Jeffrey Gibson: I Was Here

I Was Here

Pamela Bass-Bookey and Harry Bookey Video Gallery

May 24–September 22, 2019

For the past two decades, artist Jeffrey Gibson has been producing work that addresses themes such as race, gender, sexuality, and religion. At first, Gibson resisted the notion that his art reflected his multifaceted identity. He grew up in Europe, Korea, and the United States. He’s a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and is half-Cherokee. And he identifies as queer. But recently Gibson has admitted, in reference to these cultures and identities, “I’m finally at a point where I can feel comfortable being your introduction.”

In I Was Here, the artist explores “how the representation of one's subjective narrative is complex, valid, and never didactic.” The work is Gibson’s first video project, and is a hybrid of documentary and invented narrative. It features Macy, a transgender woman living on the Choctaw reservation in Mississippi. It starts by following an ordinary day in Macy’s life, which includes applying make-up and a trip to the Piggly Wiggly. Half-way through the plot twists, and the film becomes more fantastical. We observe Macy traversing an ethereal, wooded landscape and donning garments designed by Gibson, eventually baptizing herself in a body of water.

Accompanying the piece is an original soundtrack composed by Canadian (Inuk) throat singer Tanya Tagaq. One of the oldest forms of music in the world, throat-singing in Canada is native to the Inuit, and is traditionally only performed by women. Tagaq’s short, sharp, rhythmic inhalations and exhalations add rawness to the video, and stimulate our emotions.

Jeffrey Gibson: I Was Here is organized by Assistant Curator Jared Ledesma.

Jeffrey Gibson (Choctaw-Cherokee, born 1972)
I Was Here, 2018
HD video (color, audio), with original music by Tanya Tagaq 8 minutes, 40 seconds
Edition 2 of 3
Produced by the Ruth and Elmer Wellin
Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. This film is made possible by The Daniel W. Dietrich ’64 Arts Museum Programming Fund.
© Jeffrey Gibson, photo courtesy of the artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

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