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to see oneself at a distance

 

  • Exhibition

  • On view beginning March 25
  • MASS MoCA

“Which came first: the desire to fly, or the desire to see oneself at a distance?”– Suneil Sanzgiri, At Home But Not At Home (2019)

to see oneself at a distance proposes a kind of looking against the grain that focuses on revolutionary moments throughout the 20th century while complicating their over-romanticization. To see these histories at a distance is to reckon with their complexities, afterlifes, and the varying scales of their implications (from the individual to the global). The four artists in the exhibition employ rigorous archival research to create artworks that explore decolonization not as an event horizon, but as a series of gestures, ruptures, and fragments that might ripple across time and space. Together, the artists in to see oneself at a distance demonstrate how once-triumphant histories of liberation are (mis)remembered, instrumentalized, negotiated, and endure into the present.

In a trilogy of short films shown in a new installation, Suneil Sanzgiri probes the intersection between his family’s history in Goa, India, and stories of global solidarity, freedom fighters, and neocolonial extractive forces. Kapwani Kiwanga locates botanical elements in the photographic and video records of independence ceremonies, treaty signings, and the official events in newly independent African nations. She has invited local farmer, floral designer, and chef Tu Le of 328North (Williamstown, MA) to study and recreate these arrangements, which will dry and wither over the course of the exhibition. Hương Ngô will exhibit new works on paper investigating Marxist writings attributed to the Vietnamese anti-colonial organizer Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai and asking how feminist struggles, sitting at the intersections of patriarchy and colonial surveillance, have been effaced and deferred for the sake of national narratives. And in an investigation of what she calls “digital colonialism,” Maryam Jafri’s two installations examine how archival photographs from key moments in the histories of certain African and Middle Eastern nations have been acquired and edited by multinational stock photo agencies, suggesting that some archives obscure as much as they reveal. 

Suneil Sanzgiri
Letter From Your Far-Off Country, 16mm to 2k video, 2020, 17 min.
Still courtesy of the artist