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Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)
When and Where I Enter the British Museum
2007
Inkjet digital print on Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper
30 x 20 inches
From The Rivington Place Portfolio. Edition of 70. Published by Brodsky Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Collaborating Master Printer: Randy Hemminghaus
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carrie mae weems

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Carrie Mae Weems was trained at the California Institute of the Arts, the hotbed of American conceptual and theoretical approach to art and photography.  Weems questions the documentary approach by staging photographic and film narratives.  Weems’s stories reflect on relationships of power.

This print follows a series made during the artist’s residency in Rome, in 2006, where Weems took to decipher the city’s majestic monumental environment and tackle the essential and factual quality of architecture as representing power: “I thought” the artist said, “I could use my own skin in performance, my own body as a way of leading the viewer into those spaces, highly aware, challenging those spaces, and marking them for what they are.... I am not confused about what they are supposed to mean.  Some people accept to submit to them.  I am more interested in contesting them, even when I think that they are sublime.”

Since 1759, the British Museum has become the model for encyclopedic museums all over the world, representing and interpreting world history through culture and artifacts.  Its model continues to embody the very notion of colonialism.  In When and Where I Enter the British Museum, “I” stands for “we” as Weems asks “when” African, African American and other diasporic African cultures did enter the museum’s discourse on culture? “What placement” do they occupy in it?  Weems upsets the tourist’s proud shot in front of the institution that has dictated over centuries how history is to be interpreted.  She turns diaristic photography into inquisitive photography, and so suspends the universal belief in this seemingly intact building and its construct of history.

This print was created in collaboration with Rivington Place, the first visual arts center in London dedicated to the study and presentation of diverse cultural backgrounds, celebrating ten years on October 5, 2017.