kiyan williams unearths black tradition with new work

January 10, 2019
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Dirt and water have always been a site of both poetic and political investigation, and for good reason. Water is how we arrived here, and dirt is what we cultivated by force. The Black diaspora does have our own particular relationship with these materials and elements — in our spiritual and cultural traditions, as well as within our own subjugation. Haitians have used a mineral-rich mud for medicinal purposes, and dirt is what has submerged nations of our ancestors in unmarked graves. Like just about everything else, we have as many uses of and perspectives on dirt as we do on people. It just depends on who you ask.

With Kiyan Williams’ new video and sculpture project, “Dirt Eater” (2019), the artist uses performance and aesthetics to a create conversation around this past. Williams has been an enthralling artist to follow because of their ability to hold different subjects and themes while making them into a coherent story about the historical terrors and dreams we never see, through a lens that sits at the intersection of queerness and Blackness.

SculptureCenter’s annual In Practice exhibition — this year entitled Other Objects — promises the exhibit that interrogates the space between a person being engaged as a human versus as an object. In domination culture, one of the most common practices is to remove humanity from the body and leave a vessel to  project upon, with tropes usually crafted by the very culture looking to do the dominating. It is exciting to think of a series of performances and works that challenge this practice. Simply, I’m ready to eat dirt.

In Practice: Other Objects opens January 13th at 5 p.m. at the SculptureCenter in New York, NY.