i saw this on my feed yesterday afternoon. it stuck for many hours. — some thoughts (which are around representation but then also about what themes to work with):
— the rust, the rust: it is weeping, seeping onto bodies long dead and we watch and watch.
— the comment thread. it is agitated, people are offended. some of them realise that that is the point.
sculpture, in particular its cast in metal, figurative variations, often leaves me cold, or, more so still: push me away. i think it is flesh turned into metal and the tradition with which it comes which stands almost diametrically opposite to what interests me in a now that is fleeting, temporary. here it is similar. and yet: it is the cheap metal chain’s bleeding that first catches my eye: that what binds is bleeding, the people it binds often with mouths wide open, in agony. i type without looking again.
the rust, the bleed: a simple effect of how iron oxidises when left to the elements, a simple: if a, then b. it is what makes this work more than a statue, it is living moving thing. it continues. it is not cast in metal but bleeds and bleeds and bleeds. knowing one’s material to choose it for this is important.
my next set of thoughts: i can’t begin to understand how it must be, feel, express for Kwame Akoto-Bamfo to dedicate his time, his heart, his skill to create these figures. To build the cast, the figure, to chain it and to admit it to visibility and the elements. I can’t begin to fathom what dream, what intent, what pain and passion he pursues and draws on. — For me, even working with far more singular traumatic events as source material, as I have done for a good part of the course so far has been trying, has been hard; and for each project I would be so relieved that it was completed. Some of them were cathartic, at other times I realised I was making things so much harder for myself by seeking to process those subject matters. But of course, there were moments that compelled me.
These thoughts come at a time when I am thinking about the subject matter for my body of work. For the past three years I had assumed it would be my mother’s childhood home (House), so much material around it exists (some of it in this flickr set and a related website), enough time has possibly passed to address it and develop it for a public setting. Throughout this Drawing module I moved to a different set of concerns and a working practice that is closer to the ground, the process, the enquiry again: to let the tools and methods lead me to the substantive concerns. This work, as well as the earlier work that already concerns the House are often processed and presented in a form of play, with a tenderness and some humour, they play for lightness, a slight sense of touch, that if it catches you right may open a door to the stuff it also contains. It is that translation, that holding together which is the act that costs so much but is also rewarding.
Over the past few weeks I have come to the conclusion that I will not, as a substantive topic, revisit House and prepare for it to be rebuilt as an exhibition in a couple of years. Instead, I will let the themes of this current module, its exploration of control, agency, a gap, a movement, a boundary transgressed (and the various tools with which I have begun to interrogate these themes) guide me — there will be enough of the other, more difficult stuff, contained in them already. This clarity has been good to arrive at. These figures through which the Middle Passage is a thing of today, bleeding on and on, not just in an outdoors space at a Memorial in Alabama but on my phone on the way from the airport to my home, have clarified some of the above.
I read some more: Akoto-Bamfo had been denied a visa to the US for the opening of the exhibit in April 2018; an interview with him about the work is here. His own website here.