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Moving Relics: Remember This at Philbrook Downtown

By Catherine Crain

“You are watching a relic,” a disembodied voice informs in Crystal Z Campbell’s Go-Rilla Means War, part of Philbrook’s current exhibition Remember This. One of four works, Go-Rilla questions methods of documentation. From cultural moments like the Kent State massacre (in Renée Green’s Partially Buried) and the Black Lives Matter movement (in Taja Lindley’s This Ain’t a Eulogy) to personal narratives, each work in Remember This is a manufactured record of the human experience. The past, however stagnant, is never recounted the same as it carries the narrator’s own biases. Each video becomes an artifact of the event it depicts and of the author’s perception, ultimately revealing the impossibility of objective memory.

Each video is presented in a separate room, isolating the viewer from the outside world; once in these environments, the unique presentations of past moments become apparent. For Go-Rilla, archival images and footage sit side-by-side, showing multiple representations of a New York community. On the individual level, home videos reveal similarities of two artists’ childhood experiences in Sanford Biggers’s and Jennifer Zackin’s a small world...The recorded image becomes the bridge of comparison for disparate points in time. Using differing tactics, every work reveals new perspectives to the viewer and ones that could never be recreated.

Remember This becomes then a graveyard of sorts. The works are indeed relics, commemorating memories in public and private spheres. Together they reveal that history is not as concrete as it appears, and our memories, though fragmentary, are the foundation of our identity.

Image Credits:

1. Sanford Biggers and Jennifer Zackin, a small world… 1999-2001; Image courtesy of the author

2. Crystal Z. Campbell, Go-Rilla Means War, 2017-18; Image courtesy of the author

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