featured gallery for January 2003

My Brother

My Brother

I heard my brother cry his first cry and then there was some discussion of what to do with his after-birth, but I don't know now what was decided to do with all of it; only that a small piece of it was dried and pinned to the inside of his clothes as a talisman to protect him from evil spirits. He was placed in a chemise my mother had made, but because she had two other small children, my other brothers, one of them almost four years old, the other almost two years old, she could not give his chemise the customary elaborate attention involving embroidery stitching and special washings of the cotton fabric; the chemises he wore were plain. He was wrapped in a blanket and placed close to her, and they both fell asleep. That very next day, while they were both asleep, he snuggled in the warmth of his mother's body, an army of red ants came in through the window and attacked him. My mother heard her child crying, and when she awoke, she found him covered with red ants. If he had been alone, it is believed they would have killed him. This was an incident no one ever told my brother, an incident that everyone else in my family has forgotten, except me. One day during his illness, when my mother and I were standing over him, looking at him -- he was asleep and so didn't know we were doing so -- I reminded my mother of the ants almost devouring him and she looked at me, her eyes narrowing in suspicion, and she said, "What a memory you have!" -- perhaps the thing she most dislikes about me. But I was only wondering if it had any meaning that some small red things had almost killed him from the outside shortly after he was born and that now some small things were killing him from the inside; I don't believe it has any meaning, this is only something a mind like mine would think about.

From My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid

The artist's archive of Visual AIDS is an outstanding resource. And while there are many organizing themes by which one could address these works, I found myself preoccupied with the idea of living with illness. On what that might mean. On what we might learn.

My Brother is named after a memoir of the same title by Jamaica Kincaid in which she discusses her life through the illness and death of her younger brother from AIDS. In the book, Kincaid brings up issues of life and growth, of fate and transcendence. She offers contemplation, contradiction, and attachment as she struggles with her own mortality, her own shortcomings.

The works collected here are about living. About getting quiet and looking around. About the body as a vessel. About memory systems and recollection. About living and betrayal. About repetition. About life and growth and departure. Like the title, this selection of works by Joe Brainard, Tony Feher, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Affrekka Jefferson, Frank Jump, Leslie Kaliades, Sebron Kendrick, Gin Louie, David Nelson, Paul Thek, Tseng Kwong Chi, and Joel Wateres is a simple greeting, a sigh of compassion, and an affirmation of presence.