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My Back, My Wheel and My Will

Exhibition details

Opening / Event Date:
12 September, 2013
6:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Closing / End Date:
2 November, 2013
Event Category:

White Cube is pleased to present two exhibitions by American artist and social activistTheaster Gates which will run concurrently at the White Cube Hong Kong and White Cube São Paolo galleries.

Gates’ work, which attempts to catalyse social and economic change through direct artistic agency, bridges the gap between art and life. These exhibitions aim to connect two sites, two cities and two continents through a series of artworks that reflect on the poetics of repurposed and salvaged materials.

The work in both exhibitions, which includes installation, sculpture and two-dimensional objects, will bring together artworks and materials gathered from Gates’ earlier project entitled 12 Ballads for Huguenot House, realised for dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany in 2012. This project, which for Gates was a way to ‘conflate a German past with a black present’ involved the occupancy and restoration of an historic house in the centre of Kassel with materials that the artist had, in turn, stripped from a house located at 6901 South Dorchester Avenue, as part of the ongoing renovation of the neighbourhood in the South Side of Chicago where he lives and works. Elements such as the front door of 6901 South Dorchester Avenue as well as much of its ‘guts’ or interior were shipped to Germany for the purpose. The result was a startling and poetic cross-fertilisation of materials and ideals, in effect linking the spirit of each building, both of which had been abandoned, albeit for different reasons – one due to war and religious persecution, the other due to urban blight. The two buildings were united through the idea of appropriating space and rescued from dereliction through a connected occupancy.

At the centre of both of these exhibitions is an installation of ‘migration’ rickshaws (Migration Rickshaw for Sleeping, Working and Playing, 2012), custom-built trolley sculptures which include elements such as wooden blocks covered with wallpaper salvaged from the house, bed rolls and wooden planks. The sculptures were inspired by Gates’ recent visit to Port au Prince in Haiti and Guadalajara, Mexico where the popular use of hand-built, rudimentary trolleys, fashioned out of old bits of wood and used car tyres to transport goods and belongings is strikingly noticeable. The trolleys, while metaphors of forced migration, also make reference to the Huguenots themselves, who were victims of religious persecution and were expelled from their homes having to bundle up their possessions and move on.


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