors Island

Join artist Charles Gaines and schol­ar Christi­na Sharpe in an inti­mate con­ver­sa­tion on Gaines’ mon­u­men­tal work Mov­ing Chains through the lens of Sharpe’s ground­break­ing frame­work of wake work,” intro­duced in her sem­i­nal book In the Wake: On Black­ness and Being (Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016) and con­tin­ued through­out her work, most recent­ly in Ordi­nary Notes (Far­rar, Straus and Giroux, 2023), a med­i­ta­tion in words and images on the con­tours of Black life that emerge in the wake. The two will dis­cuss aes­thet­ic strate­gies to address race and pow­er in order to reori­ent our ways of see­ing and being and doing in the after­lives of slav­ery and the Unit­ed States project.


Kamau Ware, Black Gotham Expe­ri­ence | Tali Keren and Alex Stra­da, 28th Amend­ment Project | Amer­i­can Artist | Kamee­lah Janan Rasheed | Albert Fox Cahn, Esq., Sur­veil­lance Tech­nol­o­gy Over­sight Project | Sarah Abde­laz­iz, Abo­li­tion­ist Teach­ing Net­work | Rus­sell Craig, Right of Return | Tork­wase Dyson | Saidiya Hart­man | Rinal­do Wal­cott | Charles Gaines | Christi­na Sharpe