Last Friday, MoMA played home to artist Juliana Huxtable’s There Are Certain Facts that Cannot Be Disputed, one of the marquee performance works commissioned this year for the Performa 15 biennial. The sold-out set of performances, set in the museum theatre, featured a slew of the transgender writer, artist, DJ and promoter’s (whose recurring event ShockValue played home to the performance afterparty) compatriots and collaborators, winding its way through notions of parallel histories, white-washed narratives, and the ubiquity of digital technologies, all turned through the artist’s unique poetic and aesthetic inclinations.
The show, soundtracked by the fragmented digital collages of artists including Elysia Crampton, whose cataclysmic sounds of of explosions, gun blasts and abstracted yelling opened the early moments of the work. As the show progressed, the backing compositions would move into arhythmic drum and violin accompaniment, always countered by Huxtable’s jaggedly rhythmic lines and digitally manipulated vocal lines, reciting lines on the demise of Yahoo Geo-Cities (the early, publicly accessible web publishing platform) and the subsequent elimination of vast tracts of internet landscape, or W.E.B. DuBois’s proposed Encyclopedia Africana, which was realized by Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr,, and ultimately erased after its online version was eclipsed by other online information sources.
Huxtable’s work, here and elsewhere, immediately challenges the assumed pluralities of the internet as a free space of expression. Her work is a remembrance, a memorial to a space in which the early users of websites, weblogs and server networks sought to author their own historical threads, their own subjective alternatives to a linear, closed system of dominated historical narratives. “The idea of people’s personal information being controlled goes hand in hand with this access to history – the two things are determined by Google algorithms. And if a server is not renewed, then it’s gone for good,” Huxtable told The Guardian this week. As the gradually consolidating powers of information production and distribution online push self-produced discourse further to the margins, There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed is something of a revelation, a demand not for broader expressive freedom, but broader conditions of access and control, a vision of the future that moves beyond speech itself, to the power of ideas to persist, and to exist within broader discourse.
— D. Creahan
“Juliana Huxtable’s Performance at MoMA Was a Powerful Interrogation of White-Washed World History” [Vice]
“Juliana Huxtable interrogates ‘older, whiter versions’ of history at MoMA” [The Guardian]
Juliana Huxtable: There Are Certain Facts That Cannot Be Disputed [MoMA]