Skip to main content

Syracuse Symposium to Open with Visual Arts, Literary Events

Artist Suné Woods, poets Janice Harrington and Oliver de la Paz will begin yearlong look at 'Belonging'

Sep 12, 2017 — Article by: Rob Enslin

Photo of Sune Woods

Artist Suné Woods

Syracuse Symposium begins its yearlong theme of “Belonging” with events involving photo-collage and multichannel video artist Suné Woods and poets of color Janice Harrington and Oliver de la Paz.

All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise specified. For more information, contact the Humanities Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at 315.443.7192 or visit

“Belonging is as much about recognition and being included as part of a community as it is about being excluded,” says Vivian May, director of the Humanities Center and professor of women’s and gender studies in A&S. “This series looks at how belonging relates to issues ranging from structural and political power to interpersonal relationships.”

A Print of Sune Woods' "Mothership"

Suné Woods' “Mothership" (2015) is part of the Light Work exhibition "To Sleep with Terra."

On Wednesday, Sept. 13, Woods will headline a performance titled “You are mine. I see now, I’m a have to let you go” from 6-7:30 p.m. in Watson Theater in the Menschel Media Center (316 Waverly Ave.). Joining her will be Fred Moten, professor of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and James Gordon Williams, assistant professor of African American studies at Syracuse. Woods, whose performance includes spoken word, music and video, will participate in a public reception from 5-6 p.m. in Light Work’s Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery.

On Saturday, Sept. 16, Woods will lead a photo-collage workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Light Work Lab (316 Waverly Ave.). Registration is required; contact Mary Lee Hodgens, associate director of Light Work, at

Woods’ visit coincides with her solo show at Light Work titled “To Sleep with Terra” (through Oct. 19), examining absences and vulnerabilities within cultural and social histories.

Photo of Oliver de la Paz and Janice Harrington

Oliver de la Paz and Janice Harrington

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Syracuse Symposium will team up with the Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC) of the YMCA Arts Branch for a reading titled “Poetry and Belonging” by Harrington, professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and De la Paz, associate professor of English at College of the Holy Cross. The program will be from 7-8:30 p.m. in the new Jason Shinder Theater of the Downtown YMCA (340 Montgomery St.).

The following day, the duo will lead a seminar/discussion about “Working Between Worlds” from 9-11 a.m. in 304 Tolley Humanities Building. Registration required; contact Phil Memmer, executive director of the Y Arts Branch, at   

Both events are sponsored, in part, by the DWC.

“All three guests are seasoned practitioners, teachers and scholars,” May says. “Using different creative mediums to bridge theory, politics and practice, their work helps illustrate how the humanities address some of the pressing issues of our time.”

“To Sleep with Terra” is Woods’ first show at Light Work since her residency there last year. Organizers describe the exhibition as an “experience infused with wordplay, found imagery, sound and moving images in multimedia form.”

Urban Video Project will show Woods’ video “A Feeling Like Chaos” on the northern facade of the Everson Museum of Art (401 Harrison St.) from Thursday, Sept. 14, to Saturday, Sept. 16, from dusk to 11 p.m. Her installation tries to make sense of a continuum of disaster, toxicity, fear and a political system that sanctions violence toward its citizens.

A visiting faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Woods specializes in multichannel video installations, photographs, sculpture and collage. She is particularly interested in the way language is emoted, guarded and translated through the absence and presence of the physical body. Woods earned an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. Her prize-winning work has been featured at the Brooklyn Museum, the Lowe Art Museum in Miami and the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.

Photo of Fred Moten

Fred Moten

Woods will join in discussion with Moten and Williams, the latter of whom will serve as moderator. Moten is the author of several critically acclaimed poetry collections, including “The Feel Trio” (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a winner of the California Book Award for poetry. As a scholar-teacher, he is interested in black studies, performance studies, poetics and literary theory. Moten has authored or co-authored several academic books, including “Who Touched Me? (If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want to Be Part of Your Revolution)” (If I Can’t Dance, 2016), with filmmaker Wu Tsang. Last year, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Stephen Henderson Award from the African American Literature and Culture Society.

Williams is a creative musician, composer and critical musicologist at Syracuse. As a pianist, he has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, including drummers Charli Persip and Peter Erskine, saxophonists Greg Tardy and Greg Osby, and bassist Mark Dresser. Following studies at New England Conservatory of Music and New York University, Williams earned a Ph.D. in music from the University of California, San Diego.

Photo of James Gordon Williams

James Gordon Williams (Photo by Amy Manley)

“[Woods, Moten and Williams] will draw provocative connections among art, power, identity and politics to explore how black performance might be best understood as improvisation,” May says.

Like Moten, Harrington and De la Paz are accomplished scholar-teachers and writers. Harrington is a poet and children’s author whose upbringing in the Deep South and Midwest figures prominently in her work. Her three poetry collections include “Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone” (BOA Editions, 2007), winner of BOA’s A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Her various children’s books have reaped honors and awards, including a place in TIME magazine’s Top-10 Children’s Books list and the New York Public Library’s Ezra Jack Keats Award. A professional storyteller and former librarian, she brings an interest in nature, cultural history and the visual arts to her writing and teaching.

De la Paz is the author of four poetry collections, including “Requiem for the Orchard” (University of Akron Press, 2010), winner of the university’s Akron Poetry Prize. He also is co-editor, with Indiana University professor Stacey Lynn Brown, of “A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry” (UA Press, 2012). De la Paz co-chairs the advisory board of Kundiman, which creates, cultivates and promotes Asian American literature; serves on the board of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs; and teaches in a low-residency M.F.A. program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington.

“Both poets deal with the idea of belonging in different ways—Janice Harrington, through her explorations of a nursing home community; Oliver de la Paz, through themes of immigration, as well as national and ethnic identity,” May adds.

Organized and presented by the Humanities Center, Syracuse Symposium is a public humanities series that revolves around an annual theme. Programs include lectures, workshops, performances, exhibits, films and readings. Located in the Tolley Humanities Building, the Humanities Center serves the campus community by cultivating diverse forms of scholarship, sponsoring a broad range of programming and partnerships and addressing enduring questions and pressing social issues.
Contact Information

Rob Enslin