Tonight is the closing reception for Only When it’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars, the Abigail DeVille project installed at the Peale Museum downtown that was commissioned by the Contemporary. The inimitable Joyce J. Scott is performing, and there’s a processional featuring the New Edition Marching Band that was directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, one of the many collaborators on this project.
And, yes, I’m going to use this event as a shameless excuse to link to my arguably too wordy essay about the show that appeared over at Bmore Art.
Above: A detail of “Black Whole” from DeVille’s Peale Museum installation. Excuse the poor rendering of the m4v file to GIF.
Despite all the typing and obvious research that went into that piece, I didn’t get a chance to acknowledge a few key things that appropriately calibrated my head for doing my best to wrestle with the intersection of history, museums, creative labor, and race, and I wanted to. I didn’t quote directly from any of them, but whatever interesting things I may have said about Dark Enough are greatly indebted to three essays, one set of liner notes, and two songs listed below.
The first is art historian Rebecca Zorach’s essay “Art & Soul: An Experimental Friendship between the Street and a Museum” that appeared in the Art Journal, Summer 2011, Vol. 70 Issue 2, p 66-87. It remembers a short collaboration between the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and an organization of former gang members from Chicago’s west side that produced a community art space called Art & Soul in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighbor in 1968. This piece was vital for helping me to understand what we talk about when we talk about collaboration and museum labor.
The second and third essays were examined the 1969 Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition Harlem on My Mind: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900-1968, and the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. Museum Scholar Yuha Jung’s paper from the 2010 International Council of Museums Conference, which I read thanks to it being printed in The International Journal of the Inclusive Museums 7 (2): 1-13, 2015, is titled “Harlem on My Mind: A Step Toward Promoting Cultural Diversity in Art Museums,” and thoughtfully wrestles with understanding the historic context to how museums represent a version of African-American history when African-Americans are not part of that museum process. The second is scholar Caroline V. Wallace’s “Exhibiting Authenticity: The Black Emergency Coalition’s Protests of the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1968-71,” that appeared in Art Journal, Summer 2015, Vol. 74 Issue 2, p 5-23, which is one of those essays everybody should read who has an interest in the activism and the problematic structural insufficiencies of museums.
The last three things may seem trivial but nothing happens in my brain without a soundtrack, and very often the ideas midwifed by the music experience are as important for how my brain gets wired as conventional prose communication. In the case of thinking about See the Stars, those wild cards were the liner notes to Godspeed You Black Emperor’s Yanqui U.X.O., Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation Project and specifically “Revolution”, and Palace Brothers’ “For the Mekons Et Al” off the 1994 compilation, Hey Drag City.