A Counter-Monument FUBU
This durational performance attempted to repair the ancestral wounds of American history through a series of deliberate gestures. These ruptures are incurred through the continued presence of Confederate monuments in my home state and absence of public sites to make amends for the exploitation, mistreatment, and erasure of local enslaved populations.
I held space in specific locations inside of the RISD Museum to embroider sets of handmade napkins with text documenting the origin of several Confederate monuments I encountered in Georgia while working on In the Shadow of Dixie. These table linens reference the legacy and intimacy of inherited racism, as well as, the domestic spaces for entertaining in which the monuments were largely organized.
Each performance began in the Museum’s Grand gallery, home to monumental works of European art honoring European families, events, and mythologies. I occupied this space to represent narratives that run parallel, yet counter to the one’s that prevail there. Before the work of embroidering could commence, I had to disentangle and organize knotted black thread to honor the lives, work, and lost stories of enslaved peoples of the African Diaspora.
After the thread was unraveled the performance transitioned into Pendleton House, which is a replica of an 18th Century Providence home that serves as a setting to display the Museum’s decorative arts collection. Wealth and class have often been the factors that determine which stories are recorded and recounted or excluded. In many cases, wealth and class have also decided which artworks and artifacts would become part of a museum’s collection. Conversely, in the case of Portrait of a Gentleman, whose wealth afforded the sitter the opportunity to have his likeness recorded by a master pastel artist, but did not ensure that his story would be remembered by history. Sitting under the Gentleman’s gaze, I worked in silence to honor not only his life, but also the lives and stories of my ancestors that have been lost, forgotten, silenced, or erased.
During the final three performances, I stitched in proximity to several specific objects on view in the Museum’s collection, including Charles-Henri-Joseph Cordier’s African Venus, Head of an Oba from Benin, and Bust of a Nubian Child.
Each performance ended in Repair and Design Futures, an exhibition curated by Kate Irvin that draws attention to the power and beauty in the act of repair.