New York Oyster Conference
In conjunction with Greater New York, the New York Oyster Conference convenes a conversation to examine the role of oysters in New York’s ecological history and their relation to the cultural and urban development of the city. The event will include Alan Michelson and Shanzhai Lyric, artists featured in the exhibition, in addition to Tanasia Swift of the Billion Oyster Project and Omar Tate of Honeysuckle Projects. They will discuss the myriad of cultural and environmental roles that oysters have played in New York’s past and contemplate future possibilities for oysters in the city’s cultural and environmental preservation. The presentations will be followed by a conversation moderated by Ayasha Guerin, Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Studies at the University of British Columbia. This event will be livestreamed on this page.
Ayasha Guerin is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher, curator and Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is author of Underground and at Sea: Oysters and Black Marine entanglements in New York's Zone-A. Her forthcoming book MAKING ZONE A: Race, Nature and Resilience on New York’s Most Vulnerable Shores, explores layers of socio-ecological story about the invention of race, nature, and speculations of value on New York’s landfilled reefs and wetlands.
Alan Michelson is an internationally recognized New York-based artist, curator, writer, lecturer and Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River. For over thirty years, he has been a leading practitioner of a socially engaged, critically aware, site-specific art grounded in local context and informed by the retrieval of repressed histories. Recent exhibitions include Greater New York 2021 at MoMA PS1, and Alan Michelson: Wolf Nation at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is also the curator of Object Relations: Indigenous Belongings, an upcoming exhibition at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery featuring the contemporary work of four Indigenous women artists. His work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Michelson is co-founder and co-curator of the groundbreaking Indigenous New York series with the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, where he currently serves on the Advisory Board, and he is a curatorial advisor of the global Indigenous initiative, aabaakwad.
Established in 2015, Shanzhai Lyric investigates global trade networks, informal economies, and the poetics of counterfeit goods. 山寨, or “Shanzhai,” means “counterfeit” in contemporary Chinese usage, but translates literally to “mountain hamlet,” a reference to a tale of outlaws absconding with goods from the empire to redistribute among those on the margins. In the fall of 2020, Shanzhai Lyric founded Canal Street Research Association in an empty storefront on Canal Street, New York City’s counterfeit epicenter, with the goal of delving into the cultural and material ecologies of the street and its long history as a site that probes the limits of ownership and authorship.
Tanasia Swift is a Brooklyn native who works at Billion Oyster Project as the Field Stations Program Manager. A graduate of New York Harbor School, Tanasia oversees the Field Station Program which currently includes 6 active and many prospective sites around New York City. She manages community connections, plans field events, recruits and engages school groups, and trains community partners at each Field Station location. Her work has been featured in the local press.
Omar Tate is a chef, artist, and cofounder of Honeysuckle Projects, a multifaceted food company that focuses on the nuanced cultures and cuisines of the Black diaspora. Omar has emerged as a visionary and a leading thinker on the restaurant industry’s cultural development as a whole. His work focuses on race and ethnicity with the goal of dismantling structural barriers through his practice in Honeysuckle, a pop-up cultural concept. In 2020, Honeysuckle was named pop-up of the year by Esquire Magazine and in 2021, Time Magazine named Tate one of the 100 innovators to watch as part of their Time100Next list.