A practicing artist since 1978, Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) often creates works that blur the lines between fiction and documentary to explore universal human experiences through the black subject. Over the years Weems’ photographic practice has expanded to include video, performance, and multi-media installations. Ritual and Revolution (1998) is an immersive, gallery-sized installation that marks one of the artist’s earliest forays into three dimensions. Composed of 18 diaphanous printed cloth banners organized in a semi-architectural formation and a poetic audio track, Ritual and Revolution explores the historic human struggle for equality and justice, including references to the Middle Passage, the French Revolution, World War II, among others. Carrie Mae Weems’ work has been exhibited nationally and internationally since the 1980’s and was the subject of a traveling mid-career retrospective, Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video, which culminated with a presentation at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in January-May of 2014. She has received numerous awards and fellowships including a MacArthur Genius Award in 2013. The Block is presenting this work for the first time since it entered the museum’s collection.
An editioned work, Ritual and Revolution is part of the 2016 gift of 68 works of contemporary art to the Block Museum from art collector, philanthropist, and software innovator Peter Norton. The Block gift is one of a series of gifts Norton has made to university art museums throughout the country. The gifts were made in recognition and support of those institutions advancing innovative work to integrate art into teaching and learning across disciplines, foster creative museum practices, and engage audiences with diverse forms of contemporary art.
Carrie Mae Weems: Ritual and Revolution [excerpt]
"I was with you in the
ancient ruins of time
you rode me hobby-horse
into the age of revolution, remember?
I was with you when you stormed the Bastille
& the Winter Palace
And I was with you for that great and
hideous mise en scene
they call the middle passage
One potato, two potato, three potato, four
& in Ireland too
Out of the shadows
from the edge of the new world
I saw your slow persistent emergence
and I saw you spinning jenny's cotton into gold"