Conversation Pieces is an exhibition that brings together projects by artists who stage, subvert, provoke, intervene in or document public dialogues. These projects have multiple, often interrelated objectives: claiming public space, time and attention to start specific conversations around specific issues; questioning the current states, definitions, and limits of dialogue in the public realm; and presenting alternative possibilities for or re-imaginings of the public through various models of participation in (variously public) dialogues.

2 performances in conjunction with Conversation Pieces

Alexis Bhagat: Lecture on Democracy

Stephanie Rothenberg: Best Practices in Banana Time with Doctor Rodenberger

Saturday, November 21, 2009 Free and open to the public.

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Mariam Ghani - Points of Proof

A photography, text and video installation based on a series of interviews conducted from 2007 through 2009 with groups of Buffalo residents, including 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union members and students from Grover Cleveland High School. Project participants were asked to answer the following question: If someone questioned your right to call yourself an American, what is the one story, object, image or document you would offer as your proof? The objects participants brought in to be photographed, along with the conversations generated by the question, reflect the subjective and volitional nature of identity, the difficulty of pinning the constantly shifting idea of America within strictly national borders, and the question of proof as defined more by belief than by the material evidence at hand. The project also includes a web component ( and takeaway postcards.

Carlos Motta - The Good Life

The Good Life is a 13-part video installation composed of over 400 video interviews with pedestrians on the streets of twelve cities in Latin America shot between 2005 and 2008. The work examines processes of democratization as they relate to U.S. interventionist policies in the region. The conversations and dialogues, recorded in Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Guatemala, La Paz, Managua, México City, Panamá, Santiago, San Salvador, São Paulo, and Tegucigalpa, cover topics such as individuals' perceptions of U.S. foreign policy, democracy, leadership, and governance.

Oliver Ressler - For a Completely Different Climate

For a Completely Different Climate is a new bus shelter project that will be placed in 6 Buffalo bus shelters during the exhibition. The poster juxtaposes two photographs – a protester and a young businessman – with the same descriptive ‘caption.' The descriptions "autonomous", "irresponsible", "does not reveal tactics" and "attacks people and property" are quite common descriptions of demonstrators in the mainstream media. While the artist Oliver Ressler disagrees with these categorizations of protesters by the media, with his poster he suggests these categorizations would be more applicable to the everyday behavior of business managers and captains of industry. (A copy of the poster with a map of shelter locations will hang in the gallery.)

Oliver Ressler and Zanny Begg - What Would it Mean to Win? Video, 40 minutes

"What Would It Mean To Win?" was filmed on the blockades at the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany in June 2007 and focuses on the current state of the counter-globalization movement. The film, which combines documentary footage, interviews, and animation sequences, is structured around three questions pertinent to the movement: Who are we? What is our power? What would it mean to win?

InCUBATE/Material Exchange/Adam Bobbette - Repair Shop/Sunday Soups

Chicago-based collectives InCUBATE (Institute for Community Understanding Between Art and The Everyday) and Material Exchange, together with architect Adam Bobbette, will temporarily transplant themselves to Buffalo and collaborate with each other and local non-profit Buffalo Re-Use to build out CEPA's FLUX Gallery as an evolving and performative installation called "Repair Shop." The Repair Shop will be realized through various projects each considering the notion of repair broadly and metaphorically (an object repair service, a temporary space for non-profit use, a soup kitchen that generates money for artist projects) while working to raise funds that will be distributed at a closing event in the form of an artist grant.

Soup Grant

In conjunction with InCUBATE/Material Exchange/Adam Bobette, CEPA Gallery has created a growing fund to support small artist initiatives or community-based projects with a focus on those projects less likely to receive funding support elsewhere. The SOUP GRANT is foremost a method of arts funding that is both transparent and participatory. It draws upon entrepreneurial and grass-roots strategies in its generation. Grant applications are posted for the public and those people who have contributed to the fund are afforded the opportunity to vote on its recipients. The application process is purposely simple to maximize the diversity of the applications. To apply, simply submit a one-page PDF or MS Word document with a description of your project that highlights its impact on you or the community. (Images may be included but please limit your application to one page.) Please include your name, address and contact info. Grant(s) will likely range in the $300-600 range. This grant opportunity is open to anyone in Western New York.
Deadline: December 10, 2009.

