Decolonizing Appearance is a large group exhibition curated by visual culture theorist Nicholas Mirzoeff from New York University.
Decolonizing Appearance is the work of asking questions. What does decolonizing look like? How do the colonized and the colonizer appear to each other? How can the colonized have the right to look, the right to be seen – in short, the right to appear? Decolonization is not a metaphor. It is not a matter for art alone. The work on the walls in this exhibition resonates with conversations in the space, in the Trampoline House refugee justice community center where it is housed, in Copenhagen and beyond.
As nationalism, racism, and xenophobia claim to be the 'common sense' of the global now, it is vital to continue to imagine other presents and possible futures. And to live in them. What would happen when appearance is decolonized? To whom can we appear? By what means? Who is that 'we'? What has to happen for decolonizing to take place where you live?
Decolonizing Appearance brings together collectives and individuals working on these questions in different ways in photography, video, installation, and text. The work addresses issues from Gaza to the Caribbean, Africa, the United States, and Denmark. It is not just something to see, it is something to do, from painting murals and making banners to decolonizing assemblies and workshops.
In Decolonizing Appearance, solidarity is a verb and a question: what does solidarity look like? Direct action is a work of art. Militant research is the creation of a new perception – decolonized appearance. It is the making of worlds where no one is illegal, where Black and Brown lives matter, where no one has to use #metoo. In short, where each and every person is fully human, without preconditions and without hierarchy.
The work in this exhibition helps us to learn what that might mean, whether it is Forensic Architecture showing us how to use social media to understand history; John Akomfrah giving material form to the tabula rasa of decolonizing in his Utopia Palimpsests; Jeannette Ehlers confronting us with structural issues of coloniality, racialization, and migration; or Carl Pope’s letterpress posters on the meaning of Black and blackness. With so much more: Khalid Albaih networking Africa, while Pedro Lasch maps the global indigenous; Jane Jin Kaisen visualizing intersectional lives; Abdul Dube and Dread Scott question who can claim to be human; and Marronage and MTL engage us with decolonial organizing and the Decolonizing Assembly.
Exhibition and events /
Gurminder K. Bhambra
Jane Jin Kaisen
Gurminder K. Bhambra
Events & Education program
About the curator
Nicholas Mirzoeff is a writer and visual activist. He is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University (NYU). Among his many books, How To See The World (2015) has been translated into ten languages and The Appearance of Black Lives Matter (2017) was published as a limited edition collaborative project with the artist Carl Pope (2018). A frequent blogger and writer, his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, and The New Republic. He grew up in London and now lives in New York City.