Happenstance and a work meeting downtown got me near enough the Museum of Contemporary Art to stop in today. Glad I did, as Rashid Johnson’s show Message to our Folks gave me plenty to consider. Here’s one axis of thought about the work.
The installation-driven work gave me elements of a marred home interior. Flooring, a gallery of wall photos, “oriental” rugs, furniture installation. Fire-branded wood flooring; rugs and furniture defaced in clean, intent gestures. Spray paint has as much intentionality on one rug as the crosshairs machine sewn into a carpet in a separate room.
My personal sense of home is the residence I make in my own body. I find Johnson’s defaced house imagery incredibly compelling.The argument of any cultural hatred (misogyny, racism, homophobia, xenophobia) is, truly, the negative cultural projections written on the body of its targets.
rashid johnson : single work, installation view
Smashed mirrors provide a broken self-image. Who gets seven years bad luck for making this work? No, the bad luck is having poor mirrors, messages that do not reflect the truth of who you are or what your potential might be in this world. Mirrors reflect the body, physicality, the [perceived] object in which a person lives. A culture providing a broken self-image – and then you live with that . . .
run run run
Run run run. Don’t let them catch you out late, don’t let them catch you walking by yourself, carry yourself shoulders back, wear jeans, the tighter the better, they can’t rip them off easy. Run run run. Rape culture trains women to live in fear of being caught by strangers. How do you carry your keys as you approach the locked door of your apartment? How do you vary your walk home, to not make yourself a target? How do you make sure you don’t make eye contact, but know who’s staring at you on the train?
Run run run. Remembering walking through Bloomfield in Pittsburgh with a friend, stopping to dig in my purse for something and he said “Not here, you’re making yourself a target” and I hissed at him “I am not, I know where everyone is standing on this street”. The crosshairs machine-stitched into the carpeting – its written in the lining of the room, in the wallpaper of your mind, in the carpeting of the psyche. Of course I think of Trayvon Martin, but I also think of Johnny Gammage, who died “driving while black”. And I think of all the targets that hate culture puts on anyone’s back, for any visible, physical reason at all.
Run run run. Hm, frying pan or fire? What humans do not size up, categorize, sort, by appearance, by status, by the metadata attached to the person? Where is the predator who has created the broken mirrors upon which to cut one’s self image?
Run run run. How has your house been defaced by cultural programming?
For a sense of the whole show, check out artnet’s full photo essay over here. (link takes you to another RUN piece inside the show). Rashid Johnson’s Message To Our Folks is at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, through August 5 2012.
I feel like ‘little miss obvious’ writing about this, the work speaks so clearly to me. Would love thoughts from others about it.