The exhibition brings together the work of Amber Atiya, Amy Khoshbin, Esteban Jefferson, DonChristian Jones, SomBlackGuy, Chris Watts, and Lachell Workman, all of whom embrace experimental and rigorous ways of considering how violence and resistance are inscribed on and internalized in the body. These artists employ diverse mediums to translate the aftermath of trauma and discrimination.
The exhibition considers the idea of a “material witness,” a legal term referring to an individual with valuable information that may aid in the outcome of a criminal trial. In testimony, a “material witness” recalls and articulates what was seen as it relates to the case. Their disposition and other physical cues also play a role in transmitting information—here, the ‘material’ refers to subjective information rather than physical evidence. Additionally, visual evidence is often considered insufficient in the court of law, as proven by recent instances of video documentation of police violence which rarely result in a conviction. If the video camera, a supposed ‘objective eye’ tasked with documenting reality and a material witness, an individual whose memory is inherently bias, both fail to uphold as evidence in the court of law, then what degree of representation is considered sufficient?
The exhibition’s title MATERIAL WITNESS WITNESS MATERIALinverts this term to reflect the ways in which translation and interpretation are integral to both the legal process and the artworks included. Drawing from these same evidentiary sources—footage of police violence, legal documents, histories of discriminatory practices—the artists take various approaches to express the impact of systemic violence on the body. Some artists in the exhibition evoke familiar bodily forms through materials such as cracked asphalt and sheer fleshy textiles. Others infiltrate, alter, and revise government documents as a gesture of resistance, while some directly represent instances of police and legal injustice.