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Bodies of Knowledge

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The artists in “Bodies of Knowledge” are expert investigators — exploring new fields with excitement and curiosity, discovering new ways of understanding ourselves, and developing new methods of inquiry that expand our vision of the world. Featuring Tauba Auerbach, Guerrilla Girls, Hank Willis Thomas, and Anicka Yi, this hour follows three artists and a collective as they explore varied systems of sensing, representing, and interpreting that shape our perceptions. In their practices, these artists push against the normative boundaries that typically define expertise. They create their own fields of study and invite collaborators and consultants with backgrounds in art, music, science, technology, mathematics, political action, and more into their studios. Their works address what is overlooked, underestimated, and misunderstood, asking audiences to pay closer attention and establishing new grounds to do so. These artists create bodies of knowledge in their pursuit of deeper truths, and they divulge their findings through their artistic practices. 

“Bodies of Knowledge” from Season 11 of Art in the Twenty-First Century premiered Friday, June 23, 2023 on PBS.

More information and credits


Executive Producer: Tina Kukielski. Series Producer: Nick Ravich. Director: Malika Zouhali-Worrall. Producer: Danielle Varga. Editor: Steven J. Golliday. Director of Photography: Naiti Gámez. Assistant Curator: Jurrell Lewis. Associate Producer: Andrea Chung. Design & Animation: Ryan Carl, Nikita Iziev. Composer: Andrew Orkin.

Additional Photography: Julia Liu, Jenni Morello, Mattia Ramberti, Brianna Wray. Assistant Camera: George Alvarez, Javier Castillo, Allen Dobbins, Sarah Jaffe, Todd Leatherman. Location Sound: Jim Choi, La’Ron Cooper, Damon Karys, Alberto Ladduca, Lily van Leeuwen, Taylor Roy, Emily Strong, Tommaso Zerbini. Field Producer: Ursula Liang. Production Coordinators: Sasha Leitmann, Arjun Pothuri. Production Assistants: Connor Finn, Kabir Kumar-Hardy, Quan Robinson, Gordon Taylor, Mishel Valle-Ayala. Art Handlers: Robert Guynn, Chris Rogy. 

Advising Producer: Ian Forster. Video Post-Production Services: Cut + Measure. Video Post-Production Producer: Alex Laviola. Colorist: Chris Ramey. Online & Conform: David Gauff. Additional Video Editor: Addison Post. Post-Production Coordinator: Leah Ford. Additional Animation: Andy Cahill, Yasmin Mistry. Audio Post-Production Sound Services: Konsonant Post. Re-Recording Mixers: Gisela Fullà-Silvestre, Ben Kruse. Sound Editor: Ben Kruse. Assistant Editors: Ellen Askey, Stephanie Cen, Michelle Hanks. Station Relations De Shields Associates. Legal Counsel: Withersworldwide. Additional Curatorial Research: Susan Thompson.

Additional Art21 Staff: Lauren Barnett, Hannah DeGarmo, Lolita Fierro, Joe Fusaro, Molaundo Jones, Emma Nordin, Anna Pruett, Jessica Svenson, Noor Tamari, Nora Wimmer. Interns: Stephanie Ades, Sekou Cherif, Yeon Cho, Michaela Esteban, Emma Flood, Amber He, Carina Martinez, Renee Rienecker, James Santiago, Adam Varca, Dani Wieder. 

Artwork Courtesy: Tauba Auerbach, Guerrilla Girls, Hank Willis Thomas, Anicka Yi, Paula Cooper Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery, Gladstone Gallery, Anicka Yi, “Metaspore” at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2022. 

Archival Materials: Kelvin Adjei-Akosah, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press

Bettmann, Lance Brewer, David Briddell, Ron Cogswell, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University; Embrace Boston, Equal Justice Initiative , Estate of Ernest Cole, Getty Images, Great Voices of Bulgaria, The Guardian, Amy Harrison, Human Pictures, Hulton Archive, Library of Congress, Magnum Photos, MASS Design Group, The New Press, Steven Probert, Public Art Fund, SandenWolff, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jon Santos, Katja Schulz, Davina Semo, Ted Shaffrey, Skyhorse Publishing, Clarissa Sligh, Damon Styer, Tate Modern, Temple University Press, Time Inc, TV1 Broadcast Company, Bulgaria; Richard Vogel, W. W. Norton & Company. 

