In Invisible Ink, I am inviting spectators to engage with me in an interrogation of whiteness that moves beyond the white-walled gallery space into real world action…that in fact helps to reimagine the real world as the art world and action as art.
Working in collaboration with conceptual artist Natasha Marin, I orchestrate and participate in the transmutation of digital artifacts from Marin’s recent work Reparations into the most basic of material elements in order to create a hyper-deliberate, sensual, embodied experience of privilege and accountability in visitors to the installation.
Transcribing in lemon juice—homemade invisible ink—a digital backlog of requests for help, offers of support, and assaultive troll attacks received by Marin during her six-month Reparations project, participants and I will produce a 1000-foot-long enunciation of the ways whiteness protects those affiliated with its power from awareness of and accountability for the costs and benefits of that artificial construction. As we iron out the lemon juice messages, we enact the process of making need and harm visible and are then invited to go farther—to take simple actions to meet need and remedy harm by responding materially to the original messages.
I’ve been thinking about the peril and privilege of invisibility. About passing for straight. About aging out of cat calls. About what it means to be white against “a sharp white background,” (Zora Neale Hurston). What it means to affiliate with emblems of rightness and to repudiate emblems of wrongness while failing, in either case, to be implicated, to make amends, to reconcile. I’ve been thinking about the tension between claiming “whiteness” as a way of implicating myself in, and holding myself accountable for, the consequences of a constructed racial identity, while at the same time—in so doing—enjoying its benefits, reinforcing its legitimacy, and reiterating its harms.
I’ve been thinking it is like writing with invisible ink. No sense of continuity or context. No risk. No consequence. It is a blind-folded groping that is at best ineffectual and at worst injurious. There must be a move to see and make seen and make change.
Feast Arts Center, January-February 2017, opening reception 6-9pm, Thursday January 19th.