BUSINESS PERSPECTIVES: Bard alum Carolyn Lazard named 2023 MacArthur Fellow

Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. — Bard alum Carolyn Lazard has been named a 2023 MacArthur Fellow. Lazard, an interdisciplinary artist who uses the experience of chronic illness to examine concepts of intimacy and social/political dimensions of care, is one of this year’s 20 recipients of the prestigious “genius grant” awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

In a statement about their work, the MacArthur Foundation says, “Lazard is an artist exploring the limits of aesthetic perception and using accessibility as a creative tool for collective practices of care. With a practice that spans the mediums of video, installation, sculpture, and performance, their work challenges ableist expectations of solo productivity and efficiency. They approach these subjects using the minimalist language of conceptual art and avant-garde cinema.”

The MacArthur Fellowship is a no-strings-attached award for extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential. There are three criteria for selection of MacArthur Fellows: exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work. Recipients may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers, entrepreneurs, or those in other fields, with or without institutional affiliations. Although nominees are reviewed for their achievements, the fellowship is not a lifetime achievement award, but rather an investment in a person’s originality, insight, and potential.

MacArthur Fellows receive $800,000 stipends that are bestowed with no conditions; recipients may use the money as they see fit. Nominated anonymously by leaders in their respective fields and considered by an anonymous selection committee, recipients learn of their selection only when they receive a call from the MacArthur Foundation just before the public announcement.

Carolyn Lazard received a BA (2010) from Bard College and an MFA (2019) from the University of Pennsylvania. Their work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at such national and international venues as the Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center; Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania; MoMA PS1; Museum für Moderne Kunst; Whitney Museum of American Art; and the Venice Biennale.

Lazard often repurposes ready-made objects—such as a HEPA air purifier, a noise machine, and a power-lifter recliner chair—calling attention to the dependencies and infrastructures of care that sustain social life. CRIP TIME (2018) is a video-based meditation on the time Lazard devotes to organizing a week’s worth of different medications into brightly colored, plastic pill containers. Through documenting this care-based task, Lazard makes visible the often-obscured care and labor of staying alive. Lazard’s work also addresses complex histories of institutional harm and racialized violence. The video piece Pre-Existing Condition (2019) focuses on medical experiments that a University of Pennsylvania professor conducted on incarcerated people at Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia between 1951 and 1974. Lazard displays archival documents that list each experiment and the sponsoring institutions overlayed with the voice of Yusef Anthony, a Holmesburg Prison experiment survivor and advocate, who discusses his mistrust of medical and legal systems. As in much of their practice, access is both a theme and a material of their work.

In addition to their work as an artist, Lazard writes about their experience of chronic illness and the limitations of biomedical understandings of health. They authored the guidebook Accessibility in the Arts: A Promise and a Practice (2019), which details specific ways that museums and other cultural spaces can meet the needs of disabled communities.

Raven Chacon. Image courtesy of MacArthur Foundation.

Raven Chacon, a former visiting Bard MFA faculty member and composer, performer and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, has also been named a 2023 MacArthur Fellow. “Raven Chacon is a composer and artist creating musical experiences that explore relationships among sound, space, and people,” stated the MacArthur Foundation. “In an experimental practice that cuts across the boundaries of visual art, performance, and music, Chacon breaks open musical traditions and activates spaces of performance where the histories of the lands the United States has encroached upon can be contemplated, questioned, and reimagined.”

Learn more and meet the 2023 MacArthur Fellows here.

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