Exhibition Grada Kilomba: Heroines, Birds, and Monsters

The artist leaning against black stairs wearing a black costume with wings (c) Grada Kilomba


Le Poisson Rouge

Grada Kilomba: Heroines, Birds and Monsters

We are excited to collaborate with Amant Foundation on its opening exhibition with Berlin-based artist Grada Kilomba: Heroines, Birds and Monsters. The first solo exhibition of the artist in the United States presents her unique form of storytelling and will be on view July 10 - October 31, 2021.

Working with theory, performance, film, and literature, Kilomba reveals the narratives of the colonial past, giving space to the silenced voices whose traumas are ever-present. In her own words: “What if history has not been told properly? What if our history is haunted by cyclical violence precisely because it has not been buried properly?”

Grada Kilomba’s work is showcased across three of Amant’s buildings, transforming them into a theatre stage where characters, gestures, words, sounds, and props unfold into a hybrid body, exchanging roles and staging a new dramaturgy that traverses geographies and temporalities.

A World of Illusions (2017-2019) forms the centerpiece of the exhibition. In this large sculptural video installation, on display at 932 Grand St, Kilomba radically reinterprets three well-known Greek myths to expose the unresolved tragedies of the post-colonial condition. Drawing on her academic background in psychoanalysis, the artist dedicates Narcissus and Echo, to the politics of invisibility; Oedipus the King is dedicated to the politics of violence, and the tragedy of Antigone exposes the politics of erasure and the importance of ceremonial memory. Combining music, mime, and dance, she re-stages the fables, using the African oral tradition of storytelling –the Griot– and building on analogies to the modern patriarchal system through the inclusion of a postcolonial lens.

At 315 Maujer St., images continue to portray the mythical narratives using different formats and methodologies. The trilogy reincarnates as a sequence of photographs with the shared title of Heroines, Birds and Monsters (2020), portraying the female protagonists in a sculptural pose. In The Desire Project (2016) the representational image disappears entirely, with text displayed as the only visual element accompanied by musical rhythms substituting for the narrator’s voice. The concluding work, Table of Goods (2017), a sculpture born out of ritual performance, presents as both an object and landscape of the whole exhibition. The transatlantic trade between Europe, America, and Africa—sugar, coffee, cacao--are interred in a pile of soil. Kilomba displays these extracted materials as a burial, a symbolic ritual of remembrance of the slave trade as historical trauma, of which the consequences on the psyche are yet to be thoroughly explored.

Heroines, Birds and Monsters is an exhibition that applies a new poetic, theoretical, and political framework to the colonial past, and the ways by which these narratives continue to embed themselves. “Retelling history anew and properly is a necessary ceremony, a political act. Otherwise, history becomes haunted. It repeats itself. It returns intrusively, as fragmented knowledge, interrupting and assaulting our present lives.” – Grada Kilomba

The exhibition is curated by Ruth Estevez, Artistic Director at Amant Foundation with the assistance of Isabella Nimmo, Curatorial Coordinator in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut New York and Goodman Gallery.

Grada Kilomba (b. 1968, Lisbon, Portugal) is an interdisciplinary artist, whose work draws on memory, trauma, gender, and post-colonialism, interrogating concepts of knowledge, power, and violence. Kilomba holds a distinguished Doctorate in Philosophy from the Freie Universität Berlin.
Her work has been presented in major international events such as La Biennale de Lubumbashi VI; 10. Berlin Biennale; Documenta 14, Kassel; 32. Bienal de São Paulo. Selected solo and group exhibitions include the Pinacoteca de São Paulo; Bildmuseet, Umeå; Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; The Power Plant, Toronto; Maxim Gorki Theatre, Berlin; MAAT-Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology, Lisbon; Secession Museum, Vienna among others. Kilomba’s work features in public and private collections worldwide. Her written work has been translated into several languages and published in several international anthologies.

Amant Foundation is a non-profit arts organization fostering experimentation and dialogue through exhibitions, residencies, and public programs at its two locales: the New York City borough of Brooklyn and the Tuscan village of Chiusure in the heart of the Siena province. In New York, Amant provides a public forum that supports both established and under-recognized artists working across diverse creative fields. The Foundation also hosts two residency programs in New York and Siena that are at the center of its activities.