Whitney Biennial 2017

Solo en Inglès


gallery wall and banners hanging from ceiling

Cauleen Smith (b. 1967), In the Wake, 2017. Satin, poly-satin, quilted pleather, upholstery, wool felt, wool velvet, indigo-dyed silk-rayon velvet, indigo-dyed silk satin, embroidery floss, metallic thread, acrylic fabric paint, acrylic hair beads, acrylic barrettes, satin cord, polyester fringe, poly-ilk- tassels, plastic-coated paper, and sequins. Sixteen components, 60 × 48 in. (152.4 × 121.9 cm) each. Collection of the artist; courtesy Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York. Sewed by: Keeley Haftner, Elgee King, Jinn Bronwen Lee, Kate S. Lee, Elizabeth Van Loan, April Martin, Nicole Mauser, Magritte Emanuel Nankin, Carolina Poveda, Darling Shear, Danielle Wordelman


Cauleen Smith: My name is Cauleen Smith. I'm a filmmaker and visual artist.

Narrator: Smith sketched the texts on the front of these banners in 2015.

Cauleen Smith: I think this country was on its fifth or sixth videotaped police shooting and I was just sort of incredibly disgusted and angry and fatigued by the whole culture of this country.

The phrases are either things like "no wonder I go under" or "you don't hear me though." There's always either an accusation or a pointing at self or other, and, to me, the "I" or the "you" or the "me" can shift and does shift depending on who you are when you're reading it.

On the back of each banner there's a system of symbols and a lot of them repeat. People ask me in particular about why pencils and the pencil, the microphone and the camera aperture are all to me these instruments of expression. They're apertures for a voice, for initiative, for articulation, and so the pencil becomes this very flexible tool that can even be a weapon, can be kindling for a fire. It can do a lot of different things, not all of them affirmative, or affirming.

Narrator: Smith plans to use these banners in a film. A gospel choir will carry them down Martin Luther King Boulevard in Chicago, singing an original composition that uses text from the banners.