Email submissions to / Call 856-2717 for more info.

Artist Call

GuerrillaGirlsBroadBand - Buffalo Connections

The GuerillaGirlsBroadBand (one of the three groups formed after the splintering of the original Guerilla Girls collective) will produce a new bus shelter project, which addresses the abortion rights struggle in Western New York. The project will include 6 bus shelters, a free foldout map/handout available in the gallery, and an interactive web-based platform also accessible in the gallery space.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg - Listening Post

Heather Dewey-Hagborg's Listening Post is a system designed to overhear, parse and ultimately learn from the spoken phrases of casual passersby. A remote listening post, installed in the public sphere, constantly monitors its immediate environment and broadcasts what it hears, via cell phone, to a server, or speaking post installed at CEPA Gallery. The server interprets, recombines, and vocalizes the conversation it receives while evolving over the course of the exhibition, developing a new lexicon and grammatical syntax from the input acquired from the listening post and eventually creating new phrases. This process of system accumulation and evolution will be visually represented by a constant printout spooling into the gallery space from the speaking post.

Alexis Bhagat - Lecture on Democracy

Alexis Bhagat will compose Lecture on Democracy, a new 3-channel audio work for Conversation Pieces, to be performed live in November.. Bhagat's lectures are multi-channel audio collages delivered in the context of a conventional lecture. To produce the Lecture on Democracy for CEPA, Bhagat will record a conversation with a group of Buffalo residents in September on the contemporary use and meaning of words such as "freedom" and "democracy." Passages and loops from that conversation will comprise one channel of the lecture, the forum, which sits in opposition to an overhead loudspeaker, the voice of authority. Navigating this opposition, the artist will read a text on the history of the word "democracy," on a subtle third channel, transmitted via radio, which audience members may tune into (or not) as they wish.

Stephanie Rothenberg - Best Practices with Dr. Rodenberger - A Second Life/Real Life Talk Show

With over $1 million exchanged in virtual goods and services in 2008, the virtual world of Second Life – conceived and created entirely by its 6.5 million residents – is becoming a viable means to one's real life livelihood. For Conversation Pieces, Stephanie Rothenberg will go undercover in Second Life as her avatar alias, Doctor Rodenberger, to investigate the daily grind of the virtual. Through conversations with Second Life residents, Rothenberg will create a series of posters for CEPA's Market Arcade windows. The posters will mimic job recruitment advertisements, drawing comparisons to similar real world occupations. In addition, she will conduct a mixed reality talk show that takes place in real life and Second Life.  As talk show host, Doctor Rodenberger will interview her virtual guests about the economics and labor issues confronting the virtual workplace in front of a live, real life audience.

Nina Leo & Stefani Bardin - marketplace

Leo & Bardin's project will juxtapose the Market Arcade Building's present visual state with a phenomenological evocation of its past history as a portal to an open market.  To achieve this effect, sensory triggers from Montreal's Jean Talon Market will be transplanted into an installation in the Market Arcade. The mediation of the evoked marketplace through food chemistry and media technology is a neat reversal of the processes by which the original market was most probably displaced, i.e. the increased availability and cheapness of processed food and the replacement of central, community-based, open-air markets with decentralized urban sprawl, technology-based consumerism and the virtual world market of goods and services on the Internet.

The performative installation will take place in the passageway of the Market Arcade Building during the month of November. An ancillary theoretical and historical context to the piece consisting of photographs, interviews and archival documents will be exhibited on the second floor of the gallery beginning on September 11th.

