regime of forgetting
From July 21st to July 26th, 2015, the artists will open a portal between 1708 Gallery in Richmond and Alice Yard in Port of Spain via web stream. Over the course of the week, from their respective remote locations, each artist will make the same series of artworks that reference cartography, astrological charts, and divination. Incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives on history and memory, they will produce a trail of twin objects, actions, and marks as they continue their ongoing attempt to discover the Other.
Since 2011, Nikolai Mahesh Noel (b. 1976, Port of Spain), and Matthew P. Shelton (b. 1982, Danbury, NC) have fed their curiosity about the individual as a historical creation and the aftershocks of colonialism through conversation and discursive art projects. Their collaboration utilizes the artists’ respective subject positions for an inquiry into concerns about the self, otherness, power and memory. Noel is a person of African and Indian heritage from Trinidad & Tobago, and Shelton is a white Southerner; both are coming to terms with the ramifications of those designations within their respective homelands’ differing amnesias. While Shelton and Noel maintain a web-based, epistolary practice, they periodically activate their dialogue materially, as they did in their project CONSTELLATIONS%ARCHIPELAGOS, a 2012 collaboration and exhibit at the ICA at Maine College of Art in Portland. regime of forgetting resumes their object-oriented work together.
Nikolai Mahesh Noel (b. 1976, Port of Spain), and Matthew Pendleton Shelton (b. 1982, Danbury, NC) met in Virginia, at VCU, where we were both studying painting and printmaking. We share an interest in the aftershocks of colonialism, as well as a curiosity about individuals as historical creations. Our collaboration utilizes our respective subject positions for an inquiry into concerns about the self, otherness, power and memory. Noel is a person of African, Indian and Trinidadian heritage, currently living in Port of Spain, and Shelton is a white Southerner coming to terms with the ramifications of those designations within that region’s amnesiatic culture. As our collaboration shows, we understand that geography manifests destiny through an interconnected latticework of factors both concrete and ephemeral–as points on a map and geographical coordinates, but also through culture, ethnicity, climate, resources, and especially history. In 2011, we sought to exploit the colonial inertia that placed us together, and collaborated on a series of drawings exploring power–both the way it exists and the way it is perceived–and our individual subject positions. In the series of Oppressor/Oppressed (%) drawings, each of us tried to occupy an essentialized version of himself through the drawing process. In 2012, we resumed our collaboration at the ICA @ the Maine College of Art. The weeklong project, titled CONSTELLATIONS%ARCHIPELAGOS, included a public drawing exercise (in which each artist attempted to produce 100 drawings of the other, using the image of the other in an effort to locate and see themselves, like a sonar signal), the “binding” of the books As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner and No Pain Like this Body by Harold Sonny Ladoo (pseudo-ritually, in earth and water, respectively), and an artist talk at the ICA @ MECA about our collaboration. On our last day there, as an homage and challenge to Heraclitus’ observation that “geography is destiny,” we visited Leo Knighton Tallarico, a Portland-based astrocartographer, who predicted locations that would prove most auspicious to our collaboration based on a combined reading of our natal charts. CONSTELLATIONS%ARCHIPELAGOS culminated in a month-long exhibition at the ICA of the 2011 Oppressor/Oppressed drawings in addition to the work and artifacts generated in Portland. Since then we have each been teaching art while pursuing individual studio practices and exhibition opportunities in our respective homelands. Our personal and professional dialogue is free-flowing through video chat and messaging apps. We do not make a distinction between the subjects of our discussions and the content of our collaboration. We seek a venue in which we can make this conversation public and through which our dialogue might be further clarified and pushed.