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Jennifer Nelson: Habeas Corpus – Participatory Research Action – Phase 1

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Jennifer Nelson
Habeas Corpus
Participatory Research Action – Phase 1

Interaction: Saturday, March 2 from 7-10pm

Investigation #1: Legal imagination…fictions and experiences

Standing between a State’s power to imprison you and your right to liberty is the Writ of Habeas Corpus-meaning have the body, in court. This basic legal premise can recalibrate the dance between an individual and the massive physical and social power we have given to the government. The procedures of the law can be impersonal and arcane, inflexible for the uninitiated, but perhaps elastic for the highest paid counsel. How judges interpret law must be constructed, and constructed anew, through stories of precedent, yet able to be altered by presiding public opinion. The law that guards or strips your liberty is made from nothing more than memories and stories…and yet it is capable of graphically marking, or saving, the lives of those it touches directly.

Artist Jennifer Nelson is looking for your experience, projections, fears, and fictions about how the law works for a person detained. Our many stories together will make a collective, legal imagination. What story do you tell?

Generous support for the Grand Central Art Center  artist-in-residence program  has been provided by  The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


Informed by lived world events, with a dancer’s perspective, Jennifer Nelson’s cross-disciplinary work probes the potential of social and ecological choreography. Her works consider inter-system relationships as a holistic, collective, sculptural practice. She is committed to the playful realignment of social spaces through a collective initiative, and to the transformative possibilities of the individual act. Her deep-rooted interest in co-creation, and its political, aesthetic and social possibilities, extends throughout her practice as artist and teacher.

Among many influences, her work has been significantly shaped by her direct personal experience with disruptive or transitional world choreographies like the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the media aftermath of September 11th, and currently, the on-going economic hardship in Athens, Greece. Having lived and worked in multiple countries, she has a lived understanding of fragile resources, natural and human, and the global sculptural flow of power and matter. These global flows must be linked and translated to a bodily scale for ethical action to begin.

Nelson danced with the Feld Ballet in New York and the Ballet du Grand Thí­©atre in Geneva, Switzerland, and studied New Genres at the San Francisco Art Institute and at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she received her MFA.    She has exhibited in museums and festivals in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Recent projects have been on the streets of Athens and in Nestor, 1st Psychogeriatric Boarding House with the  Guerrilla Optimists. She has also worked in collaboration with men from the Second Chance School in Korydallos prison with the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens. She has collaborated with trauma and music therapists, victims of violence, immigrant groups, chemists, grandmothers,  and musicians. Her 2019 video embroidery,  Democracy is a Party, opening this month in Athens, turns the 2015 “No” referendum speech by Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras into an exorcism/exposure therapy, musical meditation on life in Greece under austerity.

Nelson teaches time-based art and political theatre at the American College of Greece, where she helped found the Visual Arts program in 2007.