Toisha Tucker: It’s a most peculiar sensation; or that time Virginia Woolf wore Blackface
Location: (map) KODA House, Building #404B, Colonels Row, Governors Island, New York
Curated by Klaudia Ofwona Draber
On view: August 19-September 24, 2023
Opening Hours: Fridays-Sundays at 11am-5pm
Opening on Saturday, August 19 at 1-5pm
Toisha Tucker, untitled (It’s a most peculiar sensation; or that time Virginia Woolf wore Blackface), 2022. Video, 12 minutes 3 seconds, dimensions variable.
KODA presents a solo survey exhibition and three-month residency with New York based interdisciplinary conceptual artist and writer Toisha Tucker. The exhibition entitled It’s a most peculiar sensation; or that time Virginia Woolf wore Blackface features a Virginia Woolf altar, video, works on paper, sculptures, and an immersive conceptual installation. Tucker’s fascination with Virginia Woolf began at the age of 17, when they first encountered To the Lighthouse. The novel awakened in them a belief in their ability to become a writer. They felt safe and seen. For years to come, they let their identity form and evolve alongside Virgina Woolf’s words and imagination. Orlando, 2015, is a photograph exploring the perception of gender identity. Using the binary constructs of gender, Orlando merges the profiles of two female gendered persons, both Virginia Woolf and Tucker, into a third masculine appearing male gendered identity that manifests between their merged images. Having later learned about Virgina Woolf’s Blackface, now Orlando feels prescient—Tucker’s Black body overlaid onto Woolf’s.
In 1910, in the Dreadnought Hoax, Virginia Woolf, with other members of the modernist literary movement, assumed a male identity, darkened her skin, spoke fake Swahili, and boarded a famous British battleship as a fake delegation of Abyssinian royalty, that could not be served soup with bare hands. In response, the engloving in Tucker’s untitled (It’s a most peculiar sensation; or that time Virginia Woolf wore Blackface), 2022, prints and video was meant as a rumination of all the bare BIPOC hands that have served countless others. The act, however, proved to be self-inflicted trauma, a seemingly small change that dissociated the artist from their corporeal body and made their hands akin to those of colonizer, oppressor, hoaxer. Cleansing their skin of white makeup was a pseudo-ritual that served as an offering to themselves, demonstrating acts of repair for an idol fallen.
After W.E.B. Du Bois from The Souls of Black Folk: “It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”
In most recent works, Tucker takes these personal experiences to further examine the greater structures of neocolonial oppression, white supremacy, racism, and the Trump-era legacy of the fallen state. Behind the Mask of Infinite Energy: A Play in Two Acts (Act II), 2021, exhibited for the first time, reading “I’m tired” is an ode to resilience and an acknowledgement of weariness. Tucker invites us to pause, and acknowledge the new reality of no longer having to always be on, always be present, always BE.
Toisha Tucker is a New York based interdisciplinary conceptual artist and writer. Their work explores three often-overlapping veins of critique. They use art as a mode of cultural organizing illuminating social constructions of gender, race, and identity. They posit incisive critiques of contemporary and historical events of Western society. They delve into the anthropomorphic relationship between technology and humans, contemporary dystopia and human empathy. Their practice is process and research based and manifests through text-based prints, photographs, video, participatory works, sculptural installations, analog and virtual physical labor, crafting, repetition, and other media that aim to directly engage with the body. Many of their pieces are ongoing or mutable.