Simone Leigh’s “Loophole of Retreat: Venice”

Loophole of Retreat (October 7–9, 2022) began today at Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, Italy. As part of her exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion, Simone Leigh has brought together scholars, artists, and activists from around the world for a major project, Loophole of Retreat: Venice. Among the many participants, the duo Las Nietas de Nonó will be performing on October 9 at 10:30am at Piscina Gandini (see

For full list of participants, see

Description: Organized by Rashida Bumbray with curatorial advisors Saidiya Hartman, University Professor at Columbia University, and Tina Campt, Owen F. Walker Professor of Humanities and Modern Culture and Media, Brown University, the three-day symposium will comprise dialogue, performances, and presentations centered on Black women’s intellectual and creative labor.

Loophole of Retreat: Venice builds on an eponymous one-day convening held in 2019 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The conceptual frame is drawn from the 1861 autobiography of Harriet Jacobs, a formerly enslaved woman who, for seven years after her escape, lived in a crawlspace she described as a “loophole of retreat.” Jacobs claimed this site as simultaneously an enclosure and a space for enacting practices of freedom—practices of thinking, planning, writing, and imagining new forms of freedom.

The symposium will be guided by key directives including:

Maroonage: Maroons refer to the people who escaped slavery and created independent communities on the outskirts of enslaved societies. This directive is informed by the artist Deborah Anzinger’s explorations of fugitivity and resistance in Jamaica’s Cockpit Country, which is a site of historical refuge and resistance for Maroons.

Manual: This directive is inspired by the Manual for General Housework from Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. Meaning of or pertaining to the hand or hands. 

Magical Realism: Magically real forms are the music, literature, and movement languages developed by Black people in the New World as a result of the catastrophes of colonialism and the middle passage. Rather than only a literary genre, Magical Realism as defined by Caribbean poet and theorist Kamau Brathwaite is a larger cacophonous movement with multiple representations, the plural instant and collective improvisation—a radical disruption of Western progressivist history.

Medicine: This directive is inspired by how we cope with the natural and supernatural world around us using the qualities of science, plants and animals. It draws on our approaches to diverse ailments; physical, spiritual, natural, and supernatural. For this gathering, we consider the work of root and leaf doctors, traditional healers and conjurors of the rural Black American South and the global South.

Sovereignty: The title of the U.S. Pavilion exhibition, Sovereignty, speaks to notions of self-determination, self-governance, and independence for both the intellectual and the collaborative.

Loophole of Retreat will be livestreamed here and on YouTube

Registration is now closed. Only Eventbrite ticket holders for the conference will be admitted.
Find practical information for attendees —>

Watch livestream below or on YouTube —>

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