Artists Space

In the Last Instance
Avram Finkelstein
Kameelah Janan Rasheed
Joshua Lubin-Levy
Aliza Shvarts

May 16, 2017, 7pm

What, in the last instance, determines the relation between structures of power and cultural production? To what end can art intervene in the ways that culture and ideology work to reproduce existing structures of visibility and domination?

Installation view of a mechanical wall covering a window in a gallery space, with a diamond-shaped glass pane in the center letting light through.
Alan Ruiz, Hunter Green 1390, 2016. Courtesy the artist. [Installation view of a mechanical wall covering a window in a gallery space, with a diamond-shaped glass pane in the center letting light through.]

Amid the heightened polarization of social and political life, some have suggested that we may be experiencing a "return of the culture wars"—a metaphor that allows us to reflect on enduring connections between art, culture, and power. More than a binary debate between ideologies on the left and right, this alludes to an ongoing and embodied contestation of power, as progressive and reactionary forces struggle to imagine and enact alternative futures. Within this framework, artworks are redoubled as potential sites of intervention, and the artist’s implication within institutional structures becomes increasingly charged.

In the Last Instance is an expanded roundtable discussion on the contradictions and possibilities of developing a critical aesthetic practice within this terrain. The conversation will be framed through short prompts from invited speakers Avram Finkelstein and Kameelah Janan Rasheed, each of whom work in unique ways to intervene in the space between institutions, artists and power. Facilitated by Joshua Lubin-Levy and Aliza Shvarts, this open forum invites audience participation throughout.

In the Last Instance is organized to mark the publication of “Living Labor: Marxism & Performance Studies,” a special issue of Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory co-edited by Joshua Lubin-Levy and Aliza Shvarts. Contributors include: Fred Moten, Gregory Sholette, Dyke Action Machine!, Juliana Huxtable, Alan Ruiz, and Soyoung Yoon, among others. For more information click here

Avram Finkelstein is a founding member of the Silence=Death and Gran Fury collectives. He has work in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum and The Brooklyn Museum. He is featured in the artist oral history project at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, and his book for UC Press, After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images, is forthcoming in November 2017.

Joshua Lubin-Levy is a doctoral candidate in Performance Studies at New York University. His dissertation centers on the artist Jack Smith (1932 – 1989), with an emphasis on the queer critique of capitalism staged in Smith's interdisciplinary practice. He recently served as the Interim Director of Visual Arts at Abrons Arts Center, where he organized several exhibitions and public programs around work that critically examines the relation between labor and value through the framework of subjectivity. He is currently a Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and in Fall 2017 will join the faculty at Bard College as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Theater and Performance.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed is a Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artist, former high school public school teacher, and writer working in installation, photography, printmaking, publications, and performance. In addition to her full-time work as a social studies curriculum developer for New York public schools, she is currently an artist-in-residence at Smack Mellon and on the faculty in the MFA Fine Arts program at the School of Visual Arts. A 2006 Amy Biehl U.S. Fulbright Scholar to South Africa, she earned her B.A. in public policy at Pomona College and her Ed.M at Stanford University in Secondary Education. Learn more about her at

Aliza Shvarts is an artist and writer whose work deals broadly with queer and feminist understandings of reproductive labor. She was a 2014 recipient of the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, a 2014-2015 Helena Rubinstein Fellow in Critical Studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program, and is currently a Joan Tisch Teaching Fellow at the Whitney Museum of American Art and PhD candidate in Performance Studies at New York University.

In the Last Instance. Discussion documentation, May 16, 2017, Artists Space. [Several people speak on microphones among a crowd sitting in a circle around a room.]