PerFORMING BLACKNESS :: PERFORMING WHITENESS, ALLEGHENY COLLEGE, January 20 – March 3, 2015
This exhibition examines constructions of racial identity to complicate popular rhetoric around race. The artworks interrogate oversimplifying binaries, and destabilize the often unexamined position of “whiteness.” The artists deploy visual texts in the service of asking uncomfortable questions, reflecting upon identity, and asking the viewer to consider his/her own role in building, enabling, or perpetuating stereotypes. Invited artists are Sandra Brewster, Steve Cole, Andrea Chung, Brendan Fernandes, Vanessa German, Kenyatta Hinkle, Ayanah Moor, James Seward, and Alisha Wormsley.
Artist Brendan Fernandes was on campus for a week as our diversity scholar-in-residence to speak with students, community members and gallery visitors about his work. The idea for this exhibition came from the National Public Radio series “Code Switch,” launched in April 2013 to explore “frontiers of race, culture and ethnicity.” Some of the earliest stories focused on code switching, the practice of literally changing the grammar, syntax, and style of delivery of one’s speech in order to more appropriately match the expectations of a situation or peer group. The practice raises questions about authenticity, (self)acceptance, assimilation, and cultural legacies. In other words, code switching points to the performative, fluid nature of identity construction. This exhibition explores the ways in which afro-diasporic, Native-American, Asian/Pacific, and Latino identities contend to construct themselves in relation to a white identity so normative and privileged that it largely remains unnamed. This exhibition was made possible, in part, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant for Collaborative Undergraduate Research in the Humanities at Allegheny College. CLICK HERE TO VIEW / DOWNLOAD EXHIBITION CATALOG PDF.