Everyone has felt the impact of Covid-19 over the past year – but not everyone has felt it equally. In the US, African American, Latino and Native American people were three times as likely to die with the virus. Those shocking statistics prompted Carrie Mae Weems and Pierre Loving to create RESIST COVID TAKE 6!, a powerful public art project using billboards across the city of Syracuse to promote public health messages, counter disinformation and celebrate the critical workers from communities of colour keeping society moving. The installation was a way to share messages of hope in a bleak period.
Large-scale in situ images from the piece will form part of a new photographic installation by Weems called The Push, The Call, The Scream, The Dream, together with images exploring the enduring legacy of civil rights leader and politician John Robert Lewis, who co-organised the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The work will go on show this month as part of the ninth edition of the Wales-based Artes Mundi contemporary art prize. The exhibition is initially launching online, in the form of video walkthroughs and installation shots, with physical shows due to open across three venues in Cardiff.
Weems is one of six creatives in the running for the £40,000 award, alongside Firelei Báez, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Meiro Koizumi, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz, Prabhakar Pachpute, with the winner announced on 15 April. The shortlist spans across media, from moving image to painting, photography and textiles, but thematic overlaps abound. Like Weems, many of the shortlist take a critical look at how historical injustices shape inequalities today, often informed by their own heritage. South African artist Dineo Seshee Bopape’s immersive installation meditates on the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved people, whilst videos by Meiro Koizumi and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz engage with the Second Sino-Japanese War and colonisation of Puerto Rico respectively, finding traces of them in the landscape and culture.
Three generations of Prabhakar Pachpute’s family worked as miners in central India, and his banners, sculptures and paintings are a visual tribute to their history of collective action, drawing parallels with mining communities in Wales. Elsewhere, using maps and other found materials as a canvas, the elaborate, colourful paintings of Firelei Báez propose a new way of representing female Dominican diasporic identity. The artist was born in the Dominican Republic and is now based in New York. A programme of online talks and events will run in tandem to the exhibitions, as well as a series of new commissions by four artists – Omikemi, June Campbell-Davies, Yvonne Connikie and Gabin Kongolo – responding to work in Artes Mundi 9 and the National Museum Wales collection.
Artes Mundi runs online here from 15 March – 5 September, with physical exhibitions set to open at National Museum Cardiff, Chapter and g39.
Words: Rachel Segal Hamilton
1. Carrie Mae Weems, From Constructing History, 2008. Mourning. Archival pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
2. Carrie Mae Weems, From Constructing History, 2008. The First Major Blow. Archival pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
3. Beatriz Santiago Munoz, installation view.
4. Carrie Mae Weems, From Constructing History, 2008. Suspended Belief. Archival pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York