‘Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House’
Jeffrey Gibson’s ‘Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House’ serves as an homage to ingenuity of Indigenous North American peoples and cultures, to pre-Columbian Mississippian architecture, and to queer camp aesthetics. Gibson designed the multi-tiered structure to reference the earthen architecture of the ancient metropolis of Cahokia, which was the largest city of the North American Indigenous Mississippian people at its height in the thirteenth century. The earth mound of the pre-Columbian ziggurat is represented in Gibson’s multi-tiered monument with a plywood structure adorned with a vibrant surface of wheat-pasted posters. The posters integrate geometric designs inspired by the Serpent Mound located in Ohio, another monument of the Mississippi Valley, alongside texts that operate as activist slogans. Gibson also curated a series of Indigenous-led performances to activate the structure over the course of the ‘MONUMENTS NOW‘ exhibition.
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Karen Rosenberg interviewed Jeffrey Gibson for Artful Magazine. Published July 6, 2020.
Karen Rosenberg: The question of what to do about some of our monuments is very much in the news right now. But this is also an issue that’s been with us for a while, and shows such as the one at Socrates take a lot of planning. How and when did you come up with your monument, and how it has evolved?
Jeffrey Gibson: It was about a year ago when the show’s curator, Jess Wilcox, invited me to do the project. By the time there was a national movement to take down monuments, we were already well into confirmed plans for my piece. It had been sitting in my mind for some time to work with the architecture of a Mississippean culture mound. The idea of somehow activating the structure with performances was also there in the beginning.
KR: What were some of your formal and historical sources of inspiration? You’ve made references to the earth mounds of the ancient city of Cahokia, in what is now Illinois, and the pre-Columbian ziggurat.
JG: In my early twenties I worked in the anthropology department at the Field Museum, while I was going to the Art Institute of Chicago. I learned a lot there about tribes and cultures beyond my own. But when I came across the earthworks of Mississippean culture, I was just shocked that I had been unaware of them. My tribe, the Mississippi Choctaw, is one of the tribes that emerged out of the Mississippean culture. Popular history doesn’t even acknowledge the Mississippean culture—it puts forward the idea that there was not a fully realized civilization pre-contact, when in fact the Mississippean cultural finds are evidence that there was one. There’s evidence of government, of civic culture. So when I was asked to do this project, the first thing that came to mind was that mound structure.
Read full article in Artful Magazine–>