Lois Bielefeld and Nirmal Raja
Milwaukee Women’s March- Sari 40 – From “Reaching through 5 ½ yards | Reaching Across 8497 miles” (2018)
archival pigment print
44 x 60 in. | $2,500
In response to increasing racial polarity in the United States, Nirmal Raja (b.1968, Chennai) and Lois Bielefeld (b. 1978, Milwaukee) are reaching across race lines while collaborating on projects exploring identity, place, and belonging since summer of 2017.
“Reaching through 5 ½ yards, 8497 miles” is a performance based photography collaboration between the two artists and is a series of 70 archival pigment prints. This body of work examines the role of cultural markers in our visual understanding of race and citizenship. Raja moved to the United States 29 years ago, while Bielefeld is a Milwaukee native. With xenophobia and racism on the rise, the artists felt compelled to examine how initial perception of the ‘other’ occurs.
Raja has amassed over 150 saris but living in Milwaukee she rarely wears them due to both internalized social pressures and practicality. She is now wearing the sari as an act of resistance against conformity and reclaiming the right to look different and yet belong. While wearing one of her saris, she overtly performs difference and traverses Milwaukee’s urban landscape as Bielefeld documents her movement. They negotiate both mundane and institutional places of power, examining Milwaukee as place. In this work, Milwaukee can be seen as representing any mid-sized city today in America. A social experiment and performance, the work has become a statement of occupying space and an exercise in citizenship.
© Lois Bielefeld and Nirmal Raja