Stowage of the British Slave Vessel Brookes Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788,  2015-19

Stowage of the British Slave Vessel Brookes Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788, 2015-19

Andrew Wilson is a multimedia artist whose work addresses the consumption of the Black body and queerness. His imagery references the United States’ violent past, while creating tension between the beautiful, handcrafted materials and their graphic subject matter.

Wilson references the eighteenth-century slave vessel Brookes to point to how the legacy of slavery is still vividly present in the United States, and how the Black body continues to be an object of consumption and desire. Over the course of the exhibition, Wilson will be sewing caftans printed with cyanotype images of slavery, and plans to complete a projected 454 textiles (one for every slave on the Brookes). These caftans, a stand-in for the othered body, function as funerary objects that house the spirits of the deceased. They ask us to think about what the body leaves behind, and what kind of memorial we might construct in that space.

By working on the caftans in the galleries throughout the exhibition, Wilson enacts and documents the invisible labor that both founded this country and still runs it today. Completed caftans will be added to the finished ones on display, mimicking a retail store. These textiles, however, provoke a perplexing conundrum: charged as they are with the performance of Black skin and images of slavery, they cannot be worn in good conscience; they cannot be sold as garments, wither, as that would reenact too closely the sale of the Black body. So what becomes of them? What does their silence say about race, shame and visibility in this country?

Oakland-based artist Andrew Wilson brings us into his studio, where he began sewing 454 caftans printed with the image of an 18th c. slave ship, for Bay Area Now 8