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Cuban American artist and writer Coco Fusco discusses the research that went into the creation of her 2021 video work “Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word,” on view at the Johnson Museum of Art (September 16, 2023–January 7, 2024). Fusco is a professor of art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Fusco shot footage of the waters around Hart Island, which is home to the largest mass grave in the United States and where New York’s unclaimed victims of Covid-19 have been buried. The film evolved from research that Fusco conducted about the history of artistic representation of plagues and other epidemics of infectious diseases.

This talk is the first major program cosponsored by the Johnson Museum and the Public History Initiative (PHI), based in the Department of History in the College of Arts & Sciences at Cornell University, highlighting how artists explore themes of history, memory, and the archive through their work. Gemma Rodrigues, Ames Director of Education and Curator of the Global Arts of Africa at the Johnson Museum, and Stephen Vider, associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut and founding director of PHI, introduce the artist.

The Findlay Family Lecture is funded by a generous gift from the Findlay Family Foundation. Fusco’s visit was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, with additional support from the Cornell University Department of Art.

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