I began developing art about labor that goes unrecorded, unnoticed and often unrewarded when I was living in Morocco doing fieldwork on gender and aesthetics in the 1990's. Already, the project was informed by my interest in history, and the way historians were uncovering traces of those who have not been given voice in history books, often because they were not recorded in words, or, like many of my own unpublished texts, were lost or thrown in the trash bin, "going up in smoke." It has been a recurring topic of research and art making for me ever since.
The installation above is called "Wood/Words, What goes up in Smoke." I developed it in Amsterdam's Allard Pierson Museum of Mediterranean Antiquities in 2014. I love working with established, somewhat old-fashioned formats like the museum vitrine. Working at the Allard Pierson was especially compelling to me given because I have spent so much of my life studying the Mediterranean and living around it. The historical resonance of the objects displayed in archeological museums life the Allard Pierson presents a very dense and complex ground for developing work that teases out the formal and habitual forgettings of even the most through scholarship. The piece is composed of very simple pieces of "wood" in the form of the fascia, a shape like wheat gathered in the fields, but also symbolic of Roman power and justice. The branches say "gather wood, gather words" in the languages and scrips of the region. The texts below work with museum conventions to imaginatively describe these objects. In their uniformity, they reference the continuity of labor in the fields that never ends. Much of this work is done by women. As the saying goes, "a women's work is never done." The fruits of women's labor, whether consumed for nutrition of the body or the spirit, as with spoken poetry are not easily preserved and displayed in a museum case.
Gather Woods/Gather Words, the 'Arousa (Bride)
2012Paper, ink and Acrylic on Canvas
36" x 38"
This is a work in progress. I call it "Labours Lost." Besides referencing Shakespeare's play and love , it explores the conjunction of physical and emotional more generally . I worked by tracing my own body and used my hands and feet as stamps and tools.