Hannah Black’s solo show at mumok takes a contemporary approach to key questions raised in the group exhibition WOMAN. Feminist Avant-garde in the 1970s from the SAMMLUNG VERBUND Collection (May 6 to September 3, 2017).
Black, born in Manchester and living in Berlin and New York, focuses in her work on her own corporeality and the social rules and norms that relate to the body. She begins with radical feminist ideas, the theory of Marxism, and critical race theory, and her artistic practice reflects how social and global developments are inscribed into the body. The body becomes a trap for social role ascriptions that allow no alternatives.
Black is especially interested in overlaps and stalemates between the forces of social coercion, representations of reality based on experience, world history, and personal history. She combines autobiographical moments with theoretical material. These elements are presented by means of contemporary visual idioms from celebrity culture, pop songs, and google image searches.
In the past, the artist has often explored external appearances—skin color, age, gender—and the obstacles that ensue. Her new work for mumok is a video which looks at the smallest unit of living organisms and the bearer of genetic information—the biological cell.
A multichannel video installation highlights the political implications of what are taken to be biological certainties. One of the best-known examples for this is the biological determination of sex and the debate about gender as a social construct—from Simone de Beauvoir to Monique Wittig to Judith Butler.
The title of this show, Small Room, alludes to the ambivalence of the word “cell” in English, and “Zelle” in German. On the one hand this is the biological cell, on the other a prison cell. Both meanings have claustrophobic connotations. On the basis of the single cell—the “single room”—Black playfully asks us to think about what can constitute life.