Xaviera Simmons’ sweeping body of work includes photography, performance, choreography, video, sound, sculpture, and installation. Simmons’ interdisciplinary practice is rooted in shifting definitions of landscape and character development; art, political and social histories; and the interconnectedness of formal processes. Simmons has works currently on view in exhibitions worldwide. She is a visiting lecturer and the inaugural 2019 Solomon Fellow at Harvard University and was awarded The Charles Flint Kellogg Award in Arts and Letters from Bard College in Spring 2020. Simmons is represented by David Castillo, Miami.
Xaviera Simmons’ monument, ‘The structure the labor the foundation the escape the pause,’ is composed of sculptural forms – each holding landscapes of text culled from historical documents that are foundational to centuries of racial caste construction and disenfranchisement in the United States. The works are on one hand a monument to systemic promises denied while also working to acknowledge the sustainability of the creative impulse. ‘The structure the labor the foundation the escape the pause’ offers access to some of the language of long-standing governmental policies that continue to shape the material conditions we live within presently. With this project, Simmons constructs forms new to her studio practice while embedding each work within historical context.
The Brooklyn Rail
Marcia E. Vetroq interviewed Xaviera Simmons for May 2020 issue of The Brooklyn Rail
Portrait of Xaviera Simmons by Phong Bui
Rail: You’re participating, with Jeffrey Gibson and Paul Ramírez Jonas, in ‘MONUMENTS NOW,’ which Socrates Sculpture Park has characterized as an exhibition that seeks to address the role of monuments in society and commemorate underrepresented narratives.
Simmons: For me, first of all, I think at this point we have to regard language as labor, right? And we have to continue shifting the narrative. When I think about monuments, it’s not that indigenous or First Nations people or the descendants of American chattel slavery have never had monuments of any kind. It’s that white America, particularly as represented by the local, state, and federal governments, has terrorized the impulse of monumentality out of those groups, in which my own ancestry rests. I think that it’s important to frame it that way, because there is an impulse, it seems, across cultures and generations and time, to imagine, dream, or construct bigger than the self. I’m sure that has to do with group myths and spiritual practices and relationships to land and community, and other ideas pertaining to the body, personhood, humanity, or reaching toward something beyond ourselves. I think that whiteness has worked consistently as the force of terror and the police state in the United States, and therefore it has worked against monumental thinking when it comes to the first people who inhabited this place and to mixed race, quote-unquote Black people. I think it takes labor to undo not only this ideology but also the language that forms who gets to construct the monument. Then, hopefully, you can see the monument anew and the idea of these monuments at Socrates not as someone being given the opportunity to do something that a group has never been able to do before, but almost like a natural release or an impulse that is a part of the kind of thinking in which we are all indoctrinated, especially in the West. The pressure of oppression and suppression has built up in the United States, and it can’t really hold any longer. I don’t know if White people comprehend that their very privileges rest on the pressure felt by the others. This pressure has been maintained by physical, legal, and violent forces across the spectrum of our existence here. And this exhibition is one way to reduce the pressure just a little bit.
Read full article in The Brooklyn Rail–>