Betelhem Makonnen_________ ቤተልሄም መኮንን     


people the We

Adrian Aguilera and Betelhem Makonnen Prizer Arts and Letters
October 30 - January 10, 2021

؟america in surveillve will who
؟real who
؟free who [1]

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?

Exhibition Resources
"people the We" Publication Live-Readings


Glasstire Top Five: Oct. 29, 2020

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[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 Lipscomb, Djibril Diop Mambéty, Bob Marley, Toni Morrison, Juan Rulfo, Christina Sharpe, Subcomandante Galeano, Peter Tosh, Caetano Veloso, the Wachowskis, Sylvia Wynter, Kathryn Yussoff.

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