October 30 - January 3, 2021
A two-person exhibition featuring work by Adrian Aguilera and Betelhem Makonnen.
From the gallery:
“people the We is a collaborative exhibition by the artists Adrian Aguilera and Betelhem Makonnen conceived in the wake and on-going aftermath of the Black Lives Matter led uprisings that were reignited in May 2020. Over a series of masked and socially distanced exchanges, mostly in the natural spaces outside both their studios, Aguilera and Makonnen tried to give form to the overwhelming personal and collective emotions of rage, disappointment, exhaustion and bruised hope that they experienced in the last six months. Cultivating their continuous curiosity about the relationship between symbols and collective identity, transnationality and diaspora perspectives, as well as history’s inextricable hold on the present, Aguilera and Makonnen introduce new multimedia work in conversation with existing work to reflect on this (re)current moment in our country.
How can notions of nationhood be projected as a process, rather than a settled thing, place, or entity? Can symbols prone to discovery, conquest, and subjugation be reimagined as instruments for new forms of social constructions and therefore the creation of futures that acknowledge the personhood of all citizens? Conflating the past with the future and the analogue with the digital, Aguilera and Makonnen’s works propose nationhood as a process that requires translating histories and future ideals through relationality while vigilantly rejecting fixed monolithic reifications. Opening on the eve of the 2020 watershed presidential elections, people the We offer text-based, cyanotypes, video, installations and a publication that engage foundational questions and ideas of citizenship – who belongs and who doesn’t? And, who’s dreams are who’s nightmares?
1 WHO REAL⸮ by Egyptian American poet Marwa Helal. The violent hypocrisy of the iconic phrase from the US Constitution as well as this poem, which echoes its questions, inform the exhibition’s title.
2 Here is a list of thinkers that held us in company and conversation throughout the last months, in the making of this exhibition and beyond: James Baldwin, Dionne Brand, Octavia Butler, Aimé Cesaire, Angela Davis, Fela Kuti, Eduardo Galeano, Édouard Glissant, Marwa Helal, Salif Keita, John Lewis, Mance Lispcomb, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Bob Marley, Toni Morrison, Juan Rulfo, Christina Sharpe, Subcomandante Galeano, Peter Tosh, Caetano Veloso, the Wachowskis, Sylvia Wynter, Kathryn Yussoff.
Adrian Aguilera and Betelhem Makonnen
Adrian Aguilera is a conceptual artist whose work uses the printed media as a symbol for mechanical reproduction of the natural world and its potential of (de)construction of cultural meaning. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of TX, The George Washington Carver Museum (Austin, TX), Leun’un ArteHabitación (San Pedro Garza Garcia, Mexico), Instituto Cultural de México (Paris, France), (Paris, France), and The Mexican American Cultural Center (Austin, TX), and UNESCO + Central Library (Austin, TX).
Aguilera is a founding member of Black Mountain Project, a contemporary art platform that rejects approaches of monolithic paradigms and embodies fugitive practices in pursuit of impossible freedoms. He received his BFA in Painting from the University Autonomous of Nuevo Leon, Mexico in 2004. He currently lives in Austin, Texas.
A native of Ethiopia (b. 1972), Betelhem Makonnen, currently lives and works in Austin, Texas. Her formal education consists of an MFA (2019) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as a New Artists Society Merit Scholar and a B.A (1995) in History and Literature of Africa and the African Diaspora from University of Texas in Austin. Working with a variety of mediums that include video, photography, and installations, she researches questions on perception, presence, purpose and place within a trans-temporal and trans-locative topology that operates on the relational dynamics of a diasporic consciousness. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally. In addition to her practice she is an active member of the Austin-based contemporary arts collaborative Black Mountain Project.”
On View: October 30, 2020 | 1–5 pm
2023 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, 78702 TexasGet directions