Naïveté: to be spoken aloud
Script for visual artist statement
Here's the thing. You don't know what you don't know. A broken history begets a broken language. With broken syntax and rough expression.
I've undoubtedly made a lot of progress moving through the world with the ability to conceal and reveal, when it suits me, my cultural hybridity.
I'm an educator and I've been told I have a professor's voice. I think of that as a responsibility but I also wonder whether it's a nice way of telling me I talk white.
We understand this as a code switch. The forgotten secret is that I'm often just talkin’ regular. And that switch isn't a willful expression of power. It comes from a desire to be included, to be taken seriously, to be acknowledged as competent, intelligent, hire-able, trustworthy, and deserving of opportunity.
It can be a superpower but it can also be a pathology. A CONSEQUENCE OF COLONIALISM. Voices are not just sounds and images are not just pictures. It signifies a point of view. If the medium is the message, the accent is the identity.
To be all the way real, you can take pictures white just like you can talk white and I want to ask you to consider what my visual pidgin might look like. Consider its rhythm, intonation, and pitch.
I'm a student of documentary photography, but I also believe the art of decolonization demands an active questioning of my mis-education and re-education. That is what I believe is at work in these photographs.
As an artist, I'm interested in the conventions of the documentary tradition. By my admiration, by my educational legacy, and in this instance my direct misappropriation, I'm a student of Walker Evans. The photographs in my new series, A reprise, question the logic of Evans’ photographs of African sculpture through call and response, deconstruction, collage, and improvisation. You can call it source material, but I like to call it scraps.
My goal is to use passive source material to make active photographs. I want to question the documentary convention of spectatorship in favor of performance. In 2021, now more than ever, it's easy to see that the flow of information is heavily dictated by the point of view of the author and their access.
For me, Walker Evans' photographs of African sculpture function as an archive. The archive tells the story. I have to fill in the gaps. I have to sample, remix, and improvise. I have to break down, stitch together, and repair a hybrid version that is all my own. Make no mistake: the artifacts pictured here are the spoils of colonialism and Evans’ "perfect documents" function as the evidence. My documents are of the process of understanding my cultural legacy. My documents are unclean, riddled with film grain, exposed torn edges, glue, dust, and misplaced shadows. My documents are quite imperfect but they are all mine.
David Alekhougie lives in Los Angeles, CA, and completed his residency at Light Work in August 2020.