The institution is the application of a system of social control that is set up, in principle, to benefit the community. The term institutionalize can have several connotations, but it never ceases to be something connected to the structure, to what is deemed important. And those connotations are all connected to our status quo, guaranteeing its maintenance. Institution and structure are directly connected. And because of this, they also can be the starting point of the revolution, the starting point of what must break and the point of view from which we must fight in order to bring it to an end. Within a line of thinking that is institutionalized, racist and misogynist, how can we insert ourselves? How can we exist in the process when we are structurally outside of it? How can we continue to question it, while being present?
My body in space: spatiotemporal presence as affirmation and text
My writing comes from within me and always will. As a curator, my work is curatorship – a word that, in Portuguese (my first language) is a feminine noun. Curatorial research comes from this awareness of creation, from this force of feminine shaping, structuring and institutionalizing thought.
If we only have male perspective, humanity’s contemplation remains a shortcoming. If we think about history, the idea comes before the creation of the Eurocentric dichotomy. In other words, if the concept of art is born out of this same dichotomy and the same vision, we can easily notice gaps that need to be filled.
And based on this understanding, what is missing? I am.
If I see myself as occupying my space-time, I cannot avoid being in the places so that my body not only is part of the whole, but also relevant to it. I am present and seek to be more and more present: working, developing exhibitions, following artists, writing and researching inside an institution imploded with information, knowledge and exchange.
When I write implode, I am coming from a life that is intensely white, masculine and totalitarian, into which we are inserted. I position myself as part of this machine and in doing so take increasing responsibility for understanding views and relationships we can call intellectual. Curatorship is a noun that precedes an action. My role here is to recognize this act as something feminine, a driving force for developing reality, starting with lies.
My institutional presence consists of lying
I lie. I lie because I create. I lie because I am here. I lie because I am a liar within what I’ve known as truth. Truth is white, masculine, Western, light-eyed, tall, and looks down on me. But no, I doubted it. I delegitimized it. Everything is a relationship of privilege: we position ourselves in what we learn as knowledge and truth… and loss. Small exercises that explode and implode for insight into that moment, that can be called truth. The truth now.
I am here because I lie. And because when I write “I”, I am writing as an Afro-diasporic, black body. And the presence of black artistic and intellectual bodies in art institutions is going to cause literature to be reconsidered, research reconsidered, views to be reconsidered. The truth will implode.
Keyna Eleison is a curator, with a degree in Philosophy and a Masters in Art History. A narrator, singer, and ancestral chronicler, she is a specialist in art education, storytelling, knowledge harvesting – orally, Griot heritage and shamanic ritual. She also contributes regularly to the column “For eyes that can see” in Contemporary And (C&) América Latina.
Translated from Portuguese by Sara Hanaburgh.