November 15, 2018


Inaugural issue features works that examine the catalytic nature of arts in the socio-political sphere

(CHICAGO, IL - November 12, 2018) – This fall, the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago will launch a biannual journal that will showcase the work of the Gray Center, a research center for experimental collaborations between artists and scholars. Published by the University of Chicago Press, Portable Gray will feature artworks, essays, interviews, transcripts, reflections, photography, poetry, and other forms of artistic and scholarly practice. A launch party to celebrate the inaugural issue will be held on Thursday, November 29 from 5:30 to 7:00pm at the Gray Center Lab in Midway Studios.

“The Gray Center is thrilled to launch Portable Gray,” says Jacqueline Stewart, Director of the Gray Center and Professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies and the College. “The journal will make accessible to a larger public the intensive and innovative work that artists and scholars are creating together at UChicago, and take readers on deeper explorations of the intersectionality of arts.”

The Gray Center seeks to foster a culture of innovation and experimentation at the intersection of arts practice and scholarship primarily through its Mellon Collaborative Fellowship program, as well as its myriad programming across the UChicago campus, the South Side, the City of Chicago, and beyond. Portable Gray extends this vision through the journal and quite literally makes the work of the Gray Center portable. As Zachary Cahill, Editor-in-Chief of Portable Gray and Gray Center Curator, notes in the Editor’s Plaisance, the publication’s title came about casually: “In an almost throw-away line at one of our advisory council meetings, artist and faculty member Pope.L said something like, ‘...that portable Gray thing you guys are talking about...’ We had almost unconsciously found the name.”

 “The team behind Portable Gray has been dedicated for the better part of a year to bringing this biannual journal to life,” says Seth Brodsky, interim Director of the Gray Center for the 2018-19 academic year. “We are lucky to have such an amazing group of contributors for the first volume to set the stage for issues to come.”

"I am immensely proud of Portable Gray,” said Cahill. “The journal has a solid core: from Jacqueline Stewart, Seth Brodsky, and our Advisory Council; to managing editor Naomi Blumberg and contributing editor Mike Schuh; to designer David Khan-Giordano and our partners at the University of Chicago Press. It is a modest but mighty team that I predict will help making the journal one of the most dynamic and original academic publications out there.”

Portable Gray is thematically organized, and grows out of the range of work being conducted by Gray Center fellows. The inaugural issue is built around the subjects of art and politics, opening with an essay by art historian Gwen Allen, who considers the history of art magazines and their relationship to feminist artistic practices. Artist and activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan and UChicago associate professor and media theorist Patrick Jagoda—both Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellows—share a mail-in version of their online Imagining Futures survey, which invites people to voice their thoughts on the future through subjects like climate change, racial inequity, and economic instability. LA-based artist and filmmaker Ben Caldwell talks with Gray Center Director and film scholar Jacqueline Stewart about Sankofa City Summer School, a workshops series initiated last summer that brings South Side residents and UChicago students together to visualize desired futures for the community.

Central to the journal are two transcripts from presentations given at the five-day summit “What is an Artistic Practice of Human Rights?,” one by artist Tania Bruguera and the other by Sandi Hilal and Alessandro Petti of DAAR, Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency. Along with Bruguera and DAAR, members of the summit planning team—including Susan Gzesh, Executive Director of the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights and Senior Lecturer in the College; Leigh Fagin, Deputy Director of Programming and Engagement for the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts; and Mike Schuh, Program Manager at the Gray Center—also offer their reflections on the summit and on the responses posed by the visiting artists to its instigating question.

In an interview, Gray Center Mellon Collaborative Fellows William Pope.L and Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society curator Dieter Roelstraete reflect on their collaborative work that began with documenta 14 and continued with a project at the Logan Center Gallery and a Gray Center co-taught course titled “Art & Knowledge”—whose annotated syllabus serves as Portable Gray’s first cover. Director of the 2019 Chicago Architectural Biennial and Logan Center Exhibitions Curator Yesomi Umolu thinks through the ramifications of Brexit in her essay “Maps of Englishness.” And in his essay “Fake Fate,” Berlin-based art critic and theorist Jan Verwoert examines the desire to cheat fate as a way of theorizing the morbid fascination with President Trump’s staying power. The inaugural issue closes with two riveting poems by author and UChicago associate professor Eve L. Ewing.

“For years now, the Gray Center’s variegated culture of innovation and experimentation has been fostering compelling, visionary work,” says David Levin, who served as the Gray Center’s Founding Director, and who presently serves as the Senior Advisor to the Provost for Arts. “Portable Gray will serve to document that culture and the work that issues from it, engaging and inspiring other artists and scholars, and contributing to urgent conversations about how the arts can and do impact our thinking and how our thinking can and does impact the arts.”

The Portable Gray launch party will be held on Thursday, November 29th, from 5:30 to 7:00pm at the Gray Center Lab, 929 East 60th Street.




Launch Party

Gray Center Lab, 929 E 60th Street
Thursday, November 29th
Free and open to the public.


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Ronia Holmes
Associate Director of Communications for UChicago Arts and the Logan Center | 773.834.0481

About the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry

The Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry is a forum at the University of Chicago for experimental collaborations between artists and scholars.

In fall 2013, the Gray Center moved into its permanent home, the Gray Center Lab in Midway Studios, which features a flexible 1,000-square-foot workspace that can be configured as a studio, lab, or classroom, as well as an installation, exhibition and performance space. The Center also offers office space to project collaborators.

Gray Center activities take place all over campus (encompassing various divisions, departments, and programs), across the community and throughout the city. Through its various programs—including the Mellon Residential Fellowships for Arts Practice and Scholarship, incubator initiatives, lab events, collaborative experiments, salons, international conferences, and institutional collaborations—the Gray Center seeks to foster a culture of innovation and experimentation at the intersection of arts practice and scholarship.


About UChicago Arts
UChicago Arts encompasses the University’s robust cultural scene where scholars, students, artists and audiences converge, explore, and create. UChicago Arts maintains an ambitious suite of initiatives and programs to enhance the cultural landscape at the University of Chicago and on Chicago’s South Side, including Arts + Public Life and its flagship project, the Arts Incubator, the Arts, Science & Culture Initiative, the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Joining academic departments and programs in the Division of the Humanities and the College, as well as professional organizations including the Court Theatre, Oriental Institute Museum, Smart Museum of Art, Renaissance Society, and University of Chicago Presents, and more than 60 student arts organizations, UChicago Arts is forging an integrative model for practice, presentation, and scholarship.