The antechamber of the undead

Where the individual is deprived of all agency, but discovers his power of resistance. Where a liminal state is manifest, behind which emerge the specters of dispossession, dismemberment, and desecration, and the metaphor of the undead as a body devoid of will and strength. Where fear begins to infiltrate the social landscape, and the resurrection of the undead lead them to avenge their own people, outlining a space in which the synchronic constructions of history start to take shape.

Aria Dean

Dead Zone (4)

Cotton branch, polyurethane, bell jar, wood, signal jammer
13.25 x 12.5 x 12.5 in

Courtesy the artist, KADIST collection

Although typically sold today as a novelty item for flower arrangements and interior decorating flourishes, cotton can also be seen as a proxy, through synecdoche, for US slavery. Dead Zone (4) presents a preserved blossom of that trade's primary cash crop, cotton, crystalized in a state of non-decay whilst encased under protective glass. Hidden in the base of the work is a signal jammer which prevents mobile phones from broadcasting when nearby. Although temporary, this scrambling slows the ability of audience to market themselves through proximity to Aria Dean's item of cultural capital—considering the work's subject, this also begs the question: who gets to represent who, what, and how when it comes to the spectacle of marketing images of pain, symbolized here through cotton, a commodity historically extracted from Black slave labor.

Through art, text, and exhibition making, Aria Dean (Los Angeles, 1993) analyzes the structure and circulation of images and subjectivities in relation to material, cultural histories, and technology. In particular, Dean has established herself as one of the leading young theorists in the discussion around Black cultural production and its appropriation in material culture through the paradigmatic essays “Poor Meme, Rich Meme” and “Notes on Blacceleration.”

Adriana Bustos

El mar y sus múltiples afluentes

Acrylic paint and graphite on canvas
18 x 236 in

Courtesy the artist, KADIST collection

El mar y sus múltiples afluentes [The Sea and its Multiple Tributaries] builds on the concept of trafficking that Bustos has been exploring over the last decade. The piece represents an apocryphal river and illustrates the routes of the slave trade between the coasts of Africa, Europe, and South America, departing from the Congo River (once called Zaira), and arriving at Río de la Plata, the main river in Buenos Aires that divides Argentina from Uruguay. The work collapses time and space, placing the coasts of colonial empires across the colonies where slaves were taken.

Adriana Bustos (Bahía Blanca, 1965) creates a narrative discourse through installation, video, photography and drawing, in which her reflections on prevailing social, political or religious oppression appear in non-linear interpretations of history. The investigative and documentary nature of her work challenges so-called historical facts by drawing from ideas taken up in areas of anthropology, science, popular culture, fiction, biographical writings and history itself, and juxtaposing them within representational systems.

Noé Martinez

Relación de tráfico de personas 1525-1533 I 

Tanned cowhide, leather, oil, acrylic and liquid gold
8 3/4 x 39 x 9 3/4 in

Courtesy the artist, KADIST collection

As he investigates the forms that slavery took through different events that occurred during the sixteenth century in the Huasteca region of Mexico, Noé Martínez tells in a non-linear narrative the history of human trafficking in Relación de tráfico de personas 1525-1533 I [Study of Trafficking of Persons 1525–1533 I]. Both the departure of Huasteco Indians from the Americas, and the arrival of Africans from Cape Verde, Angola, Congo and Mozambique unravel in Martinez work as a story that has remained sealed in the colonial archives, and that continues under different guises in contemporary times.
The work of Noé Martínez (Michoacán, 1986) carries out an exploration of different topics, among which the evolution of language in relation to the history of the European colonization of Latin America, the vindication of ethnicity in the political processes carried out by the indigenous populations of Mexico, and the political power of memory.

Sam Durant

Les Armes Miraculeuses

Marble, wood, eggs, and shells
34 × 18 1/2 × 24 in

Courtesy the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Les Armes Miraculeuses refers to the mythical lecture that surrealist André Breton delivered in Port-au-Prince (Haiti) in 1946, supposedly unleashing a student revolt that contributed to the overthrow of the military dictatorship of Elie Lescot, which was backed by the US government. The work also refers, metaphorically, to the way in which cultural militancy and spontaneous activism can provoke radical political changes. From this perspective, the history of Haiti is particularly relevant as it was the first colony in the Americas to revolt against slavery, confronting the French colonial power in 1791. It is said that this occurred after a voodoo ceremony of political-religious character was organized, the Bois-Caïman Ceremony, a liberating rite that for many was born out of the terror brought by slavery.
The work of Sam Durant (Seattle, 1961) intertwines historical and cultural events from the past with their traces and repercussions in contemporary times. His research has focused on fundamental periods such as the nineteenth-century struggles between Native Americans and European settlers, the fight for civil rights in the United States and the student riots of 1968.

