QUAD Gallery Artwork Spotlight: ‘In Absentia’ by Mimi Ọnụọha
With QUAD – and QUAD Galleries – temporarily closed we want to share highlights from our current exhibitions. Originally shown online at the close of this year’s Black History Month, ‘In Absentia’ by the Nigeria/ USA artist Mimi Ọnụọha and part of the exhibition ‘How We Make Meaning’ examines how 20,000 black residents of rural Alabama, in the 1900s, had their voices ignored.
The work, titled ‘In Absentia 2.0‘ for QUAD is based on an event in the early 1900s, when sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was asked by the US government to conduct research on black rural life in Alabama. Using interviews with over 20,000 residents, he compiled a report filled with text, maps, charts, and tables of data. After months of work, the report was never published. Ọnụọha asks what happens when data is made to disappear by those who want to obscure the reality of racism and power. Across sensory registers, ‘In Absentia‘ re-circulates fragments of Du Bois’ famous report as a meditation on suppression and distortion. Borrowing language and visuals from Du Bois’ work, ‘In Absentia‘ subverts multiple media forms to complicate assumptions about how to interpret data, in both its presence and absence. “How many find their work halted not by lack of data, but by an unwillingness to hear?” Ọnụọha asks. And what is our responsibility both to listen and advocate for racial justice?
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