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“Hydra Decapita” by Dominique White: materiality, ...

“Hydra Decapita” by Dominique White: materiality, an instrument of transformation and rebirth

“Hydra Decapita”, the new Dominique White’s solo exhibition, opened on November 12, 2021 at VEDA, Florence, anticipated by a monographic presentation during the last edition of Artissima fair in Turin. The show will be on view until January 15, 2022.

Located in the spaces of Manifattura Tabacchi, where the gallery has currently moved its venue, White’s sculptures tied to maritime aesthetics and ethics find an environment capable of fully expressing their sources of origin and enhancing their results. The artworks created here, in a small studio area within the exhibition context, take the artist’s research on the themes of the shipwreck to a new level. This concept connected to marginalisation, which can be considered in various declinations, and to the birth of colonialism, persists in her poetics as a form of destruction, which becomes, however, followed by or itself, a rebirth process and a possible future.

Experimenting with materials dear to the artist’s practice, such as kaolin clay, raffia, sails and cowrie shells, Dominique White incorporates casts in iron, which was found on site. Perishability and vulnerability remain primary characteristics, placed in a limbo between drift, decay, recovery and warning of events about to unfold. History is actually the key element, conceivable from multiple viewpoints: the artist’s biography blends with the vicissitudes experienced and narrated by the material, capable of producing new stories once turned into a work of art. The creation is defined by White as a “demanding process”: through a collaborative relationship with the found object, she brings it to the limit of its possibilities, combined with a strong physical contact, almost a kind of “violence”, in the interaction with it.

The deepest sensation evoked by these installations is that of change, an ongoing, constant and unpredictable transformation united to its further temporal developments; a metamorphosis that mirrors the historical and social references the works imply. Starting from a vocabulary of common inspirations, which draws on the world of Blackness, minorities in general and how the capitalist state structures were born and fed themselves on them; the artist expands her connections over time, rooted in contemporaneity, as those recent events coping with millenary issues. The Black Lives Matter movement; the wrongful deaths and consequential global riots and protests; the topping of Colonial statues around the planet and hurricanes in the Caribbean area, nourish her imagery, achieving a sublime combination of pain and beauty.

These bodies that rise from the gallery space, engender paths and other worlds in which to immerse oneself, become something from which one cannot escape, a sort of undertow that lures in itself and forces to be seen in all its “brutal” splendour. By carrying out an activity of recovery and exposure to decay on commodities secularly linked to exploitation and domination, Dominique White celebrates and pays homage to Blackness, consciously avoiding a position of power with respect to the object of art and materials it is made up of. The aware escape from a formal definition has as its objective the construction of a new future that can only be possible in the abyss, where there is a form of anti-state and past, present and future converge.

Water is a pivotal element to White; it has been investigated in depth in recent times by approaching the studies of Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, in particular the idea of ​​Hydrarchy from below. The sea was and still is the real place of command and tension towards change: it is there that the resistance to exploitation, cooperation and solidarity between slaves, fugitives, rebels and pirates are built. Seafaring people organize their life in self-determination, in democracy and in an egalitarian system, devoted to survival; a condition in contrast to patriarchal society of the mainland. If Hydarchy from below is a virtuous example of inclusiveness, that from above has, on the contrary, produced consequences that still affect our times: the legacy of the global institution of slavery in the present is discrimination, poverty, structural inequality and premature death.

In the artist’s latest production it becomes clear how important it is to shed light on the phenomena of oppression, but at the same time the protagonism of resistance, of the struggle for the dismantling of power that starts from the sea, right there where the future is achievable. Often this battle remains silent, an abstraction of voiceless numbers and subjectivity, which many artists denounce such as Kendis William (1985, Baltimore) who asserts: “blackness provokes the mythic, provokes the iconic, while being held by death, without title, without support, without names, faces, so many other recognitions of life[1]”.

The myth of the hydra of Lerna, a many-headed monster that could only be defeated if they were cut and burned, recurs over generations, compared by Erasmus from Rotterdam to war. In this exhibition, the heads represent state, capitalism and colonialism, anti-blackness; turning the hydra into an instigator of devastation and at the same time heir to a collapsed future. A transfiguration from one mythological being to another, as if the hydra became nothing more than a phoenix, once the destruction arrived the shred of hope continued to burn; it might not be a coincidence that in the ancient Egyptian myth the phoenix actually rose from the waters.

Dominique White invites us to pay attention, to really modify our way of thinking and the stigma we have unknowingly internalised; she fulfils it mainly in a material way and by transferring the traces of the artistic product onto the visitor who treads on the exhibition floor. The message’s imprints continue to spread in the spaces the viewer will pass through and resist until they dissolve like the artist’s own works, whose soul will remain alive instead.

Like Kendis Williams claims, in an assonance with White that I find essential to report: “I think about blackness, and this void or the darkness as a construct that had power before racialized bodies, before aesthetic and moral coding of dark and light phenomenologically became political and began to be invoked en masse in order to separate and segregate. It’s modern fruit hanging from an older tree. There’s a real necessity to stop seeing the way we do[2]”.

Caterina Fondelli

[1] “Physical Apprehension of Black Skin Kandis Williams in conversation with Legacy Russell”, Mousse Magazine 77, 2021,p.42 (https://www.moussemagazine.it/magazine/physical-apprehension-of-black-skin/)
[2] Ivi, p.51

Info:

Dominique White. “Hydra Decapita”
12/11/2021 – 15/01/2022
VEDA
@SPAZIOVEDA
INFO@SPAZIOVEDA.IT
c/o Manifattura Tabacchi, B7 – Via delle Cascine 35, 50144 Florence IT
Opening hours: Tuesday – Saturday 12 – 19 pm

Dominique White, May you break free and outlive your enemy (2021), cast iron, null sail, sisal, kaolin clay, worn rope, raffia, cowrie shells, 485 x 320 x 420 cm. Hydra Decapita, installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio PescatoriDominique White, May you break free and outlive your enemy, 2021, cast iron, null sail, sisal, kaolin clay, worn rope, raffia, cowrie shells, 485 x 320 x 420 cm. Hydra Decapita, installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio Pescatori

Dominique White, The Hunted, the Betrayed, the Traded, 2021, cast iron, sisal, kaolin clay, raffia, cowrie shells, mahogany, 200 x 150 x 165 cm. Hydra Decapita, installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio Pescatori

Dominique White, A fugitive you cannot find a record for is the most successful fugitive of all, 2021, cast iron, mahogany, 250 x 130 x 80 cm. Hydra Decapita, installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio Pescatori

Dominique White, Fungibility evades capture, 2021, cast iron, mahogany, 204 x 220 x 10 cm. Hydra Decapita, installation view at VEDA, Florence. Courtesy the artist and VEDA, Florence. Photo: Flavio Pescatori


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