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Exploring Agility, Limitations of Language at Media Art Gallery

Black framed, black and white photos and sentence fragments in black type on a white wall
A piece of all velvet sentences as manifesto, Like a lesson against smooth language or an invitation to be feral hypertext, on view at the Media Art Gallery through March 23.

Emerson Contemporary’s latests exhibition asks “What can be captured through writing? What is lost?” And, “How can this inevitable loss be an invitation to consider other modes of communication?”

Kameelah Janan Rasheed: all velvet sentences as manifesto, Like a lesson against smooth language or an invitation to be feral hypertext will be on view at the Media Art Gallery, 25 Avery Street, from January 23 through March 23.

The multimedia, site-specific installation uses new video drafts and existing video work from the last three years — all created using a writing and video-editing constraint. They join multiple 2D works, also created using constraints, to explore the agility and limitations of language.

With this exhibition, Rasheed explores her relationship to the poet Lucille Clifton’s legacy of spirit writing and other “wayward” methods of writing. With particular attention to Clifton’s poem “I was born with twelve fingers,” this exhibition considers the “powerful memories of ghosts” that emerge during these less traditional writing practices.

Artist sits on bench in gallery
Kameelah Janan Rasheed. Photo/Christopher Gregory for The New York Times

Rasheed thinks conceptually about text, type, and printed matter, and uses publishing as a platform to engage and enlarge conversations with others. Her work invites important questions about the materiality of text, such as, “What is the shape of a failed sentence?” or even, to quote Fred Moten speaking to the work of Renee Gladman, “Is there an underground railroad in the sentence?”

An artist’s reception will be held Tuesday, Jan. 23, 5:00-7:00 pm. Regular gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12:00-7:00 pm

Rasheed is the recipient of a 2023 Working Artist Fellowship, a 2022 Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research, a 2022 Creative Capital Award, a 2022 Artists + Machine Intelligence Grant — Experiments with Google, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. She has had solo exhibitions at KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and Kunstverein Hannover. In 2024, she will have a solo exhibition at REDCAT in Los Angeles.

She is the author of five artist’s books, and is an adjunct instructor at the Cooper Union and Barnard College, a critic at Yale School of Art, and an instructor at the School for Poetic Computation. Rasheed founded Orange Tangent Study, a consulting business that provides microgrants to artists and supports individuals and institutions in designing expansive and liberatory learning experiences.

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