A Temporary Burst of Joy

Tricia Hersey, A Resting Place, 2019. Installation: Flux Projects, Atlanta, Georgia. Courtesy the artist. Photo: Tabia Lisenbee-Parker

Last March, the Museum of Contemporary Art (moCa) Cleveland announced its OPEN HOUSE initiatives, including the big news you’ve probably heard by now—free admission. But other components of the program launched behind the scenes, such as the creation of the Gund Curatorial Fellow.

Enter La Tanya Autry, whose work in the Museums Are Not Neutral campaign that she co-founded in 2017 garnered global attention by challenging the conventional thinking of museums as apolitical spaces and, instead, recognizing them as products of colonialism with room for significant transformation. Autry’s portfolio also includes curatorial positions at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Mississippi Museum of Art.

Autry’s first exhibition at moCa, Temporary Spaces of Joy and Freedom, offers an exacting fit to the region’s shortfalls, as well as an appropriate response to the museum’s essential question for the season: How do we mark our communities?

Temporary Spaces of Joy and Freedom, opens in moCa’s second floor Toby Devan Lewis Gallery through May 17, and includes an interactive installation of Tricia Hersey’s A Portal for Rest. Three semi-private stalls are available for napping, which, asserts “Nap Bishop” Hersey, is a form of resistance against burnout culture and capitalism, as well as reparation for the exhausting and uncompensated labor Black bodies were forced into as slaves during the building of our nation.

“People are tired, that’s why we need to build communities of care,” says Autry, noting the show’s focus on the importance of regeneration. “We really need to just slow down and stop letting systems control us and ruin our lives.”

“We are trying to push back on the idea that your productivity determines your worth,” said Hersey of her nap ministry efforts to Nicquel Terry Ellis of USA TODAY last September. “I think it’s really powerful for someone to say that it’s OK to rest, it’s OK to take a break.”

Inspired by the writings of Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer, and artist, Temporary Spaces of Joy and Freedom also includes two videos by Simpson made with filmmakers Amanda Strong and Cara Mumford, and works by John Edmonds, Vaimoana Niumeitolu, and Kyle Goen. All of it supports the exhibition’s exploration of Indigenous and Black liberation, decolonialism, and Indigenous rights.

“It’s a lot of big ideas in a little show,” says Autry. “I don’t believe we can fight big issues like colonialism or racism by ourselves,” she adds. “They are structural problems and they will need collective action to take them down. That needs to be ongoing.”



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