Kameelah Janan Rasheed: i want to climb inside every word and lick the salty neck of each letter

REDCAT, Los Angeles, United States
27 Mar 2024 - 11 Aug 2024

Courtesy of Kameelah Janan Rasheed.

Courtesy of Kameelah Janan Rasheed.

i want to climb inside every word and lick the salty neck of each letter is Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s first major solo exhibition in her native California. Born in 1985 in East Palo Alto, an important city in the history of Black radical politics and pedagogy, Rasheed is a former child website coder, high school teacher, and a self-described learner whose work enacts and expands the ways we navigate and interpret the world around us.

Rasheed’s exhibition at REDCAT is an homage to formative experiences of the interspecies, interspiritual, and language-rich environment in which she grew up: on marshlands and nature reserves exploring markings and droppings left by animals; in Islamic studies courses memorizing the choreography of her body to pray and her hand to scribe Arabic; in Catholic school reflecting on Biblical exegesis; and delving into her parents’ bookshelves of religious texts, Black literature, science textbooks, and political theory. These profound forms of communication–expressed through the body and its gestures–inform Rasheed’s immersive text-based work and touch on the desire not just to read and learn, but to engage with language so deeply it can be physically felt. Videos of her ingesting, rubbing, and licking language point to poet and activist Audre Lorde’s understanding of the erotic as a source of power and knowledge rooted in the act of feeling and in the desire to be overtaken by experience itself.

Embracing the sensorial, Rasheed incorporates into the exhibition natural materials from the marsh that have been gathered by the artist’s family. A new series of light-sensitive prints are made by washing photosensitive paper in water from various locales and pressing the artist’s weight into them. The exhibition presents an immersive constellation of letters, words and non-words, moving images, body gestures, rituals and sounds that engage the erotics of reading and writing and transgress the limits of linguistic description. The exhibition also stages experimental conversations between writer and exile Clarice Lispector, French philosopher Roland Barthes, LA based poet Harryette Mullen, and artist Pope.L that are concerned with the intimacies, desires, and frustrations held in using language to describe an experience or animate a memory.




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