In Black Skin, White Masks (1952), the Martinican psychiatrist Frantz Fanon offers a starting point through which to think about the contention currently facing our times—that of futurities, uncertain—as we inhabit a present that no longer promises a future: “Not responsible for my acts, at the crossroads between Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep.” The urgent and yet impossible task of enacting himself as a subject serves as the exhibition’s theoretical touchstone for its insight into the human condition and its ability to unsettle assumptions about the cultural “origins” of things, insisting instead on a relational, itinerant view of aesthetics. Between Nothingness and Infinity parses the artistic forces of resistance, where the stubborn promise of infinite possibilities can only belong to the future, no matter how uncertain.
Oupa Sibeko (born 1992 in South Africa) is an interdisciplinary performance artist whose work moves between performance installation, photography, film, and community-based activism. His performance Black is Blue (2019–ongoing) is concerned with the widespread practice of using seawater for healing and spiritual purposes, deriving from Nguni and other traditions. Sibeko will perform Black is Blue in the gallery on September 29–30 and October 1 (11AM-4PM).
For this exhibition, Gustavo Nazareno (born 1994 in Brazil) has created two new paintings in his series on the fable of Exú, the god of multiplicity in the syncretic Brazilian religion of Umbanda who is constantly shifting between man, woman, child, nonbinary androgyny, and animal forms. Nazareno presents Exú as a divine being wearing haute couture, highlighting both the sacred and the profane elements within life’s experiences.
Between Nothingness and Infinity is part of the 2022 Cornell Biennial Mellon Public Curatorial Expression Program and curated by graduate students Lauren Siegel (Africana Studies), Sarah Then Bergh (Africana Studies), Marie Lambert (Comparative Literature), and Romain Pasquer (Romance Studies, LGBT Studies). It was funded in part by the Cornell Mellon Collaborative Studies in Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities.