Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves
By C.C. McKee for Artforum
May 4, 2020
Karyn Olivier’s exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art is introduced by a poignant contestation of the monument’s expected forms and subjects: Attendants at the threshold of the gallery invite viewers to take a simple red carnation and a pearl-topped lapel pin. Olivier’s wall text indicates that she is distributing carnations as a tribute to mothers, conceived in response to multiple historical events.
First was the Philadelphian Anna Jarvis’s campaign for a national Mother’s Day in 1905; by 1908, the carnation was associated with the celebration, federally recognized in 1914. Later was an incident that more tragically linked the holiday to this city: the infamous 1985 police bombing (which unfolded just after Mother’s Day) of the communal row house owned by the black liberation group MOVE. Six adults and five children died; at least sixty houses in the neighborhood were destroyed. At the show, the carnations, with their intimate and mobile relationship to the body, invert monumentality’s presumed scale and fixity.