Cosmic Ghost at the Museum: The Shadows Took Shape Highlights

From "The Shadows Took Shape" book

To the right is the exhibition book from Naima J. Keith and Zoe Whitley curated exhibition, The Shadows Took Shape. It is a nice-looking book with purple pages and reversed alphabetical order of artists, and it’s royally expensive, too ($50), but it looks worth it. Anyway, here are some of the artists and work that I particularly enjoyed:

* Laylah Ali’s Typology series – These were the only black and white, comic-book-like drawings in the exhibition. I thought the juxtaposition between the elaborate, carnivalesque costuming on these human-like people and their abnormal bodily features and positions (missing limbs,  limbs in strange position, attached to others in various methods, probing each other) and their disturbed facial expressions. It is as if the costumes hide something terrible underneath.

*Kira Lynn Harris‘ “Some Blues” – Things are not as they seem. Like funhouse mirrors to distort your perception of yourself and the pieces of wood on the wall.

*Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallaghar’s “Nothing Is” – Besides the use of Sun Ra’s Nothing Is lyrics, their video installation would be easy to miss if you didn’t recognize the point of its slow and subtle changes over time. Nothing in the video seems to change at first, and then you have a slight change that changes everything.

*Kiluanji Kia Henda’s “Icarus 13” – Another work that combines myth, technology and the African diaspora. In a set of pictures is an imaginary construction of an Angolan space flight mission to the sun, linking to both attempted missions of the Icarus myth and the Apollo 13. He took photographs of his everyday surroundings and reconstructed a speculative story from them. Read more about the project at Other Possible Worlds.

From "The Shadows Took Shape" exhibition/Mehreen Murtaza

*David Huffman‘s “MLK” – There was multiple meanings to be pulled from this – Moses, a figure King was compared to, on a mountaintop parting the way, the funeral procession of King and people in astronaut costumes carrying the casket. Putting it together, you have the image of King being carried to the mystical promise land, the holy land of the exodus, that he spoke of in his speeches, and the “traumanauts” who are in constant exploration for it themselves.

*Mehreen Murtaza‘s “Triptych” – Her artwork is based on a “digital philosophy,” a mixture of spiritual/mythic and technological, fact and fiction, ancient and futuristic, “that everything in the metaphysical world is based on a computer code.” Matrix? The triptych is collage-like with various urban, alien, cosmic, science and technological images.

*Sanford Biggers‘ “Vex” – Biggers, quilts based on constellations, and Harriet Tubman as an astronaut. Enough said. By the way, on the quilt was a qrc code and here is the video, Moon Medicine:

*Harold Offeh‘s Covers – I enjoyed this one so much. He modeled in photographs that imitated the covers of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain, Betty Davis’ They Say I’m Different, The Ohio Players’ Honey and Grace Jones’ Island Life. All of the original covers had women modeling them, so the switching of gender was an interesting angle, and it worked out well, highlighting the absurdity and strangeness of photographic posing.

*Hew Locke’s “Chimera” – I have never seen a large-scale beaded artwork in an exhibition before, especially one depicting mythological figures. Also, his work, he claims, is to challenge the idea that ancient people, mostly people of color, were not intelligent enough to create many of their technological marvels, like in Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, and that aliens had come down to create them. He emphasizes that these myths and arts of the past came from the imaginations of these people, so why can’t the technology. And he’s a Caribbean artist, too, so yay!

From "The Shadows Took Shape" exhibition

*Derrick Adams‘ “We><Here” – I couldn’t ignore the large mask based on the prop used in The Wiz and its symbolism of reinvention and that imaginative power to change comes from within. By the way, I think, besides Dorothy, the other important figure in The Wizard of Oz/The Wiz is Toto. Maybe I’ll do a post on that later.

*John Akomfrah’s Memory Room 451 – I was able to see one of the films from the series showing and it was Akomfrah’s companion piece to The Last Angel of History. Exploring the diaspora’s complex relationship to hair, he includes time travel through water (hey he stole my idea), alien abduction, and probing dreams/memories/stories through hair and hair as a record connecting to the ancestors.

I will be uploading pictures from the book onto my pinterest.

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