The white walls

The last time I had a physical studio space was years ago. Mentally it seems ages ago. Moments of a different life in a different reality. After two years of pursuing my visa relentlessly and one year and a half of the craziest “Contagion” meets “Alone” meets “Inferno” meets “The Walking Dead” dystopic reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were back to the alleged freedom to navigate space. But what does that even mean? Masks are still a fashion item in my pocket. Hand sanitizers are still a companion every moment I step outside. The anxiety of someone coughing still makes me switch places, switch seats, switch directions. But I had a studio. Studio 403. I had a place to call mine. A place where my practice could play freely.

They called it the summer of love, but outside we faced an abyss of conflicting politics and a deep racial divide that made solutions seem like tiny scratches on diamonds. After the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Brionna Taylor, the George Floyd protests and the firecrackers, the year of mayhem, the invasion of the Capitol, not to mention all that has been going down in my own country, making political art seemed useless. Better to keep quiet and observe. Better to let the silence engulf all my doubts and fears. The white walls seemed appropriate.

But the white studio walls are never just the white studio walls when you first encounter them. They do not consider your vulnerabilities but expose them. They do not tiptoe around your insecurities but point them out. The white walls never stand quiet. Daunting as they may be, they actually always end up saying a lot – extending you (the artist) a weird mix of generosity and advice.

The white walls met me every time I stepped into my new space. They observed me. Like an omnipresent spectre, only white and luminous, – a ghost. Just like whiteness. Just like white supremacy. Looming. Always there with its huge blue eyes glued to my every move. And in my mind all I thought of was: a black body surrounded by whiteness. Like black skin soaked in milk. Like really dark black skin sunk in thick milky gooey opaque liquid. A foreign element. An intrusion. A menace. A glitch in the Americana perfection matrix.

It took me a minute to understand the complexity of the white gaze in relationship to the black body. A breakthrough of thought I think I am still processing.

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