Dominique White, When Disaster Strikes, 2023 / Detail
Dominique White: When Disaster Strikes
Dec 9, 2023 – Mar 10, 2024
Kunsthalle Münster
Münster, Germany

With When Disaster Strikes, Kunsthalle Münster is staging Dominique White’s first solo show in a German art institution and, consequently, will be presenting her work in Germany for the very first time. White’s sculptures are a play on memory and metamorphosis. In her unpredictable forms, the disappeared makes its entrance into the space in the Kunsthalle. Her sculptures function as materialisations of Blackness beyond its subjective boundaries, as beacons or containers of an ignored civilization.

Dominique White addresses Blackness in terms of both its conceptual and material implications. Her works function as abstract commemorative sculptures that appear as if they have been literally dredged from the sea, monuments to an underwater nation made up of a submerged, aquatically immured non-human entities. In her work, she has recourse to different legends that take place in the water and that have their foundations there. In the nowhere realm inhabited by the ghostly ruins of Black lives, more specifically in the abyss of the Atlantic, a living vocabulary exists that continually gives birth to fantastical creatures, myths and fictions that emerge from the unthinkable union of the unborn child of the enslaved and the shipwrecked.

The seemingly fragile works are imbued with an immediately palpable brutality. Her visual vernacular combines the imitation of an abandoned ship at sea with tattered sails, threadbare hand-woven nets, mangled anchors and battered buoys with raffia and cowrie shells that have been cast as if wrapped in a ghostly shroud of kaolin. Also, harpoons, decomposed by salt water, are recurring elements in her work. In the exclusively newly produced works for the exhibition at the Kunsthalle, Dominique White also takes up the motif of the crab cage and uses it as a more or less abstract form to salvage stories, that should no longer remain below sea level. At the same she refers to the crab cage as a trap that might pull ships into the abyss. Once they are drifting forgotten and invisible through the sea, they start to have a comparable indiscriminate effect as sea mines – a form of (accidental) self-destruction. An example of how the master’s tools could in fact dismantle the master’s house.

The vulnerability of Dominique White’s sculptures is uncompromising. As fragile entities, the sculptural bodies straddle states of preservation, decay and destruction. Ghosts among ghosts. It embodies the rejection of a future based on the violence of colonialism. White’s research is inspired by the sounds of Detroit techno, drawing primarily on Afrofuturist narratives as elaborated by DJ Stingray, Drexciya and Tygapaw. In her work, she imbricates theories of Black Subjectivity, Afropessimism and hydrarchy – the structure through which imperial governments assert their power on land by dominating the oceans – with the nautical myths of the Black Diaspora to create a term she defines as “shipwreck(ed)”. With the sea as the carrier of death, the starting point of her thinking is hopelessness. White draws attention to the devastation of Black life in a white world in which the oppression of Blackness is not a relic of the past.

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