Jean-Marc Superville Sovak: Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/ Columbus Confessionals

November 17, 2022 – January 14, 2023

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, an a Sculpture Feel Pain?/ Columbus Confessionals will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

Ways to Experience the Project

Events are subject to change. With the exception of drop-in hours, we ask the public to reserve a time online for one or more of the following public engagements. Since slots are limited, we ask that visitors commit to attending and cancel in advance if their plans change. All events are free. 


Drop-in Interactive Hours (time-variable) – No RSVP needed
Thursdays-Saturdays, 12-6 pm

Either the artist or a Recess docent will be available to guide you through the project space.

Private Studio Visits with the Artist (60mins, For Groups of 1-4)
Sundays Nov 20 / Dec 4, 11, & 18 /  Jan 8, 2–6 pm

By appointment only, sign up no later than 10am the same day at

Opening Reception & Conversation: Can a Sculpture Feel Pain? – Strategies for Making Art in Contested Spaces
Friday, Nov 18, 5-8 pm

Columbus’s 1492 voyage to what became the “New World” coincided with the expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain, setting off successive waves of mass migration that forever transformed the food, land, and peoples both East and West of Eden. Recess Session artist, Jean-Marc Superville Sovak will host a conversation with Samah Hijawi, a Brussels-based artist and researcher, and Noa Charuvi, a New York-based painter. All three share an interest in aesthetic responses to ideologically & physically contested spaces and how they can be a foundation for collective cultural reflection and acts of resistance.

Register for the Opening Reception

Online Presentation & Discussion with Dr. Katherine Hite: Art⇔ Empathy ⇔ Justice: Toward Reparative Forms of Justice in Memorial Art
Saturday, December 10, 3-5pm

“Without art there is no empathy; without empathy there is no justice.” – Darren Walker. Taking cues from the eloquently crafted equation between art and justice, in this discussion, Dr. Katherine Hite, professor of Political Science at Vassar College will discuss her work with the Politics and the Art of Commemoration in Latin America, Spain and the U.S. that seek to give voice to histories often silenced or suppressed by dominant historical narratives.

Register for Art⇔ Empathy ⇔ Justice

Columbus Mold-Making Workshop
Saturday, Dec 17, 1-5 pm

No prior experience necessary.
In this hands-on workshop, attendees will learn the basics of plaster and silicone mold-making. With demonstrations led by the artist, participants will learn how to register (map) a mold, how to properly mix molding materials and how to progressively build multiple-part molds. Previously molded sections of the Columbus replica (hands, face, chest) will be used to cast multiples from slip (liquid clay.) All materials/tools included.

Register for Columbus Mold-Making Workshop

“Columbusing Columbus: A Poets Choir Conducted by Edwin Torres with special musical guest Iva Bittová”
Saturday, Jan 14, 1-3 pm

This final participatory performance will include a Poets Choir conducted by Edwin Torres who will vocalize the collective liturgy written as the culmination of visitors’ responses accumulated during the course of “Columbus Confessionals.” In a guided recitation with musical accompaniment, visitors are invited to join in a “laying of hands” in a procession-like ritual from which a repentant figure of Columbus will be recast using vessels created from molded sections of the sculpture.

Register for the Closing Reception: Columbusing Columbus: A Poets Choir Conducted by Edwin Torres with special musical guest Iva Bittová

Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/
Columbus Confessionals

Drop-in Hours

Fridays & Saturdays 12-6 pm

Private Studio Visits with the Artist

(60mins, For Groups of 1-4)

Sundays Nov 13 & 20, Dec 4,11, & 18, and Jan 8, 2–6pm.
By appointment only.

To make an appointment, sign up no later than 10 am the same day at 

While we do not require proof of vaccination, use of KN95, or N95, or KF94 Masks (age 2+) are required for all visitors. One will be provided if other types of mask are worn. While not required, we encourage guests to take a rapid test before visiting the space.


The question of what to do with monuments that have potentially outlived their ideological usefulness is easily answered by removing such public sculptures from our sight. Columbus Confessionals proposes that by recruiting such objects for their symbolic potential, we gain the possibility of confronting ideologies inconsistent with an equitable, tolerant and empathetic society.

As an artist, Superville Sovak employs cultures of remembrance to fill in the gaps inherent in the narratives of multi-racial identities that make up the DNA of this country (as well his own). By employing participatory activation for his projects, Superville Sovak seeks a form of discourse that illuminates the complexity of an audience. In past projects the artist has officiated participatory performances, which symbolically disavow the unmerited benefits of stolen land and labor (Burial for White Supremacy), marked the ties of one college campus’s famed architectural monument to the legacy of the slave economy (Stolen Sugar Makes the Sweetest Books), and engaged passersby in a storefront portrait studio/oral history recording sessions (I Draw & You Talk.) For his Recess Session, the artist has reimagined the space as a laboratory for exploring the redemptive potential of a life-size replica of a monument to Christopher Columbus that has recently been the center of public protest by local community members.

