BULAWAYO TO BENNINGTON
Diasporic Rendition, Blackness as Liberty
In the context of explorations like these, to be a diasporan or share a similar experience is to have moved from one corner of the earth to some other. To be able to articulate your diverse experiences of culture and identity in your work, often expressing alternative narratives, is to challenge the established art world's ideas and structures. Bulawayo to Bennington invites the viewer to participate in the illuminating journey through which blackness, both visually and allegorically, detaches from the reactionary scheme of white exhibition walls. You are invited to become the listeners of a diasporic manifesto through the careful selection of photographs, portraying the brunt of the old world as reflected in its diasporic successors.
Throughout history, black visual artists have portrayed the ferocity and scale of the African diaspora – the forced departure of bodies, identities, and culture from the African continent. The creative and visual responses to the African diaspora have mostly focused on a critique of colonialism and its legacy, while also praising the global flourishing of Black culture. Because of the duality of this diasporic selfhood, Tinashe has entered a condition of persistent hybridity, a continual oscillation between cultures, regions, and identities that is powerfully reflected via their art.
Bulawayo to Bennington chronicles explorations with members of the African Diaspora while grappling with questions like, What does it mean to be both African and other? How am I, and others seen - if at all? Moreover, the images in this exhibition are collective reflections on what a post-independence African diaspora looks like. Historically speaking, photography is not a medium that speaks kindly to the black body - nor is it a form that speaks honestly. While it’s been widely perceived as the closest thing to an accurate depiction of whatever is being photographed, what Ariella Azoulay describes as The Event of Photography goes unnoticed. All that makes and leads up to the Photographic Event (the click, the snap, the shutter close) is lost, and one looks only to see the “literal” documented. This, I believe, is a mistake. In order to read images like my own, and many others who depict the black body in a space of celebration, distance, and longing…must have a way to look without subjugating eyes, without looking only to the “moment of capture”, and searching/narrating/listening to these images both for what they are and for what came before and what will come after them. In this way, the history of sitting the black body (with or without permission) in front of a lens that aims to diminish, criminalize, examine, or confine as much as possible is challenged.
Black and White. So much is found and lost in the monochrome. And while I am something of a traitor in my use of digital black and white photography, the images I make reference a history when the black and white photograph was all there was. More than that, though, it is a way for the black body to remain striking. In my eyes, and through my lens the confinement to black and white photographs has allowed my images to always carry a starkness, a contrast, and a sharpness that makes the viewer look. But we have ventured beyond. In the past year, the few photographs made in color have allowed for symbols, traces of light, words, and The Hidden to show themselves in the image. What once I perceived as necessary to draw in a viewer, to force visibility, now manifests in the development of an image that can speak for itself, whatever colors it may wear.
BULAWAYO TO BENNINGTON
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