Reading the Sequence (2019)
digital prints, privacy filters, glass, wood, anodized aluminum
52 x 21 x 18 in.
As a college student, my mother was asked to write a genogram. To her knowledge, this exercise would be the first attempt to record her family history. In the introduction to her findings, she discusses the challenges of African-American genealogical research, friction with my father’s whiteness and implications for future generations. My studio practice is a reverberation of this work—unraveling the body as an archival document and amplifying the voices of the departed.
I’m interested in (il)legibility and loss.
I see the body as an archive: informative, consecrated and wholly unreliable. An individual can pay to spit in a vial and receive a model of their genealogy and predispositions. The unspoken and unexamined histories our bodies carry are vast; genealogical interpretation often dampens the many narratives held in the body-archive. Studying my family records, I reconcile with the thought that these letters have become their writer’s primary remains. Through writing and its preservation, we maintain voices after death. Selecting material from my research, I draw on systems of optics, light and scale to shift the intangible to the monumental.
José Esteban Muñoz describes melancholia as “a mechanism that helps us (re)construct identity and take our dead with us to various battles that we must wage in their names—and in our names… [it] is a productive space of hybridization that uniquely exists between a necessary militancy and an indispensable mourning.” My practice is melancholic work—nonlinear and alchemical. I reconstruct absence as an active, tangible space; I retrace and reiterate lines to investigate how the past persists in the present.
© Emily Leach