A replica of the Columbus monument will be housed in one side of a confessional booth where the sculpture will remain partially exposed to visitors who may enter the other chamber and engage in a private dialogue with the sculpture. Visitors are asked to explore their own connection to the various layers of meaning that have been ascribed to Columbus throughout American history. On an adjacent wall, large prints of Columbus’s outline invite viewers to write down their responses to the questions “What did Columbus say in the past?”, “What should Columbus say in the present?”, and “What might Columbus say in the future?” Transposed onto the monument, Columbus then serves as a vessel for projections of both our anger and hope. Columbus Confessionals, therefore, not only asks “Can a sculpture feel pain?” but also, “Can a sculpture feel our pain?”

Columbus Confessionals acknowledges the ideological purgatory into which the symbolic figure of Columbus has been cast. During the course of the Session, a selection of the respondents’ words will be compiled into a liturgy embodying a collective form of judgment, a cleansing fire otherwise understood as “un-forgetting”, through which our understanding of a seemingly impenetrable historical figure may allegorically “satisfy old debts, undergo correction, and heal painful memories” according to the Catholic tradition of Confession.

As the Session progresses, the artist will be compiling a topical reading list and a series of recorded interviews with artists and scholars on subjects as “The Politics of Memory” and “The History of Allegorical Representations of American Nationhood.” The artist will also be using a part of the Recess gallery as a fabrication studio, inviting the public to attend workshops to mold sections of the Columbus model (hands, face, chest) in order to cast objects that will be used in a ritualized performance culminating at the end of the Session.

Columbus Confessionals borrows the image of the patron Saint of American Nationhood as a wedge to leverage and fracture differences between history and nostalgia. The project invites the public to collectively peel back the layers of mythological identities embedded within dominant historical narratives of Nationhood, Independence, Citizenship, Patriotism and Righteous Rebellion.

Can a Sculpture Feel Pain?/ Columbus Confessionals is part of Recess’s program, Session, which invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

 About the Artist

Jean-Marc Superville Sovak is a multidisciplinary artist and teaching professional whose work is deeply rooted in the histories and communities around him. His public works include organizing and officiating a Burial for White Supremacy (Unison Arts Center, New Paltz, NY), retracing speculative steps on the Underground Railroad across historic sites in the Hudson Valley (Wilderstein Historic Site, Rhinebeck, NY), designing memorials to Afro-Dutch pioneers in colonial New Netherlands (Rockland County Art in Public Places), and I Draw & You Talk, a storefront portrait-drawing studio doubling as an oral history project (Matteawan Gallery, Beacon, NY.) His current practice, a-Historical Landscapes, involves altering 19th-century landscape engravings to include images borrowed from contemporaneous Anti-Slavery publications.

As Visiting Artist and Lecturer, Jean-Marc has used his work as a platform to discuss topics such as “The American Picturesque in the Age of Abolitionism” at colleges, universities and cultural institutions such as the Loeb Arts Center at Vassar College, the Samuel Dorsky Museum at SUNY New Paltz, Bard College Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network (EHCN), Berrie Arts Center at Ramapo College of New Jersey, and Olana State Historic Site. Jean-Marc’s art has been exhibited at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, Shirley Fiterman Art Center, Arts Westchester, Kingston Sculpture Biennial, Manifesta 8 European Biennial, Fridman Gallery, Transmitter Gallery, and the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York. A graduate of Bard College’s M.F.A. Program in Film/Video, Jean-Marc’s video work has been screened worldwide and is distributed by Videographe, Inc. Jean-Marc’s practice also includes guest curating “We Wear the Mask: Race and Representation at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.” Jean-Marc has been the recipient of a NYFA Strategic Opportunity Stipend and the Alice and Horace Chandler Purchase Award and his works in the permanent collections of the Loeb Art Center and the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.

Recess is supported, in part, by Alloy Development, LLC, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, Art for Justice Fund, Art Matters Foundation, The Andy Warhol, Foundation for the Visual Arts, Blavatnik Family Foundation, Bloomberg LP Philanthropy, Brendan Dugan, Brooklyn Community Foundation, The Cy Twombly Foundation. The David Teiger Foundation, David Rockefeller Fund, The Destina Foundation, DFW Fund, ELMA Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Frank E. Clark Charitable Trust, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, Jane Hait, Jewish Communal Fund, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, Lawrence & Idell Weisberg Foundation, The Luce Foundation, Kickstarter, MacKenzie Scott & Dan Jewitt, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York Community Trust, The New York State Council on the Arts, The Odyssey Fund, The Pinkerton Foundation, Progressive Philanthropy Group, The Prospect Hill Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation, Robert Lehman Foundation, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Salomon Foundation, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, The Shapiro-Silverberg Foundation, The Silverweed Foundation, Sozosie Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Tikkum Olam Foundation, VIA Fund, Visionary Freedom Fund, Wescustogo Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation