Skip to Content (Press Enter)

Coco Fusco: Your Eyes Will Be An Empty Word

Aerial view from directly above of woman in row boat with a rocky shoreline to the right of image.
Image: Coco Fusco: Your Eyes Will Be An Empty Word (2021), HD Video, color, 12 minutes. Courtesy of the artist.

February 3 – May 12, 2024

Opening Reception:

Saturday, February 3 from 7-10pm

Music: Pauline Kim Harris

Narrator: Pamela Sneed

A video essay recorded in the waters around Hart Island, home to the largest mass grave in the United States, where New York’s unclaimed victims of COVID-19 have been buried.

The piece was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona and the Museum of Modern Art of Medellin, and featured in the 2022 Whitney Biennial. 

“Indelibly disturbing and enthralling, “Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word” (2021), by the veteran Cuban American artist and singularly plainspoken social activist Coco Fusco, is a gorgeous twelve-minute video exploration of Hart Island—New York’s potter’s field for unidentified or unclaimed corpses. Shots of the artist laboring in a rowboat along its shores are intercut with drone overviews of a really quite lovely place where rows of small stone markers perfunctorily memorialize innumerable lost lives. Beauty stands in for unconsummated mourning. The work can seem to invoke the cascading fatalities of the covid pandemic and, by chance, the remorseless current carnage in Ukraine, whereby the destruction of so many people occasions news headlines as sullen as those stones. To be alive now is to be overwhelmed by a consciousness of the untimely dead, who, in Ukraine, have resigned their parts in a drama of ever more urgent military, political, and humanitarian imperatives. Their silence roars.”  

– Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker


Coco Fusco is an interdisciplinary artist and writer based in New York. She is a recipient of a 2023 Free Speech Defender Award from the National Coalition Against Censorship, a 2021 American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Award, a 2021 Latinx Artist Fellowship, a 2021 Anonymous Was a Woman award, a 2018 Rabkin Prize for Art Criticism, a 2016 Greenfield Prize, a 2014 Cintas Fellowship, a 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2013 Absolut Art Writing Award, a 2013 Fulbright Fellowship, a 2012 US Artists Fellowship and a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts.

Fusco’s performances and videos have been presented at the 56th Venice Biennale, the Sharjah Biennale, Frieze Special Projects, Basel Unlimited, three Whitney Biennials (2022, 2008, and 1993), and several other international exhibitions. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, The Walker Art Center, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Whitney Museum, the Centre Pompidou, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona. A retrospective entitled Tomorrow I Will Become an Island opened at KW Institute of Contemporary Art in Berlin in September, 2023. An accompanying monograph with the same title was just published by Thames & Hudson.

Fusco is the author of Dangerous Moves: Performance and Politics in Cuba (2015). She is also the author of English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (1995) The Bodies that Were Not Ours and Other Writings (2001), and A Field Guide for Female Interrogators (2008). She is the editor of Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas (1999) and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (2003). She contributes regularly to The New York Review of Books and numerous art publications.

Fusco received her B.A. in Semiotics from Brown University (1982), her M.A. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University (1985), and her Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture from Middlesex University (2007).

Fusco is a Professor at the Cooper Union School of Art.