What have you unlearned today?, 2020 - Autostrada Biennale

What have you unlearned today?, 2020

Artist: Kameelah Janan Rasheed

Venue: Hangar 3

Indeed, what have you unlearned today? What have I? The direct address of Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s text-based work, its title and its visual and typographic form, invites viewers to pose the question themselves. To self-reflect. Instead of demanding transparency in the form of a definitive answer, Rasheed’s question allows for opacity. It opens the unknown, rather than closes it off. Ordinarily, large-scale advertising banners hold messages meant to be absorbed without digestion. What have you unlearned today? inverts this readability. It is not a test. But it requires a willingness to face change and discomfort. As an artist and educator, Rasheed engages with how the printed word has come to stand for the law and yet continues to proliferate liberatory readings. Sampling, copying, and collaging individual letters from various sources, they bring attention to the physicality and mutability of texts, words, typefaces. They reference the modern history of radical Black presses in the United States that have exercised publishing as a form of resistance. Further, they are inspired by writing that can be a form of spiritual practice, such as Islamic calligraphy. Mixing handwriting with typography allows Rasheed a freer space of semiotic play. Each word stands supplemented by notes and alternatives, with no one or final sense in sight. (Un)learning, suggests Rasheed, can be a question of staying with what is difficult, just as it can be a form of letting go.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (1985) was born in East Palo Alto and lives and works in Brooklyn.

Text by Andria Nyberg Forshage

Photo credits Tuğhan Anıt

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