Loophole of Retreat: Venice

by Carly Jones

Artspace President + CEO, Carly Jones, had the incredible opportunity to attend the Loophole of Retreat symposium 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. This three-day symposium, held during the Venice Biennale October 7-9, included dialogue, performances, and presentations centered on Black women’s intellectual and creative labor.

The Loophole of Retreat: Venice symposium was convened during a historical moment in art history at the Venice Biennale, celebrating the work of Simone Leigh. Leigh is the first Black woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale with her powerful work in Sovereignty on view within the US Pavilion:

“Leigh’s exhibition continues beyond the US Pavilion with ‘Loophole of Retreat: Venice’, a convening of Black women scholars, performers, writers, and artists in October 2022, organized by Rashida Bumbray. The project reflects the collaborative ethos that is characteristic of Leigh’s practice, and pays homage to a long history of Black femme collectivity, communality, and care.” 

The name “Loophole of Retreat” derives from Harriet Jacobs, a formerly enslaved woman from Edenton, NC, who for seven years after her escape, lived in a crawlspace she described as a “loophole of retreat.” She described this space as an enclosure and a space for enacting practices of freedom—“practices of thinking, planning, writing, and imagining new forms of freedom.” Thank you to Michelle Lanier, folklorist and Director of NC Historic Sites, for organizing the group of Black women artists, organizers, and cultural leaders from across the state to participate in a pre-convening gathering at Casa Artom (the Venice Campus of Wake Forest University) and to attend the Loophole of Retreat symposium.

The power of women gathering is immeasurable.