Co-commissioned by Gallery 44, The Western Front (Vancouver) and The Rooms (St. John’s), I Don’t Get It is a new body of work by Aleesa Cohene. Through a two-channel video and a series of sculptures and photographs Cohene exposes how whiteness, as a fundamental category of belonging, is never not at play.
How do my rhetorical politics contribute to what is happening around me? How do I make room for other systems of representation to come into being? These are the questions at the core of Aleesa Cohene’s new body of work, which pushes at the limits of what is legible within the homogeneity of contemporary white Hollywood cinema.
"Aleesa Cohene’s most recent project I Don’t Get It
takes as its starting point a two-channel video, each bearing one of the artist’s trademark composites. The characters she proffers here are neighbours—one black, one white. The scene that unfolds between them is a spare but familiar one, a frustrated exchange inevitably teasing out the intricacies of white fragility, of the permissions that whiteness creates to avoid, evade, or redirect.
At turns tense, embarrassing, and enraging, the work is a canny depiction of white supremacy at work, rendered as readily through inaction and silence as through the characters' exchange. Built in large part from white saviour narratives, in which white characters’ messianic actions serve not only to elevate characters of colour but to permit their own personal growth and discovery, I Don’t Get It
directs our attention to the ubiquitous—and grossly destructive—scripts for white fulfillment and racialized gratitude that have come to shape much of contemporary life. The structure of the work reflects these dynamics trimly, with a disparity in the composites’ complexities underscoring the crude distortions in the way black and white bodies are captured on film and, by extension, writ into the cultural imaginary."
--- Matthew Hyland, Director, Oakville Galleries, excerpt from essay entitled Something Better
from forthcoming exhibition catalogue
This exhibition is curated by Noa Bronstein, Allison Collins, and Mireille Eagan.