How do we experience the land and the sea as containers or agents of memory? How can inherited and personal rituals amplify our interconnectedness with the landscapes we inhabit?
In this film screening and conversation, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons (Cuba/USA) and Deborah Jack (St. Maarten/Netherlands) discuss the similarities and differences between their multidisciplinary practices and creative engagement with cultural memory and personal histories. Through film and sound, these two artists consider the ongoing impacts of colonization, trans-cultural identities, and contemporary diasporic experiences across the Caribbean region. Sharing artworks including Campos-Pons’ collection of photography, film, and performances and Jack’s film The Water Between Us Remembers…so We Carry This History On Our Skin…long For A Sea-bath And Hope The Salt Will Heal What Ails Us, they immerse viewers in the specificities of their nations’ histories as they breathe power into inherited traditions and new mythologies that center island and oceanic landscapes as spaces of healing and rebirth.
María Magdalena Campos-Pons (Cuba/Nashville, TN, USA) combines and crosses diverse artistic practices, including photography, painting, sculpture, film, video, and performance. Her work addresses issues of history, memory, gender, and religion; it investigates how each one of these themes informs identity formation.Born in 1959 in La Vega, a town in the province of Matanzas, Cuba, Campos-Pons is a descendant of Nigerians who had been brought to the island as slaves in the 19th century. She grew up learning firsthand about the legacy of slavery along with the beliefs of Santeria, a Yoruba-derived religion. Directly informed by the traditions, rituals, and practices of her ancestors, her work is deeply autobiographical. Often using herself and her Afro-Cuban relatives as subjects, she creates historical narratives that illuminate the spirit of people and places, past and present, and renders universal relevance from personal history and persona. Her imagery and performances recall dark narratives of the Middle Passage and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. They honor the labor of black bodies on indigo and sugar plantations, renew Catholic and Santeria religious practices, and celebrate revolutionary uprisings in the Americas. As she writes, “I…collect and tell stories of forgotten people in order to foster a dialogue to better understand and propose a poetic, compassionate reading of our time.”Campos-Pons has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, among other distinguished institutions. She has participated in the Venice Biennale (twice), the Dakar Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennial, Documenta 14, the Guangzhou Triennial, three editions of the Havana Biennial, and the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Prospect.4 Triennial. She has presented over 30 solo performances commissioned by institutions including the Guggenheim Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.
Deborah Jack, (1970, Netherlands/ St. Martin) is an artist whose work is based in video/sound installation, photography, painting, and text. Her current work deals with trans-cultural existence, memory, the effects of colonialism and mythology through re-memory. As a multi-media artist, she engages a variety of strategies for mining sites of cultural memory and negotiating a global present. The resonance of traumatic historical events in her personal and cultural memory is at the core of her work. She is intrigued by the concept of re-memory, memory as a trigger and as a means for exploring the dismembering of the histories, cultures, traditions, families, and personal memories. Her work seeks to articulate a historical and cultural injury. She is interested in seducing the eye with scenic aspects of landscape and the potential for the betrayal that can come from a closer examination of these seemingly “innocent” and “untouched” places/bodies.Her work has been featured in The Other Side of Now, at the Perez Art Museum of Miami in 2019/2020. Group exhibitions include the traveling exhibition, Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago, at Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles, the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling, the Frost Museum at FIU, Portland Museum in Maine and The Delaware Art Museum. Her work has been exhibited at, the 2014 SITE Santa Fe Biennial, Brooklyn Museum, and Jersey City Museum. She has published two poetry collections, The Rainy Season and skin. Deborah Jack is an Associate Professor of Art at New Jersey City University.
Press Your Ear to the Wind is an event series curated by Elinor New (BA '20) and presented by the Gallatin Galleries and WetLab, with support from the NYU Gallatin Dean’s Award for Graduating Seniors. Borrowing its title from Deborah Jack’s artwork “Foremothers,” this series is an invitation to listen to the wisdom held in the land, water, and our own bodies, and to trace the currents of resilience that flow from our inherited pasts into the futures we generate.
To learn more about the series, please visit: https://wp.nyu.edu/gallatingalleries/press-your-ear-to-the-wind/
Photo Credit: Artwork by Deborah Jack, “what is the value of water if it quenches our thirst for…” Graphic Design: Lau Guzmán