Sharon Hayes - Everything Else Has Failed, Don't You Think It's Time for Love?
In a series of performances (and audio/photo/video installations derived from those performances) stretching from 2005's In the Near Future to 2008's Revolutionary Love, Sharon Hayes has staged a set of anachronistic, speculative, deliberately and sometimes joyously off-kilter investigations into the figure of the protester. These actions have ranged from lone protests with signs from bygone eras to the public reading of love letters in political arenas. For Conversation Pieces, Hayes will present the 2005 project Everything Else Has Failed, Don't You Think It's Time for Love?, five recordings of public speeches performed by Hayes in midtown New York on five successive days. The public speeches, whose presentation on large tripod-mounted speakers reinforces their ‘authoritative' position, have very private texts; each is, in fact, the reading of a love letter to an audience of strangers in a public space, a deliberate collapsing of public and private that is itself a political act.

Screenings & Events

The InCUBATE Repair Shop, Soup Kitchen and Bar will be in operation from 7 pm to midnight on September 11th and 12 -4 pm on September 12th. The Repair Shop closing and grant award event will be held in late November, date TBA. Alexis Bhagat's performance, Stephanie Rothenberg's talk show and Nina Leo & Stefani Bardin's performative installation will also take place in November, exact dates TBA.

As part of Conversation Pieces, CEPA will co-sponsor three talks in UB's fall speaker series: Ricardo Miranda Zuñiga on October 19th, Claire Tancons on October 26th and Trevor Paglen on November 23rd.

The Conversations Pieces screening program will run continuously in the Underground Gallery, with the program changing every three weeks.

Program 1 (9/11-10/1) will feature films that exemplify the feminist idea of the personal as political.

Program 2 (10/2-10/22) will present videos that deconstruct mass media messages.

Program 3 (10/23-11/12) will delve into the history of public protest in the US, via the Videofreex archive.

Program 4 (11/13-12/3) will feature documentation of past public dialogue performances.

Program 5 (12/5-12/19) will present videos that take dialogue as subject, and explore the possibilities and limits of language.

Speaker Series

Monday Evenings @ 6:30 CFA 112 [MAP]

Oct 19
Ricardo Miranda Zuniga approaches art as a social
practice that establishes dialogue in public spaces. Themes
such as immigration, discrimination, gentrification and the
effects of globalization extend from highly subjective
experiences and observations into works that tactfully
engage others through populist metaphors while
maintaining critical perspectives. Ricardo’s work has been
exhibited nationally and internationally at venues such as
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art; Laboratorio Arte
Alameda, Mexico City; The National Center for
Contemporary Art, St. Petersburg; The New Museum of
Contemporary Art, NYC. He is an Associate Professor of
Film and Media Studies at CUNY Hunter.


Oct 26
Claire Tancons is a curator, writer and scholar based in
New Orleans whose work focuses on Carnival and
processions. As a curator for the 7th Gwangju Biennale,
South Korea (2008), she organized SPRING, a procession
inspired by political demonstrations and carnival
processions, hailed as one of the biennial’s highlights. As a
guest curator for, the 2nd Cape Town Biennial, South Africa,
Tancons organized A Walk Into the Night procession
inspired by the processional and musical traditions of the
Cape Town carnival against the background of the forced
removals of the 1960’s. Tancons was the Associate Curator
for Prospect 1 New Orleans.


Nov 23
Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental
geographer. His work involves a deliberate blurring of the
lines between social science, contemporary art and even
more obscure disciplines to construct unfamiliar, yet
meticulously researched ways to interpret the world around
us. Paglen's visual work has been exhibited at
Transmediale.08 Festival, Berlin; Institute of Contemporary
Art, Philadelphia; Kunstraum Muenchen, Munich; the San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and numerous other
venues. Paglen is the author of three books. Torture Taxi:
On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights; I Could Tell You
But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me and
Blank Spots on a Map.