This project examines one area of intersection between eroticism and racism. I juxtapose contemporary sex toys manufactured in the U.S. with traditional looking masks made by hand in Africa to explore what happens when "authentic" African objects meet “imitation” body parts. I sample other elements of European culture -- toile de jouy wallpaper, the still life, Rorschach inkblots, African print fabrics first made and sold by Dutch traders -- as foils to frame this conversation.
These masks reference the work of African artists as well as European explorers, empire-builders and wealthy merchants who "discovered," collected and displayed these objects. This remix employs dismembered body parts – faux genitalia -- to reference the long-standing practice of objectifying the black body and displaying exaggerated images of black sexuality, a practice which began during European colonialism in the 1800’s. The work also highlights fears of miscegenation fueling Jim Crow laws and a segregationist mentality in the United States, along with attitudes that still pervade contemporary stereotypes, sexual fetishism, humor and pop culture.
The act of driving nails into these masks is a nod to African rituals meant to affirm an oath or destroy an evil force. At the same time, this process of construction re-enacts violence perpetrated against the black body throughout history – and here in the U.S., where blacks were lynched and mutilated, their bodies dismembered and body parts sold to onlookers as souvenirs. These decoys also acknowledge forms of social control over the black female body, from female genital mutilation rituals still common in some regions of Africa, to the long tradition of sexual violence routinely perpetrated against black women in the United States.
Using materials sourced through virtual auctions on eBay, I draw parallels and comparisons between this contemporary cultural practice and real life auctions where Africans were sold as slaves. By sampling readymade objects to create a new remix, I investigate relationships between artist and art work, subject and object, owner and owned, master and slave.