Since the early 1990s, the contemporary visual culture of slavery has been defined increasingly by installation, performance, and time-based media. This is particularly so for visual artists who chronicle Caribbean catastrophic history using the slave ship as a key iconic signifier. Their works, while presenting a contemporary perspective on the slave trade, slavery, colonialism, or postcolonialism, seem to do so by calling upon the viewer to be a participant. Kinesthetic interaction with theatrical environments, reenactments, and multiscreen, time-based projections inserts the viewer as part of the work of art in an attempt to physically, if not psychically, embody the voids and contours that these catastrophes have left in their wake. This essay considers the emergence of this progressively more interactive art form, focusing on artists such as Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Hew Locke, and others, as well as the sailing replica Freedom Schooner Amistad by examining the relationship between the mnemonic aesthetic practices at its root and the aesthetic urgency to address Caribbean catastrophic history.
Cheryl Finley; Schematics of Memory. Small Axe 1 July 2011; 15 (2 (35)): 96–116. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/07990537-1334266
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