On view this month at Marian Goodman in London, artist Tavares Strachan takes an in-depth, beguiling look at the interconnected figures of 20th Century politics and culture for his first UK solo show, part of his ongoing investigatory project The Encyclopedia of Invisibility. The show, on view through tomorrow, makes a powerful, serpentine pathway through the landscape and history of the world, tying together the Queen, Haille Selassie, Nina Simone, and many more.
Strachan’s Encyclopedia of Invisibility is referred to as “one person’s attempt to unravel the Borgesian web,” a massive project examining interconnected tissues of human interaction, and the various topics of history that connect each actor. Its fifteen thousand entries describe people, places, objects, concepts, artworks, and scientific phenomena that are hard to see and difficult to ascertain, with some topics appearing to be expunged, or others presented as rare or intangible, existing only through their replication in literature or cultural references; some have been changed or altered beyond recognition. Much like the format of the Encyclopedia itself, they are rarely used as contemporary references—and yet in a similar way they also carry gravity and weight. The result is an archive perhaps best defined as in constant reshaping by Strachan’s participation and engagement.
The point of departure for this current show is the life and work of Matthew Henson (1866–1955), an American explorer who was the first person to reach the North Pole in 1909. His story was long overlooked, arguably because he was an African American, and Strachan’s investigation of his life forms part of his ongoing project. The show centers in particular on black figures and historical actors, performers and artists, each time exploring their cultural impacts and their own investigations of modernity. In some works, these figures are presented alongside star-fields, texts, statues, magazines, schematics and other images from the expanses of Wester history, almost as if the range of awarenesses and the bodies on view, transmuted and transformed, have become bound up in a hall of echoes that constitutes the modern awareness of history.
The artist’s work is on view through October 24th.
– J. Haines