“Weems has long been one of our most effective visual and verbal rhetoricians. When she tackles complex subjects in complex ways, the results are … deeply stirring.” – The New York Times
Carrie Mae Weems will present Past Tense at Grace Farms, March 23, 2019.
The idea that “space communicates” is expressed with breath-taking dexterity in the porous, curving volumes of the River Building, which at once propose relationships, but also allow a kind of retention of distinct experience and subjectivity. It is no coincidence then, that Carrie Mae Weems—whose own engagement with architecture would seem to make a collaboration with Grace Farms Foundation inevitable—has proposed an examination that has become itself a way of making space.
Weems’ preeminence in this present moment of contemporary discourse signals perhaps a recovery of certain ways of knowing that employ, and even rely upon, a kind of spiritual attention or practice, while simultaneously being rooted in mutually linked aesthetic and political actions. This layering of epistemological frameworks results in an expansive architecture of contemplation that invites audiences and Weems’ fellow artists into the silences of her own elusive inquiries.
With Past Tense, Weems, echoing the seer Tiresias from Sophocles’ Antigone, extends the opportunity, and somehow the ability, to sit quietly in the moment before the inevitable tragedy unfolds. Weems works in the interstitial and shares that in-between space with the audience. It is as though the seer has delivered the expected and devastating pronouncement, and while the cast of characters is assembled, a breath is taken inward and then released.
This breath is shared by the audience and the cast. In the silence of the interstitial, Weems proposes, with moral clarity, a new kind of question for American identity and memory—perhaps a new mode of consciousness. This consciousness is a derivative of what might be called in theological discourses, grace.
There is always grief in grace because grace is ever-conscious of the irrecoverable impact of violence. But grace, in Carrie Mae Weems’ schema, is not only a space but also an action, and therefore a substantive hope suggesting a way forward. She also seems to be interested in grace as a proposal for another kind of time. It is a time born of silences, and of the breaths she now urges us to share, between her lamentations and commemorations.