The Everyday Manifestations of Colonialism’s Legacy
By Olivia Jia for Hyperallergic
December 3, 2019
Banal Presents is the third and final chapter in Colored People Time, an experimental exhibition in three parts curated by Meg Onli at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia. Stretched over the course of one calendar year, this exhibition attempts to represent the ways that colonialism and slavery have permeated the United States’ past, present, and future. Central to this exhibition is an insistence on the common, every day manifestation of this legacy. As Onli writes in the exhibition pamphlet, “it is through the coerced labor and violence against black bodies that an American future has been able to unfold.” The meaning of “colored people time” undergoes many mutations in these chapters: the stolen time of slavery and imprisonment, the mechanical, capitalist metering of time for labor, the time yet to come, and ways it may be conceptualized within a black imaginary, and “colored people time” as an affirmation that a person’s time is not earned, but just is.
During the entirety of 2019, a small, one-room gallery on the second floor of the ICA has played host to these chapters. This exhibition unfolds not only in space, but through time. Its length grants ample opportunity to revisit its contents (there is no financial barrier to entry, since the ICA is free for all), and Colored People Time in turn demands rigor from its viewer: each chapter is accompanied by suggested reading lists. This year-long format transforms the smallness of the space into an ethical directive to think carefully and thoroughly about its shifting contents — fast conclusions are neutered by the knowledge of more parts to come.