Cildo Meireles

Tiradentes: Totem-Monumento ao Preso Político

Four black and white photographs (exhibition copies)
24 x 16 in each 

Courtesy the artist and Galería Luisa Strina, São Paulo, Brazil

Joaquim José da Silva Xavier “Tiradentes” was one of the members of the so-called Inconfidência Mineira, an uprising in rejection of the payment of taxes imposed on the province of Minas Gerais by colonial authorities, and aiming at gaining independence from the Portuguese Crown. After the revolt failed, Tiradentes was convicted of treason and executed. He was hanged and dismembered and thus denied the rites of a Christian burial.

Tiradentes: Totem-Monumento ao Preso Político [Tiradentes: Monument Totem to the Political Prisoner] was conceived as an homage to Tiradentes (who, over the years, went from being a traitor to a martyr and later to a national hero), and to all the political prisoners victims of the military dictatorship. In this work, Cildo Meireles (Rio de Janeiro, 1948) carried out an unexpected action: the artist tied ten chickens doused in gasoline to a wooden stake and burned them alive in a public ritual of great cruelty. This work marked a crucial moment in the history of Brazilian art and was considered a brutal criticism of the military regime and the disappearance of its opponents promoted by the state.

Eustáquio Neves

Sem título, from the series Memória Black Maria

Black and white analog photography, digital output print on photographic paper (exhibition copy)
14 x 11 in
1995, printed in 2019

Collection Museu de Arte de São Paulo, Gift Pirelli, 1996, MASP.01976

Eustáquio Neves (Juatuba, Minas Gerais, 1955) provides an insight into the resonances of slavery in modern culture, strongly centered on his own identity. This work Sem título from the series Black Maria Memoria [Untitled, from the series Black Maria Memory] refers to the topic of slavery by revisiting the historical legend of Zumbi from a contemporary perspective. Zumbi dos Palmares (Alagoas, Brazil, 1655-1695) was one of the main warrior leaders of black slaves in northeastern Brazil, famous for having promoted resistance against Portuguese oppression. The Quilombo dos Palmares, located in the current União dos Palmares region, Alagoas, was a self-sustaining community formed by slaves who had escaped from the Brazilian fazendas. The word zumbi (zombie) has its origins in the Quimbundo dialect, and means ghost or spectrum; and in the Iimbagala dialect, it refers to someone who has died and returned to life. Regardless of its origin, the historical figure of Zumbi represents today, for the Brazilian population, a symbol of resistance.

Carla Zaccagnini

De Sino a Sina

Sound and vitrine
5:20 min

Courtesy the artist, KADIST collection

De Sino a Sina (which could be translated as From Bell to Destiny) refers to the story of Joaquim José da Silva Xavier “Tiradentes” who was executed after the failure of the independence movement that he joined in 1789, in the Minas Gerais region, challenging the Portuguese crown. Tiradentes was convicted of treason and executed. He was hanged and dismembered and thus denied the rites of a Christian burial. This piece records the sound of the bell that is supposed to have secretly played in solidarity with the conspirator, and which is said to have been subsequently transferred to the city of Brasilia (the symbol of Brazilian modernity) to toll during its inauguration in 1960. With this recording, Carla Zaccagnini seeks to trace the African legacy in the conception of Brazil as a modern country. She points to the contradictions in the way in which history is constructed through the gradual transformation of a character like Tiradentes who, as the years passed by, went from being a traitor, to being a martyr to a national hero.

Carla Zaccagnini (Buenos Aires, 1973) has investigated the construction of Brazil as a modern country. Her proposal addresses topics such as the gold rush in Brazil and its relationship with slavery; the influence of European aesthetics and its assimilation by indigenous cultures, as well as the political transformation of the symbolic value of images.