March 16 – April 16, 2017
Opening Reception: Fri. March 17, 6-9PM
SOHO20 presents SUB, an installation by Marisa Williamson for the +/- Project Space.
One enters to find the gallery transformed into a period room for the artist’s perennial persona, Sally Hemings, the slave and mistress of Thomas Jefferson. Williamson continues her exploration of this overshadowed historical figure, using her own reality as a lens through which to view Ms. Hemings’ struggles of race, sexuality, labor, and love, in this instance by creating a setting that can be occupied by both of them. Between the details in the wallpaper, furniture, needlework, display cases full of personal objects, and video on a television set, this installation sets the stage for an incomplete historical and unfolding contemporary narrative.
The objects in this fractured domicile create the mise-en-scène for a live and virtually streamed ‘cam show’ staged on April 13th, the occasion of Jefferson’s birthday. Speaking to the fetishization of contemporary cam culture, telecast lectures, as well as the emotional labor of both the artist and Sally Hemings, this performance further entangles the two women’s’ experiences and highlights their positioning through the exhibition’s title. As a prefix, ‘sub’ pleads for activation, whether it is ‘under,’ ‘close to,’ or as a ‘substitute.’ Powering from the bottom up, the artist-cum-persona struggles to subvert and subsist given her limitations. Williamson performs this gesture as a history told from below, asking if pleasure can exist within the painful, and if submission and resistance can be performed simultaneously.
Williamson’s new installation using the language of a historical period room happens to coincide with an unexpected announcement by Monticello (the house, and now museum, designed and built by Thomas Jefferson), which details plans to restore the bedroom they believe belonged to Sally Hemings, which had been converted to a restroom in 1941.