November 11, 2022–March 25, 2023
Sasha Huber investigates how naming and acts of remembrance leave colonial histories engraved on the landscape, asking what steps may be taken to heal the historical wounds that have been passed down to us.
A decade’s worth of Huber’s work is collected in YOU NAME IT, which was inspired by the Demounting Louis Agassiz campaign. The movement, which was started in 2007 by Swiss historian and activist Hans Fässler, aims to undo the effects of the racist and Swiss-born glaciologist Louis Agassiz (1807–1873). Over 80 places on Earth, the Moon, and Mars have his name as a result of his scientific work in the domains of glaciology, palaeontology, and geology. However, Agassiz’s legacy of “scientific” racism and how he actively promoted the enslavement, exploitation, and segregation of Black people and other people of color are less widely known. In order to advance his eugenics campaign, he hired J.T. Zealy (1812–1893) to take pictures of slaves on the Edgehill farm in South Carolina in March 1850.
Tailoring Freedom, the centerpiece of the exhibition, features images of Renty and Delia Taylor, a father and daughter who were held as slaves in the Congo and whose images were forcibly taken by Zealy and exploited by Agassiz. To honor the efforts of both abolitionists, Huber replicated Zealy’s daguerreotypes onto wood and used her patented staple gun technique to “dress” Renty in a suit like Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) and Delia in attire after Harriet Tubman (1849-1913). These pieces are displayed with Huber’s video, photography, performance, research, and exploration of Agissiz’s racist legacy, as well as efforts to change the name of a mountain in the Swiss Alps from Louis Agassiz to Renty, one of the campaigns’ objectives.
The show reflects Huber’s goal to use art to alleviate colonial and historical scars. The artist “symbolically stitches wounds together” with a staple gun to produce striking portraits. Both The Firsts – Tilo Frey, which honors the Swiss-Cameroonian politician who fought for women’s rights and the right to vote in Switzerland, and Khadija Saye: You Are Missed, which pays tribute to the late artist, activist, and caregiver who perished in the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 along with her mother, use this technique.
Space Race, a 3D animation by Huber that examines how racial histories have influenced cosmic colonization, is displayed in the gallery window. What do we inspire on earth—and beyond—with these names, she asks, and what is “in a name”?
The works of art by Huber offer a vision for how we can delicately and carefully counteract the harm that history has already done. The artist asks who and what we memorialize, and more importantly, how we do so, by challenging the terms by which we remember.
Curated by Renée Mussai, Mark Sealy and Bindi Vora.