We've Always Been Here, Like Hydrogen, Like Oxygen
Installed at Resurrection Lutheran Church, Richmond, VA
InLight 2020: Safety and Accountability. Photo Courtesy of 1708 Gallery. Photo by David Hale.
Double channel video // 7min 22sec // 2020
“They said with wonder and admiration, you are still alive, like hydrogen, like oxygen.”
Dionne Brand, excerpt from Verso 55
I wash my body as a ritual of labor and self-care. I do this on the Richmond Slave Trail and the African Burial Ground in Richmond, VA, and place my body in these locations to comment on notions of safety within public and private spheres. The spaces in which Black people and their bodies should be safe and cared for yet are vulnerable and exposed. The use of oranges stems from the Latasha Harlins Murder of ‘92 but becomes a metaphor for talking about the erasure of women of color throughout time and space. In previous works, I use the orange to reference the similarities between how oranges and Black women's bodies become violently commodified, pasteurized and resold for general consumption through media and structural racism. In this two-channel video, I wash my body with oranges and oranges cast from orange juice on one screen, while slowly caressing and subsequently melting a frozen orange on the other. The text alternates on both screens, one side speaking to the physical and psychological repercussion of white supremacy and the other reflecting upon the need for love, safety, and restoration to expand the spaces and possibilities for black people to exist without being under a constant state of threat.
I am interested in the relationship between survival and self-care. During the repetition of washing myself on the slave trail, the oranges and landscape become implicated in the ritual of memory, commemoration, identity, and self-realization. Commenting on the connectivity of time, and how the past and present exist simultaneously, the performance becomes an act of self-care while imagining a place where Black women and girls are protected and cared for. Washing becomes synonymous with care as a labor of resistance, love, and healing. Bathing my body in oranges attempts to make that invisible labor of self-care more visible as the oranges stain my clothes.