Introducing Critical Tactics Lab (CTL), a new initiative of the Hemispheric Institute

The Critical Tactics Lab (CTL) is the Hemispheric Institute’s permanent forum for discussion and research on the practices and methods of contemporary and historical political action. Drawing on the work of Yes Lab and the Creative Activism Series and the Institute’s ongoing work with political artists and activists from the Americas, the CTL’s mission is to promote and strengthen critical reflection about the tactics and strategies of political movements as well as the multiple processes and modes of analysis through which these are arrived at. Through lectures, workshops, courses, and other modes of assembly—and with an emphasis on laughter and embodied practice—the CTL seek to provide a space in which the expansive affinities of critical practice and action can be made visible and strengthened.

Read on for a list of Critical Tactics Lab programming at the Hemispheric Institute for the remainder of the 2014 fall semester. Unless otherwise noted, all events will be held at 20 Cooper Square, 5th Floor (click for map). These events are free and open to the public. A photo ID is required for entry to NYU buildings. This venue is wheelchair accessible. 


"The Hand That Feeds," A conversation with the undocumented workers and organizers of the Hot and Crusty labor victory, and the filmmakers who covered it

Thursday, November 6, 2014
7-9 pm

This event will be livestreamed. To view the live video feed starting at 7pm (EST), click here.

At a popular bakery café, residents of New York’s Upper East Side get bagels and coffee served with a smile 24 hours a day. But behind the scenes, undocumented immigrant workers face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery, and abusive managers who will fire them for calling in sick. Mild-mannered sandwich maker Mahoma Lópezhas never been interested in politics, but in January 2012, he convinces a small group of his co-workers to fight back.

Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and take the unusual step of forming their own independent union, launching themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve. In one roller-coaster year, they must overcome a shocking betrayal and a two-month lockout. Lawyers will battle in back rooms, Occupy Wall Street protesters will take over the restaurant, and a picket line will divide the neighborhood. If they can win a contract, it will set a historic precedent for low-wage workers across the country.

Mahoma López and Vergilio Arán of the Laundry Workers Center, the main subjects of the film and organizers of the Hot and Crusty campaign, will join filmmakers Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick in a simultaneously translated discussion. They will relate the strategies it took to overcome a two-month lockout, back door legal battles, and a picket line that divided a neighborhood and the soul it took to ensure they will never be exploited again.

Wine reception to follow.

Directed and Produced by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick,

"Zona Intervenida // Colectivo Andén," A film preview and talk with Nitin Sawhey

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Zona Intervenida // Colectivo Andén is an artistic exploration of the historic memory of violence, civil war and apathy in Guatemala. It follows a collective of young artists who use dance, performance, and poetry to intervene in a former train station in Quetzaltenango, which was converted to a military base during the worst atrocities of the war. Through movement, music, seeds and spoken word, the artists seek to activate and transform the dark memories of the space, while engaging public imagination and bringing light to Guatemala’s silenced past. More about the project: View the trailer HERE.

Nitin Sawhney speaks about his upcoming documentary , co-produced with the Andén Collective in Guatemala, with a limited sneak preview of the work-in-progress film. He will also briefly discuss his emerging curatorial research project, Guatemala Después.

Wine reception to follow.

Nitin Sawhney, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at the New School. His research, teaching and creative practice engages the critical role of technology, civic media, and artistic interventions in contested spaces. Nitin previously taught at the MIT Program in Art, Culture, and Technology (ACT) and conducted research at the MIT Media Lab. He examines social movements and crisis contexts, though forms of creative urban tactics, participatory research, performance and documentary film. His first feature-length documentary film, Flying Paper, showcased the creative struggles of Palestinian children in Gaza flying kites to break the Guinness World Record; it has been screened in over 25 international film festivals and is being distributed by Journeyman Pictures.

"Facial Weaponization Suite and Fac
e Cages," An artist talk with Zach Blas 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This event will be livestreamed. To view the live video feed starting at 7pm (EST),click here.

The success of today’s booming biometrics industry resides in its promise to rapidly measure an objective, truthful, and core identity from the surface of a human body, often for a mixture of commercial, state, and military interests. Yet, Biometric machines often fail to recognize non-normative, minoritarian persons, which makes such people vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and criminalization. Face Cages and Facial Weaponization Suite dramatize and protest against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities these technologies propagate.

Wine Reception to follow.

Zach Blas is an artist, writer, and curator whose work engages technology, queerness, and politics. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art at the University at Buffalo. Blas has exhibited and lectured internationally, most recently at Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; the 2014 Museum of Arts and Design Biennial, New York; the 2014 Dakar Biennial; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London; and The Moving Museum, Istanbul. Zach has published writings in The Journal of Aesthetics and ProtestWomen Studies Quarterly; and You are Here: Art after the Internet. His work has been written about and featured in Art ReviewFriezeArt Papers,HyperallergicRhizomeMousse Magazine, The Atlantic, and Al Jazeera A