Welcome to session #2 of the online space Migratory Times, “Silhouettes.”
Silhouettes are made by amateurs, artists, alike, and even cast as a shadow in the everyday. A silhouette is a shadow, profile, miniature cuttings, shadow portrait, illuminating a relationship between light and dark. Utilized by artists and activists alike, the mobilization of the silhouette in the visual has, as described by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, the capability to image race and “otherness.” Some silhouettes are iconic – where the relationship between the light and dark have captured local and global imaginaries. Kara Walker’s paper silhouettes tell a story of the US south as one shaped by violence, both sexual and racial. The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, an association formed in the 1970s, drew awareness to the disappearances occurring during the Argentinian dictatorship (1976 – 1983). Through shadows, the place with light and dark, outlines, silhouettes speak. As this session illuminates, silhouettes manifest in intentional and unintentional actions by artists, community members, scholars, and producers. The image that is created through the interplay and production of light and dark, speaks to coloniality and oppression. As described by Maria Lugones, “Given the coloniality of power, I think we can also say that having a dark and a light side is characteristic of the co-construction of the coloniality of power and the colonial/modern gender system” (2007).
This session includes events that occurred since 2017. It includes a Salon of the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects with Pedro Pablo Gomez, that occurred in March 2017 – transcripts and audio of the salon are featured. This session also features pedagogical conversation, a Salon with the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects – Silhouettes: Migration, (Un)Documented, and Pedagogies, where IiS members Fukushima and Benfield facilitated discussions surrounding the work of Sonia Guiñansaca and artist and muralist Ruby Chacón, and invited Crystal Baik, Jose Manuel Cortez, Cindy Cruz, Marie Sarita Gaytan and Juan Herrera. Silhouettes include the contributions of the artist Kakyoung Lee and her work from the “Barbed Wire Series” which consists of a series of prints, multi-channel moving-image installation, and a cat’s cradle shadow installation. Stills from Kiri Dalena’s Arrays of Evidence Installation, are showcased, in which this project was also contributor to the Migratory Times Project. Also included are images and the video, “Christmas in our Hearts” by RESBAK (RESpond and Break the silence Against the Killings), a collective of artists, media practitioners, and cultural workers that unite to condemn in the strongest possible terms the Duterte regime’s brutal war on drugs. In the Spirit of Itzpaplotl, Venceremos, introduces a feminist collaboration between artist and painter, Ruby Chacón, photographs by Flor Olivo, and feminist scholarly research by Dr. Sonya Alemán. Additionally, featured video and images produced through “Women in Migration” (2017) which consisted of a collaboration between the Institute of (Im)Possible Subjects (IiS) with the University of Utah Museum of Fine Arts A.C.M.E. session featuring IiS members Dalida Maria Benfield, Damali Abrams, and Annie Isabel Fukushima, and collaborations with UMFA Jorge Rojas and Emily Izzo and Utah community members Romeo Jackson, Maria, Yehemy, Veronica, Alejandra, Ashley, Jean, Alex, Akiva, Kylee, Andrew, and Christina. Therefore, Silhouettes is an invitation to scholars, artists, visual producers, the everyday person, to submit works that speak to the coloniality and oppression through the silhouette.
I haven’t been writing here, but I have been writing here. Just in my head. I realized that I was feeling guilty for not getting words down here and I wonder if that’s just another way that I have internalized capitalism’s drive for production. I also feel guilty for not working on an academic manuscript–even though I am not currently affiliated with any institution of higher learning. I feel guilty for not working on anything creative. [Sidebar: bookmarked for someday when I feel like writing about the differences between myself and my European partner when it comes to daily productivity].
To be honest, I have lost track of the days. Has it been more than a month that la cuarantena has been in effect? Is this week 5 or week 6? Days slide by, one much like the other. Only deadlines and Zoom meetings with my freelance clients make a day different from the one that came before, the one that will come after.
Over the weekend (and hear I echo the Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey who famously said, “What is a week end?” Indeed, Your Ladyship, indeed), I was texting my brother in Los Angeles about metaphors. After a long rant about American society, I texted: It’s as if we are watching the metaphor of a self-destructing and broken humanity become real before our eyes.
Metaphors matter. Diseases, viruses, pandemic, contamination, containment…all metaphors that have been used to describe various groups of people, particularly immigrants. It’s interesting to see the reverse happening. Instead of slapping metaphors onto “undesirable” bodies, our bodies have become “undesirable, alien, foreign” under “attack” by a real life virus that (in and of itself**) doesn’t differentiate between the bodies it occupies.
**The higher rate of infections and deaths in African and African American communities (New York, China, eg) are proof that social structures and organization, such as access to health services, tests, protective gear are not at all equal and result in the disproportinate numbers we see in so-called “minority” groups. But the virus itself is, to use that odious term, color-blind.
So I guess I am thinking about what it means when the metaphor ceases to be a metaphor. What language are we using now to describe the pandemic? What images are we turning to? How will the poets (in the classical sense, ie, the culture-makers) memorialize this moment?