If we light up the traces in the dark, will we see their invisible ubiquity? Of what whole will we see?
Curator Liz Park posed these questions to artists Deanna Bowen, Harold Mendez, and Gregory Sholette as prompts to think through the ways in which we engage with the margins of recorded history. Traces in the Dark is the result of the speculative conversation that took place between the curator and artists.
In Deanna Bowen’s ongoing investigation of the Ku Klux Klan, also known as the Invisible Empire, she digs deep into the history of Pennsylvania’s Klan activities from the nineteenth-century fugitive slave uprising in Christiana, Pennsylvania, to the 1964 race riot in Philadelphia, and presents her findings through photography, collage, and performance; in dialogue with his past work, Harold Mendez creates new mixed-media pieces inspired by images sourced from archives in Antioquia, Colombia, which hark back to the country’s violent pasts, including the decade-long civil war now known as La Violencia (1948–58); and Gregory Sholette restages his ongoing Imaginary Archive (produced in collaboration with Olga Kopenkina and more than 70 participants),“a collection of documents about the past whose future never arrived.” Collectively, these projects question what we can and cannot see of the radical and tumultuous pasts from where we stand today.
Traces in the Dark resists today’s emphasis on hyper-visibility which propagates the illusion of everything being seeable, available, accessible, and thus consumable. Each artist instead focuses on a past that is not easy to comprehend, visualize, and digest.