“The Proof of Issues Not Seen,” a wide-ranging retrospective of the work of the American artist Carrie Mae Weems (b. Portland, Ore., 1953), who ranks among the many most influential up to date artists working at the moment. Encompassing photographic sequence, movies, and installations revamped the previous thirty-five years, her multifaceted oeuvre has had a far-reaching aesthetic and political impression.
In “The Proof of Issues Not Seen,” Carrie Mae Weems invitations us to discover blind spots of (up to date) historical past. The title of her first exhibition in Switzerland gestures towards the historical past of violence in opposition to Black and Indigenous folks and the presence of what’s disregarded or not proven. Weems seems in a lot of her personal works, guiding us to forgotten moments in historical past—to formative occasions whose lingering results are palpable in society even at the moment. The artist investigates dominant historic narratives and divulges how they’re produced and reproduced by politics, scholarship, artwork, mass media, pictures, and structure. Her presence as a witness permits Weems to be each topic and object, each director and performer of her works. Whether or not working at vital websites or restaging historic moments, her focus is at all times on how the histories of marginalized teams are framed. Racism and programs that assist it in all its manifestations and excesses are a central concern in Weems’s work.
Weems’s work has typically examined dominant energy buildings and types of social segregation, in photographic installations similar to The Hampton Undertaking (2000), which explores white efforts to reeducate different cultures within the U.S., and Museum Collection and Roaming (each 2006), which highlight the exclusionary high quality of cultural and historic monuments. Various works handle the police violence in opposition to African People within the U.S. To counterbalance the lengthy historical past of brutality in opposition to folks of shade, Weems surveys the equally lengthy and storied historical past of resistance. Motifs of escape, grief, remembrance, and protest grow to be delicate manifestoes in opposition to forgetting. And 22 Million Very Drained and Very Offended Individuals (1989–90) combines pictures of on a regular basis gadgets with captions that counsel their potential makes use of as instruments of revolution. The sequence will be learn as a poetic instruction handbook for collective riot in opposition to oppression.
Within the set up Land of Damaged Goals: A Case Examine (2021), guests enter a retro lounge full of memorabilia associated to the Black Panther Get together, the militant Black energy group based in 1966. Incorporating historic magazines and pictures that depict the racial violence of the Sixties and 70s, the piece resonates with up to date points. The repercussions of systemic racism are additionally illustrated by the façades in Portray the City (2021), which have been boarded up and repainted, in some instances a number of occasions. The sequence was created in Weems’s native Portland, Ore., a middle of the Black Lives Matter protests and the scene of heavy clashes between protesters and police.
For the reason that earliest days of her profession, Weems has additionally drawn consideration to magnificence, rituals, magic, and spirituality in addition to glimpses of personal life that talk to public considerations. A attribute instance is The Kitchen Desk Collection (1990), already an iconic piece of Western pictures and artwork historical past, which builds emotionally complicated narratives centered on the lifetime of a Black lady within the intimate setting of her kitchen. The exhibition in Basel dedicates a complete room to the photographic work.
One other sustained concern in Weems’s work is the ambivalence of well-liked tradition. In The Louisiana Undertaking: Lacking Hyperlink (2003) and Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me—A Story in 5 Elements (2012), she avails herself of the alluring stylistic gadgets of carnival and vaudeville, making an attempt on conventional roles, masks, and costumes and celebrating the pleasure of theatricality as a strong technique to expose the racialization of the characters on show. In Scenes and Takes (2016), the artist, wearing black, walks via the units of profitable TV reveals similar to Nice Expectations that characterize a sea change within the U.S. leisure business: not solely had been Black actors solid within the lead roles, the sequence had been additionally conceived by Black screenwriters and developed by Black producers.
The show at Kunstmuseum Basel is predicated on the exhibitions “The Proof of Issues Not Seen,” Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (April 2–August 21, 2022), “A Nice Flip in The Attainable,” Fundación MAPFRE and Fundación Foto Colectania, Barcelona (October 5, 2022–January 15, 2023), and ”Reflections for Now,” Barbican Centre, London (June 22–September 3, 2023).
The exhibition’s title, “The Proof of Issues Not Seen,” is borrowed from the eponymous guide by the African-American activist and author James Baldwin, an prolonged meditation on the murders of thirty Black youngsters and youngsters in Atlanta in 1979–1981—and the authorities’ turning a blind eye to those crimes.
at Kunstmuseum Basel
till April 7, 2024