This exhibition invites the viewer to consider how we produce and make use of “scriptures” understood broadly as cultural discourse and media. This means seeing scriptures as reflective of the basic “play-element” in culture, as rites, performances (song and dance, etc.), and their varied veiling and unveiling operations and effects. Thus, the exhibition takes the title “Masquerade” as the term that captures what is the phenomenon before us.
In order to understand how reality is “masqueraded,” made up, and maintained, the exhibition takes up the freighted phenomenon of Race/Racialization/Racism as arguably the most complex and persistent vector or transporter of the modern masquerade. Race/racialization/Racism is focused particularly but not exclusively (after colonial-era points of contact) on Black-fleshed peoples--as powerful and disturbing and intensive drivers of the production and arrangement of modernities, for the making and structure of the modern Order of Things--what the curator terms “scripturalization” (and the related terms scripturalizing, scripturalism). Examination of how scripturalization works and what has propelled it is examined through focus on the persistent (hyper)signification of Black flesh.
The sharpness of this focus is facilitated by the window opened by a late eighteenth century English-speaking/-writing ex-slave, Olaudah Equiano/Gustavus Vassa, in his telling of his own “interesting,” complex life story, published in 1789. This narrative is used throughout the exhibition in order to stress some of the major workings and resultant implications and ramifications of the scripturalization of Black flesh for the construction of and responses to, and refractions of, modernities, the realities in which we all are imbedded.
The hope of the curator is that this exhibition and its accompanying panel event will provoke further thinking and conversation about how all of us have been formed, with what consequences, and what are special challenges ahead for us.