MANIFEST was featured in our recent issue on southern Things (vol. 23, no. 3). Join Wendel White at an exhibit opening & artist's talk on February 21st, 6:00–8:00 PM, at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
The Manifest portfolio is an ongoing project, a portfolio of nearly one hundred photographs of African American material culture held in public and private collections throughout the United States. These repositories have accumulated diaries, receipts for the purchase of humans, hair, a drum, a door, photographs, figurines, and other artifacts—some with great historical significance, some the commonplace, quotidian material of black life.
This project is concerned with the physical remnants of the American concept and representation of race. The histories of slavery, abolition, the U.S. Civil War, segregation, oppression, accomplishment, and agency are among the narratives that emerge in these photographs.
I am increasingly interested in the residual power of the past to inhabit material remains. The ability of objects to transcend lives, centuries, and millennia suggests a remarkable mechanism for folding time, bringing the past and the present into a shared space that is uniquely suited to artistic exploration. While the artifacts are remarkable as visual evidence of lives and events, I also intend the viewer to consider this informal reliquary as a survey of the impulse and motivation to preserve history and memory.
Various projects have occupied my attention during the past two decades; in retrospect, each has been part of a singular effort to seek out the ghosts and resonant memories of the material world. I am drawn to the stories “dwelling within” a spoon, a cowbell, a book, a postcard, or a partially burned document.