Precarious Prototypes is a textile installation that responds to and transforms selected objects from the Walters Art Museum’s collection. In considering the relationship between ornament and oppression, this inquiry comprises appropriation and historic archival research. In Precarious Prototypes, the museum’s own collection has been used to focus on the mannered representation of enslaved peoples and other figures-in-service throughout the history of art and to consider its place in museums and popular culture.
This project (Precarious Prototypes) began in search of objects in The Walters Museum collection that depicted enslaved peoples. Expanding my inquiry into the museum as labor archive, Precarious Prototypes ultimately explores the mannered representations of servitude and objectification within the museum’s collection. Select objects are exhibited as well as printed, to understand and unsettle the role of the museum as master narrator. And so, the drapery both reveals and conceals, becoming an index of unstable contradictions. Specifically, I am looking at how depictions of the body as subservient, contorted, dehumanized, grotesque and lacking agency, unravel how art history becomes art as history.