Kandis Williams, Extensions available to technique, extensions available to metaphor, extensions available through character, 2021 / Courtesy of the artist, 52 Walker New York and Morán Morán
Kandis Williams: Notes on Dance
Apr 26 – Jun 7, 2024
Galerie Hubert Winter
Wien, Austria

Galerie Hubert Winter is pleased to present the first solo exhibition of the renowned, New York City- and Berlin-based artist Kandis Williams at the gallery. The word palimpsest describes the Ancient Greek writing tablets covered in wax that could be smoothed over and reused, though leaving an index of previous markings. Ripe with metaphoric and conceptual promise, these earlier tracings that shadow the final text hold a record of process, and the accretion of knowledge and experience.

The multilayered ethos of Kandis Williams also reflects the palimpsest. Underpinning the visual aspects of her practice, including collage, film, sculpture, and performance, are her roles as choreographer and dramaturg. In these capacities she compels the movement of bodies across space as well as interrogates, investigates, and interprets the production of meaning within an expanded framework of performance. In advance of those roles, she is also a publisher of Cassandra Press, writer, and theorist who cultivates innovative interventions into the history and mystifications surrounding the understanding and representation of Black and femme bodies.

In a 2021 interview she noted, “I think about blackness, and this void or the darkness as a construct that had power before racialized bodies, before aesthetic and moral coding of dark and light phenomenologically became political and began to be invoked en masse in order to separate and segregate. It’s modern fruit hanging from an older tree. There’s a real necessity to stop seeing the way we do.” In works that also function like a palimpsest, she excavates the faint tracings of pre-colonial and pre-racialized understandings to re-envision a trans-Atlantic Black imaginary, so long suppressed by the violent enslavements and devastations of nation building, segregationist politics, and the erasure of Being. Based in historical reckonings within the threshold of a material present, Williams works with and against the tendencies of the poetic, which all too often “etherizes” figures of the past into the formless entities of myth that eviscerate and dehumanize the resistant possibilities of their lived experience.

In this exhibition, Williams shows a series of collages and a video that documents the history of dance and the aesthetics and agency of the Black body in motion. In Triadic Ballet (2021), specified choreography devised by Williams follows different forks that manifest a legacy of dance outside of the regimes of white supremacy. Different characters embody these aspects within a four-pronged matrix: as ritual for healing and entertainment, as martial social control, as courtly hierarchy, and as the future of dance as intellectual property. In a suite of accompanying collages, Williams juxtaposes various figures of Black and white dancers in notational configurations whose repetitions within the series and connection to the video reflect continual rehearsal. It is in the reiterative gesture that the palimpsest is elaborated as both form and process. Placing the braided conditions of displacement and environmental catastrophe in a discursive relation to dance, Annexation Tango (2020) uses collaged superimposition of bodies in motion over different landscapes to make porous the annihilating bounds of history and geography that have been used in service of enslavement and incarceration.

Constant recalibrations of the Black body in response to historical appropriation and violence, embodied in the multiplicities made possible through collage – both those on paper and on video, become a form of critique that ruptures the mystified seamlessness of a teleology imposed by racist ideology.

– Miciah Hussey

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