Art historian Hal Foster’s once theorized that by “confronting the archive, new systems of knowledge can be created.” Future Antebellum, explores a world where the constructs and intervening variables of our collective black consciousness are dismantled and declared a fallacy in a not-so-distant future. You, the viewer, are in the present, living in the era leading up to a collective ‘black apostasy’, a complete and total divestment in the notions, beliefs and ideals founded after Emancipation.
This future African diasporan society tries reshapes the past, our present day, to define a new, yet anachronistic vision of self. Hashtags become legend and folklore. Lifestyle becomes culture and distorted self-image is the only constant. ‘Selfie culture’ evolves into psychosis, a form of hyper self-awareness, every moment is now theatrical and camera ready, even when one is not present. And although many achieve the deepest, blackest melanated selves through body makeup, pigmentocracy reverberates within the newly minted black aristocracy. What thrives and flourishes is black
womanhood and feminism, it is the root that has nourished a nation from its inception, and continues to do so, ad infinitum. What we have in the gallery are portraits from this future - those who invested in our wildest dreams, survive in a country on the edge of a second Civil War, enslavement, disillusionment, literal peace remains elusive, peace of mind is non-existent.
These images are an examination of the deeply rooted connections to black imagery from the Renaissance (and before), colonial-rooted tropes, to contemporary advertising. They are meant to challenge our ease in accepting forms of ‘ornamental blackness’ within the canon of western art history manifests within contemporary African diasporan art. This exhibition initiates a view of the spatial, paradoxical relationship of black people within different points of time, providing both a landscape for reality and fantasy, yet neither leads one to solve any empirical questions about the current state of blackness. This work is not a mirror into our souls, nor is it an homage to current ideas of perfection and beauty. It is a clarion call to observe our trajectory.
Foundation. Ancestry. Impossibility. Reverence.
Black motherhood and black womanhood under slavery were both radical and revolutionary acts. Under the brutality of slavery, motherhood was one of the few ways upon which black women had any biological claim. In other words, black women
experienced real challenges asserting their womanhood, through motherhood, especially under conditions in which they did not have possession over their own bodies. The violence and totality of slavery dislocated traditional meanings of womanhood and motherhood, as black women had to navigate the enduring contradictions between objectification and humanization, and spectacle and routine. The psychic stain of slavery is pivotal to defining how motherhood and womanhood are thought today. Black women operate both in excess and lack, despite the ways that we have been expected to use our bodies to nurture other people’s children. From wet nurses and maids to nannies and other caregivers, we use our laboring bodies to care for the sick, the young, and the dying.
Kinship. Loyalty. Trust. Spirituality.
Children of the enslaved could be stolen from them at any time. Similar conditions exist today with the incredible reach of the state, shaping family dynamics in powerful ways. Poverty, violence, mass incarceration, and inferior health care and education often destabilize the development of physical and emotional relationships between mothers and their children. With periodization, black women’s bodies both bear (the burden) and bare (expose) the mark of history in the Western world. In particular, black mothers, or the image of black mother figures has been both pivotal and polarizing throughout our nation’s history. To that end, black womanhood has historically been tied to notions of strength, independence, sacrifice, and resilience. At the same time, various tropes have relegated black women to the margins as un-feminine, hypersexual, asexual, and angry. Nevertheless, black motherhood is the experience and
expression of enduring love through conditions of impossibility. While each generation experiences a new set of impossible conditions, venerable motherhood that circulates even in the absence of blood kin. Black motherhood is whole, enduring, robust, intense, deliberate. It extends beyond blood ties to enact community and nation building.
Futurity. Triumph. Love. Generosity. Home.
As bell hooks writes, the assertion of black motherhood and womanhood actively resists white supremacy through the establishment of “homeplace” – a physical and discursive domestic space of recovery and resistance shared by black women globally. The potential for technology is to allow us as black women to develop and own representations of ourselves; to open up spaces that engender diverse imaginations of our subjectivity.