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Kissing through a Curtain

  • Exhibition

  • On view through October 31, 2021
  • MASS MoCA

“How would you like to be kissed through a curtain?”
“Better than not kissing at all.”
An exchange on the act of translation, as recounted by poet Kwame Dawes.

Translation offers uncertain intimacy. We wonder: what is lost in translation? What kernel of the original cannot be carried to the new language and context? And what is gained? New meanings accrete in translation, as each new language, context, and the passage of time itself adds new associations.

The ten contemporary artists in this exhibition address boundaries, and attempts to communicate across them: not just between different languages, but also between nations, cultures, media, bodies, and individual minds. Their work invites us to consider moments of mediated contact, and uncertain communication, as potential sites for the generation of new knowledge.

We installed this exhibition before MASS MoCA temporarily closed its doors to the public due to COVID-19: before interactions took place through masks and digital screens; before countries’ borders were locked down still further; before the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police, and numerous other acts of anti-Black violence, sparked a new wave of protests around the United States and the world.

In some ways, the exhibition is already the type of work that MASS MoCA, as a contemporary art museum, does not usually show: a piece of history. And yet, many of the questions asked here feel even more urgent today than they did months ago. Borders—and the ways that they differentiate one group from another—are hotly contested. Is the act of translation a way of reaching across borders and forging new connections, or is it another form of appropriation and colonization? How do we mourn in the mediated and highly partisan “togetherness” of social media? If communication from one context to another is always imperfect, why do we attempt it at all?

Including works by Nasser Alzayani, Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Kim Faler, Justin Favela, Osman Khan, Christine Sun Kim, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Jimena Sarno, Clarissa Tossin, and Jessica Vaughn.


You can download a PDF of the exhibition guide here.

SAHA Massachusetts Cultural Council Barr Foundation logo

Justin Favela, Popocatepetl e Iztaccihuatl vistos desde Atlixco, after Jose Maria Velasco, 2016
Paper and glue. 64″x 82″
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

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