Colored People Time
By Devin Malone for Brooklyn Rail
August 1, 2019
In 1971, leadership at both the Institute for Contemporary Art Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (Penn Museum), proposed the idea of collaborating on a project that would bridge ethnographic objects and contemporary art practices. It wasn’t until March 2018 when Assistant Curator Meg Onli joined forces with anthropologist Dr. Monique Scott that such a collaboration would come to fruition.
Colored People Time: Quotidian Pasts is the second chapter in Onli’s trio of consecutive exhibitions (all in 2019), which includes Mundane Futures, Quotidian Pasts (February 1 – March 31) and Banal Presents (September 13 – December 22). Each chapter aims to examine the everyday ways the horrors of bondage and colonialism have informed the subjectivities of Black people across space and time. At first glance, Quotidian Pasts appears sparse. A group of white sculptures sit atop glistening aluminum pedestals. To the right, two TV screens flash images of dancers, ritual objects, and footage from a post-war game show. An adjacent wall has been painted green to mimic the palette of a natural history museum and bears a single photograph. In the rear, two vitrines of archival materials are unassuming while still somehow reminding the viewer of their presence. The exhibition initially conveys sterility, but what is absent here prepares the viewer to carefully examine what is present.