In November 2020 we were proud to collaborate with CIRCA, the new and independently curated digital art platform created by artist Josef O'Connor, launching its second month of programming with the interdisciplinary California-based artist Cauleen Smith. The inaugural c. 20:20 exhibition transforms the giant 4K screen of Piccadilly Lights into a digital canvas each month by pausing the adverts on screen for two minutes each day at 20:20 - 20:22 GMT.
More info and watch CIRCA's evolving live programme with a different artist every month (currently Tony Cokes) here: circa.art
Cauleen Smith's works compile her Instagram series COVID MANIFESTO which the artist initiated a couple of weeks after the United States went into lockdown. For c. 20:20 Smith rewrote and revealed each point of the Manifesto throughout the duration of November, as a sort of 'living' still life where the artist's desk became the tableau. COVID MANIFESTO consists of 23 pronouncements punctuated by 7 intermissions selected from Smith’s existing works. Over the month, the personal and poetic, the eventful and now historical, featured as Smith responded to Covid-19 and its multiple aftermaths.
This online platform now serves as a space for filling in the voids, turning the volume up and dynamic storytelling. Here you can dive into the creative process and research archives that have produced the work, revealing a further radical narrative fully enunciated.
During November 2020 The CIRCA website was transformed into an extraordinary archive of past projects from the artist's trajectory, references from her ongoing research and allusions to her revolutionary imaginary, constituting a virtual mid-career survey. We welcome both local audiences standing in Piccadilly and global participant tuned in online to engage with both the scattered snippets of COVID MANIFESTO and the long form.
By accessing web content persistently, you can generate conditions of possibility. The collaborative project is a call for a proposal of virtual proximity and distance, in which a series of new social relations to content and the meaning of place are entirely reshaped. It is a timely narrative providing insight into an individual’s intimate experience as shared through social media— a form of storytelling that holds a mirror up to society, one daily pronouncement at a time.
CIRCA's November 2020 daily calendar was curated in collaboration by CIRCA's Tony Tremlett and The Showroom Curator Katherine Finerty – HERE
Explore COVID MANIFESTO: Week 4 (23 – 30 November 2020) below!
"Our ill-treatment of the planet combined with blind capitalism is, what she thinks, has caused the outbreak of Covid-19. “This virus that is killing us lives just fine in bats,” she says. “It doesn’t want to kill its host, but it doesn’t have anywhere to live right now because we’ve taken its habitat from its host and we’ve done that so we can have more toilet paper or something? This irrationality of consumption is at the heart of this, we did this to ourselves. We are not safe on this planet because of the way we’ve treated it.” – Cauleen Smith in **Harper's Bazaar UK
"Her subtle connection of history as a form of storytelling and the work of finding these instances of historical models for how we can transform our world shows that so much of what we’ve been led to believe about historical narratives of progress leading to and affirming capitalist expansion and the need to accumulate, are the fault of a particular mode of storytelling. It follows then that we can actually tell the story of history differently, to take in the patchiness of capitalism, the ways ordinary people did and continue to resist its totalizing presence." – Gazelle Mba in Cauleen Smith and the Black Radical Imagination
CAPITALISTIC RACIAL LOGICS
so well that
do not believe that
THEY TOO CAN CATCH
TABLEAU I SPY:
The Rona got me thinking about # ishmaelreed and jess grew. I am dismayed at the failure of covid19 discourse to confront the reasons for this pandemic. Ecological abuse is a central procedure in extractive capitalism. The failure to comprehend all non-human beings as anything other than a commodity is what got us here. The Rona preys on the most vulnerable and we are not dissimilar to The Rona’s original host— a despised and feared and disregarded creature: the Chiroptera. Beloved Bat cousin. Restore habitats. Rebuild relations with the earth. And send jess grew after the %1 of fools what got us to this sad and lowly situation. – Cauleen Smith, 10 June 2020
“The posts are a reminder to myself that, while we have beaten back facism for four years, we are in no way out of a dangerous place. We have a four-year reprieve; I wonder what we can do with that.” – Cauleen Smith in Cauleen Smith: "We're not human without culture; art saves people"
Jess grew *
*mumbo jumbo by Ishmael Reed
TABLEAU I SPY:
"Smith is adamant that the work of freedom ‘can’t just be an intellectual or linguistic project. It has to be embodied somehow and it has to function on levels we are not always conscious of.’ What develops in our conversation is a sense of both the conscious and non-conscious levels of the drive towards liberation, that is despite her love of the sensorial, she also views the acquisition of knowledge as a weapon that can aid us in the struggle against oppression. We discuss her past project HUMANS3.0, a reworking of Sylvia Wynter’s maxim, Humans2.0, where after noticing ‘blind spots’ in the self education of young activists, she sought a way ‘without wanting to intervene’ ‘to suggest this wealth of knowledge’ from the activists who came before them. So in 2015, Smith created a hand drawn reading list, full of books that changed her life, in an effort to connect young people to an older tradition of African American anti-capitalist organising". – Gazelle Mba in Cauleen Smith and the Black Radical Imagination
"In Cauleen Smith’s video Egungun: Ancestor Can’t Find Me (2017), a figure shrouded in shells wanders zombielike in a lush African landscape. In Yoruban societies, egungun are costumed dancers who appear at public celebrations. Smith’s is more monstrous—an animated corpse of a slave-ship captive gone overboard during the Middle Passage that has now emerged as a haunting. Transferred from 16-mm film, the video has a grainy texture that enhances the barnacled cloth of the costume." – ArtNews
These are the last ones. So many toxic things to deal with cops Covid capitalism - on and on. And over and overal again black women done figured it out for us. TV pundits are still looking for another Martin. In the streets we got a legion of Assatas. This one’s for #toyin Bless her heart. - Cauleen Smith, Instagram, 16 June 2020
"My banners take up the form of protest, but they’re really an invitation for personal meditation and introspection. I deliberately make my work that way, so that it can’t easily be coopted by a political agenda. I appropriate forms from social institutions that organize masses, and then I undermine them. Groups of people can find common ground, and yet individuals can still maintain and question their own position—as opposed to me telling anyone what to think. Recently, Avery [Young] borrowed text from the banners to make a gospel song. It was profound!" – Cauleen Smith on how art facilitates protest and introspection.
♡ BYE. ♡
"Slavery, as various commentators have seen, was a form of privatized law enforcement.What it did was take a number of the powers that are typically reserved to the government – the power to discipline... the power over another person's life – and conferred those powers on private individuals."