One dozen artists making visible the invisible. Making emotionally palpable the reverberations we all have felt. Bringing to life the lives that have left an imprint and examining what the author Svetlana Alexievich calls “the missing history — the invisible imprint of our stay on Earth and in time.”
The following is the first of a series, a collection of my notes, for what is to be a three monthlong exhibition and presentation at ArtYard.
Invisible is curated by Jill Kearney.
Inspired by the words that Svetlana Alekseevich wrote within a documentary novel on the aftermath of a nuclear disaster, Chernobyl Prayer, Invisible also concerns itself with “the ‘missing history’, the invisible imprint of our stay on earth and in time.”
Jill Kearney has chosen artists whose work examines “omitted histories, imperceptible forces, and unspoken narratives which render[s] that which is apparent, misleading, or incomplete.” To illuminate such imperceptible forces during these unprecedented times of volatility is both courageous and characteristic of ArtYard’s mission, and a welcome meditation on what connects us all.
There is so much being said within each piece, by each artist, that one could spend many quiet moments, and many introspective visits within Invisible, and still feel there is more to learn, because, the more you take in, the more questions arise. I’ve decided to start on the first floor…
One. Kawita Vatanajyankur.
Where pop colors and vibrancy may dissuade the viewer from Kawita Vatanajyankur’s earnestness, spending time to witness her performances for any length of time, earnestness rings true, highlighted by the stark but bold backdrops. There is a voyeuristic awkwardness that may engulf you at first, watching these straightforward, but evocatively performed, tasks by the artist. In fact, the intimate humanity of what has often been called unskilled labor, is put very much to the forefront, and it will humble you.
If you’ve ever caught yourself daydreaming while washing the dishes, you can understand that the repetitive and seemingly futile action of tidying up, can induce the heart’s memory within a sensitive doer. Someone tasked to mop or broom a large office floor, for example, might bring with them their own unique personality and through that repetition be awakened to forgotten memories.
A mother’s mopping might yield a meditation on mourning a lost child, practically taking on the emotional burden of trauma in its physical form, where every step, stroke, and sweep of a mop can feel like trudging through with a veritable ghost on your shoulders.
Vatanajyankur allows time to unfold rather slowly, the process to take on – in painstaking detail – the very effort it demands. Under an emotional microscope, where her entire body acts as both the task and the doer, the performances run the gamut from essentially mundane to sheer necessity. From dying yarn to weaving a loom, washing a floor to gathering packing and weighing produce – work that’s demanded on a constant basis. Dust, dirt, fabric, fruit. Explicitly performed with earnest fervor.
There is a stroke of endurance and performance art in both the making and the viewing, for these recorded and repeating acts take on new life in their detail and recontextualization, separating the human from the work, by ironically bringing the human to the work itself. What really happens behind the scenes? Before a scarf comes to a sales rack? After a long day at the office? Before colorful bounty reaches the table top? Before we consume, who contends with what needs to be created?
Two. Willie Cole’s “Beauties”
Portraits of five beloved women from Coke’s personal history cast as weathered ironing boards whose shapes evoke iconic maps of slave-ship holds.~ WillieCole.com
Life-sized, charred, textured.
Stamped with burnt edges, embossed
Time and time again.
Could you tell who was lefthanded?
Could you tell who may have favored a sore back or shoulder?
The curve of a shoulder, a neck and back at work. Lovingly beset to beauty, rendering their memories whole — and part of a greater whole.
Where pressed white-collars-and-sleeves-steamed-and-starched go about the world with impeccability, there lies behind-and-underneath marks of work and will. Marks of time and effort.
Stepping back and seeing the whole picture… These outlines and marks seem like photographic negatives or remnants rich in the bloodstained hulls of Slave Ships, and the thousands of lives lost to a sinful system of systemic stealing and slaughter. The incendiary passage of time and space traversed by the hot irons of colonialism and chains of capitalism, forged link by link, to their cost-effective collateral damage of hypocritical hierarchy. Forever etched into the psyche of a nation, inextricably and indelibly linked.
Life-sized, charred, textured with burnt edges.
Stamped, burnt, embossed.
Time and time again.
Three. Sandra Ramos.
“The Hand of History.” Multimedia Installation. Soundtrack composed by Pavel Urkiza.
Antique desks “painted” in dusty chalk with chairs suspended in the air.
You are immediately transported into the back of a classroom with the inertia from the day still palpable in the air. A surreal semblance of memories and magic.
Rhythmic transference keeps the atmosphere light not wistful, propelling us forward deeper into time into our own imaginations?
What would you write about? Who would you write about? Who makes a difference in your life? Who do you love? Why do you love them?
From the mouths of babes, in their own hands, there are drawings and essays. They have shared their heroes with us and so should you. Chalk and pencil lead. Aged wood and wrought iron.
Something so fleeting and impermanent
With prospects to slip away from the present.
The permanence and prominence of digital media,
there is something indelible, intelligent, and earnest –
powerful about each story.
They are here –
They are reactions to someone who has made a mark on the future.
Come and read why? You might be surprised.
#Invisible @ArtYard #TheHandOfHistory