James Gregory Atkinson: State of Emergency

Goethe Pop Up Seattle, Seattle, United States
09 Sep 2021 - 30 Nov 2021

©James Gregory Atkinson

©James Gregory Atkinson

State of Emergency, an exhibition by Frankfurt-based, German-American artist James Gregory Atkinson, opens September 9, 2021 at Goethe Pop Up Seattle. This newly commissioned work centers the history of the iconic Peacock Chair to interrogate contemporary social contexts and historical concepts of identity. The exhibition is open to the public by appointment only through November 30.

For State of Emergency, Atkinson (b. 1981, Bad Nauheim, Germany, lives and works in Frankfurt am Main) has created a one-channel video installation that engages the histories of the Peacock Chair—its origins in forced prison labor in the Philippines, status as an internationally traded “exotic” commodity, use in portrait photography and associations with Black radical activists such as Huey P. Newton—to explore ideas of Black masculinities and resistance.

Through its filmic choreography of body and architecture, this work interweaves a nonlinear, experimental commentary on the American prison-industrial complex and the concept of the panopticon, and reflects both individual and governmental states of emergency.

In response to the radical incompleteness of official archives of Black history and culture, Atkinson creates alternative archives and possibilities for encounters with the past. In his multimedia works, he engages with histories of queer and non-White artists, altering them to bring them into dialogue with the present.

At the center of the exhibition “State of Emergency” is a film by James Gregory Atkinson titled Jail Bird in a Peacock Chair featuring Black Cracker, camera & edit Marcel Izquierdo Torres, camera assistant Béla Feldberg, dolly grip Marc Albrecht, music & spoken word Goodsteph, sound design Lessay, production Friederike Seifert, project management Mearg Negusse.

James Gregory Atkinson, a graduate of the Städelschule, Frankfurt, is an artist who works with video, photography, and performance. In 2018, he curated Re:Re: Black Macho. Unleash the Queen (Philipp Pflug Contemporary, Frankfurt). Currently a recipient of the Basis e.V. Frankfurt’s HAP Studio-Program (2021-2025), he has participated in the artist-in-residence programs of the Villa Aurora in 2016 (Los Angeles) and the Jan Van Eyck Akademie in 2017 (Maastricht), and was awarded a studio grant in New York from the Hessische Kulturstiftung in 2018. His film The Day I stopped kissing my Father, featuring a performance from the harpist Ahya Simone, was part of the exhibition Show Me Your Shelves!, curated by Contemporary And (C&) at the Detroit Public Library in 2019.





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