". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby - Kara Walker

Kara Walker's new show,is an installation  site-specific -- the abandoned Brooklyn  Domino Sugar Factory. The visitor is presented with figures from our country's southern antebellum past, made of sugar and other sugar industry products such as molasses.

 It's profoundly historical in an ever-widening pattern web of  relationships and events connecting the European Middle Ages to the present, economically, culturally and politically.

This is revealed immediately in the title she has given this show is brilliant, invoking European history back to the crusading medieval era, when the lucrative, if dangerous and very expensive sugar trade with the Middle East brought the sweet stuff to the tables of the ruling elite. Their kitchens fashioned  the sugar into extravagant shapes, landscapes and emblems served as centerpieces at banquets, called an entremet, and in England, more commonly by the Renaissance, a subtlety. By the Renaissance the Europeans were already slaving Africa, taking the people to the New World, to work in the gold and silver mines that financed the architecture and wars of Europe's baroque, rococo and neoclassical periods, and the sugar plantations that would finance the Industrial Revolution.

"Carrying either big baskets or bunches of bananas, they are enlarged from small cheap ceramic figurines still made in China."

... Dominated by an enormous sugarcoated woman-sphinx with undeniably black features and wearing only an Aunt Jemima kerchief and earrings, it is beautiful, brazen and disturbing, and above all a densely layered statement that both indicts and pays tribute. It all but throws possible interpretations and inescapable meanings at you.

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