photographic incantationS oF the viSual
The Body and the Ruin
This body represents a conflation of temporality and space, the after-
image of slavery, and the elongation of the residue of empire. History is
carved into the flesh of rock and concrete, forming a cast out of which
the figure emerges repeatedly. Yet, as she duplicates a singular corporeal
form, she becomes multiple subjectivities, and her body is the only tether
to an aesthetic and political framework doubling as a racial disavowal
and a racial reiteration. She provides for the viewer an archive of time that
at once prefigures future slaughter and conquest, and survives it. In this
way her engagement with the body is a structural mandate, what Eduardo
Cadava calls “the dialectical transfer between the Then and the Now,” and
the viewer receives the offering as a figurative temporal artifact, boldly
straddling past and present, ethereal and material.1
Carrie Mae Weems’s series Roaming (2006) situates the photographer
at the center of architectural structures that have drastically impacted the
history of Western civilization. Her body, placed in the center of a series
of buildings meant to connote the hyperpresence of constructed power,
provides the linchpin that disturbs the existing narrative. In her haunt-
ing of the city of Rome and its outer areas, her complication of ritual and
form into geometric patterns constructed out of concrete and stone, the
artist reorganizes the visual imperative of race and body, preferring, it ap-
pears, a photographic cease- fire. With Weems’s back turned away from
the viewer as she faces disparate structures around the Italian capital, the
Previous Page Next Page