Véritablement

I made this show as a way of branding my inauthenticity and selling it back to the public as part and parcel of my identity. I, of course, am a fictional character, an “artist” who has “made” her own "versions" of Cubist paintings, Dan Graham performances, Richard Prince paintings, and Richard Pryor standup routines. And now artisanal marqueterie and Mediterranean cuisine.

As the story goes, after the controversial reaction to my participation in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, I retreated to Marrakech at the invitation of curator Karima Boudou to recharge my spirit and reconnect with my roots. After spending some time there, however, I came to realize that, as an American raised on African American culture, I was no less a tourist in the fabled city than were the Germans or Canadians or Japanese wandering the markets and buying souvenirs. I began to fixate on the various trinkets and objects the local artisans produced for the tourist trade and saw in them a reflection of myself: an exotic commodity fabricated for Western consumption, much as Cubism had been 100 years ago.

I decided to roll with it: I made a prototype of a book that outlined a pictorial narrative about the advent of Cubism, but printed in Marrakech. The book combined all the ingredients of the time in question — technology, botanical discoveries, African art, Western myths about the Other, modern medicine, and Atlantic trade routes — so as to approximate some of the ingredients present at that moment in the Modern world. It would be a kind of cookbook, a cultural stew: The Raw and the Cooked. But in my retelling, which side of the Mediterranean should be understood as “raw" and which side as “cooked"? Does this binary even hold?

When I shared my book idea with one of my cohorts, Joe Scanlan, he agreed to publish it in a limited edition as part of the 5th Marrakech Biennale. However, as an inversion of the accepted notions between Europe and Africa—of who has influenced whom—I arranged to have the workers at the Marrakech printing house interleave the book with handwritten recipes. The material producers of the edition disrupted the content of the edition by inserting their voice and sustenance into its narrative.

Back in the Bronx by the summer of 2015, we took things one step further. We reinterpreted my interpretation of Cubism and the vernacular of Marrakech artisans by making a series of marquetry boxes as containers for the book. There are thirty-five unique boxes, each one representing one of my cubist paintings. I scanned and enlarged the handwritten recipes, digitally altered them, and then printed them out as paintings, the blot and streak of Arabic language written with a Bic pen becoming drained of its touch and spontaneity.

Neither the marquetry boxes, nor their inlaid images, nor the recipe paintings, nor my Cubism are authentic. The entire project is a brand identity with no origin, a mise-en- abyme of facsimiles of facsimiles. Nonetheless all of them are real. And for sale.

Véritablement.


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