Sexual Fragments Absent
Curated by: Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Artists: Doreen Garner, Shawné Michaelain Holloway, Tiona McClodden
Location: Paddles, 250 West 26th Street, New York, NY 10001
Exhibition dates: Thursday, April 27, 2017, 7pm—12am
RSVP required to attend. Please contact Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi at firstname.lastname@example.org .
MA Curatorial Practice at the School of Visual Arts is pleased to present Sexual Fragments Absent, a one-night exhibition and performance curated by Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi. Sexual Fragments Absent features the work of three black women—Doreen Garner, Shawné Michaelain Holloway and Tiona McClodden—whose artistic practices are invested in the politics of race, sex and affect within BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism). Unpacking this entangled sociopolitical web of BDSM begins for these artists with the affective reverb between pleasure and pain, present and past. This reverb is normally understood as a kink to pleasure. However, this kink takes an even more complicated turn for black bodies—particularly women—that engage in or explore tropes of BDSM. Saddled with the historical violence of chattel slavery and domination, the practice and aesthetics of BDSM not only complicate the contours of black bodies but also suffocate the possibilities of gratification or, bluntly, getting off. Pleasure in this contested frame is sometimes absent, but when present, it becomes fragmented, reduced to a perverse ornament—more than a kink, really. In fact, the ironic pangs of excitement and pleasure in BDSM highlight how black women BDSMers further kink the binaries of black/white, master/slave, dom/sub, fantasy/reality, pleasure/pain, mind/body, but in ways that deviate—or bend—from black feminist positions on silence, respectability and resistance vis-à-vis black female sexuality.
Pleasure is not antithetical to black feminism. Instead, Sexual Fragments Absent is rooted in a performative questioning, a becoming of the black female body that engages in the politics of pleasure by bending, leaning, dipping and gyrating in and out of step with the erotic and the historical. To this end, Garner, Holloway and McClodden all highlight the ways in which black feminists today bend to the vicissitudes of desire and pleasure, getting off to its affective push and pull as they employ questionable sites like BDSM to negotiate the uncertainties around black female sexuality. Thanks to the artful negotiation of consent in BDSM, this questioning is one that articulates and defines the limits and possibilities of pleasure and pain, as opposed to being silenced by the history of domination and subjugation. Taken together, from performance and video to text and sculpture, Garner, Holloway and McClodden put forth a body of work that inhabits a mode of being that bends feminist waves where blackness, sexuality, desire, and pleasure are concerned, complicating the fixity on these topics through a fragmented and, at times, fluid lens on the black female body.
1. Performance view of Doreen Garner, The Observatory, 2014, courtesy of the artist.
2. Film still from Shawné Michaelain Holloway’s 04_position:static; .mp4, 2017, courtesy of the artist.
3. Tiona McClodden, Dom Drop, 2017, HD film still, courtesy ofartist.