Interviewees: Cleo Berliner, Esther Chao, Jonathan Evans, Coco Fusco, Sam Giarratani, Jasmine Guzman, Rujeko Hockley, Emily Majors, Muna Malik, Cameron Mesirow, Roberto Morales, Frances Morris, Sriranjini Raman, Samhita Ramji, Juan Rojero, Will Sylvester, Jawaid Toppa, Dr. Deborah Willis. 

Special Thanks: The Art21 Board of Trustees, Xabier Arakistain, John Felix Arnold, Art Gallery of Ontario, Joseph Becker, Bert Bergen, Olivia Berke, Alessandro Bianchi, Sanford Biggers, The Boston Foundation, Alessandro Cane, Christina Caputo, Yu Rim Chung, Collection of the City of Boston, Allison Cooper, Christian Dioulo, Folasade Falebita, Jenny Gheith, Goodman Gallery, South Africa, Andy Greenberg, Remina Greenfield, Fiammetta Griccioli, Clara Hatcher Baruth, Imari Jeffries, Thomas Kelley, Rob Massey, Stacee Prigmore Monroe, National Memorial for Peace and Justice, A. Joaquin Navas, Negative Space, Devan Owens, Fernando Ramirez, Erik Savercool, Melissa Shakun, Hana Tran, Saulius Valaitis, Walla Walla Foundry, The Wave Organ, Maria Wiles, Family of Hank Willis Thomas. 

Major underwriting for Season 11 of Art in the Twenty-First Century is provided by PBS, National Endowment for the Arts, Lambent Foundation, The Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Toby Devan Lewis, Robert Lehman Foundation, and Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman.

Series Creators: Susan Dowling and Susan Sollins.

©2023 Art21, Inc.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Tauba Auerbach

Tauba Auerbach was born in 1981 in San Francisco, California, and currently lives and works in New York City. The artist received a BA in Visual Studies from Stanford University in 2003. Interested in the relationships between materials, ideas, and people, Auerbach examines connective tissues and structures using a wide variety of materials and processes. Their practice weaves bodily craft traditions with abstract theory to create drawings, paintings, sculptures, and more that expand our comprehension of how the world is structured and connected.

Guerrilla Girls

Guerrilla Girls are an anonymous collective of women artist-activists who began working together in 1985. Working across various media, the collective challenges the systems and individuals perpetuating discrimination and inequality in the art world by publicly sharing data and statistics about the representation of women and artists of color in commercial and institutional art spaces. Embracing the disruptive, confrontational, and irreverent, Guerrilla Girls draw from street art and the legacies of feminist activism to launch their critique of the art world.

Hank Willis Thomas

Hank Willis Thomas was born in 1976 in Plainfield, New Jersey, and currently lives and works in New York City. The artist received his BFA from New York University in 1998 and his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2004. Thomas’ work traces a line between the past and the present, using photography and sculpture to call viewers’ attention to how context shapes one’s understanding of the world around them. Appropriating recognizable photographs, gestures, and iconography while using a variety of strategies to move viewers with and around his works, the artist weaves together narratives that reframe the present by more fully examining our history.

Anicka Yi

Anicka Yi was born in 1971 in Seoul, South Korea, and currently lives and works in New York City. The artist studied at Hunter College and the University of California Los Angeles. Yi works with unexpected and unpredictable materials, ranging from bacteria to tempura batter to artificial intelligence, creating works that embrace ephemerality and challenge our expectations and biases. Using tools and techniques from varied disciplines, Yi’s practice manifests our culture’s fictions, fears, and possible futures, asking where they might come from and how we might actualize or move beyond them.

Segments from "Bodies of Knowledge"

Educators’ Guides provide information about selected artists and themes, questions for classroom discussions, and hands-on activities that provide students with a fundamental understanding of creative and critical thinking processes.