If You Build It

Bring in the Reality

Kameelah Janan Rasheed is research-based conceptual artists. By engaging ritual, history, and politics, her work explores the complex construction of personal and societal histories. Rasheed’s graphic text-based prints from the series How to Suffer Politely and Other Etiquette for the Lumpenproletariat (2014) coffer quasi-inspirational aphorisms for suffering, such as “Lower the Pitch of Your Suffering” and “Tell Your Struggle with Triumphant Humor.” Coined by Karl Marx, the word “Lumpenproletariat”—from the German “Lumpenproletarier,” literally meaning “miscreant” or “rag”—refers to a social strata for which Marxian class-consciousness is improbable. Rasheed’s irony-laced maxims challenge the dominant narrative of progress in the United States, loudly indicting the policing of affect in the face of the systematic political and physical violence against poor people of color.

No Instruction for Assembly, Activation IV, 2014

No Instructions for Assembly, Activation IV functions as an ephemeral and portable archive of the artist and her family who struggled through years of homelessness. Rasheed engages with these traces and residues of displacement using both found and original images, objects and texts, all functioning as specters or ghosts of the past showing up in the present, refusing to leave. Into these material traces the audience is invited to activate the space and begin mapping their own histories by installing objects, photographs, letters and other material culture of their own in a way that either establishes a relationship to the existing materials or begins a new dialogue.

This process is designed to move away from audience participation to audience collaboration, activation and curation. The additive and collaborative nature of this installation mirrors the process of democratic archiving and storytelling where the space is no longer formed by an institution that dictates what stories are told, but rather a space where all stories hold weight.