Siona Wilson Curates “I can’t breathe” at the Art Gallery of the College of Staten Island


Organized by Dr. Wilson—professor of contemporary art and photography at the Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island—the exhibition explores current struggles against racism and oppression and features works by Nona Faustine, Patricia Silva, Kara Walker and Emma Wolauku-Wanambwa.

Below are Dr. Wilson’s remarks on the exhibition:

We all recognize “I can’t breathe” as Eric Garner’s final desperate words, captured by his friend Ramsey Orta on a chilling cell phone video. This phrase joins others such as “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” as a rallying cry and metaphor for a new twenty-first century civil rights movement. In this exhibition we also deploy these words metaphorically. The powerful and provocative works in photography and video by Nona Faustine, Patricia Silva, Kara Walker and Emma Wolauku-Wanambwa suggest that racial and gendered embodiment intersect to produce social and psychological suffocation. But at the same time, vulnerability and bodily exposure can also be the source of agency and new meaning for artists and activists alike. The works presented in I can’t breathe point to long and complex histories of racism and oppression in order to open the way for different futures.

On view through May 14, I can’t breathe also includes an informational table of readings prepared by the library faculty as well as a photographic timeline showing the activist work by Staten Island Against Racism and Police Brutality (siaraPB).

photo: Nona Faustine, From her Body Came their Greatest Wealth, Site of Colonial Slave Market, Wall Street, 2013 (crop)