Take Me to the Water presents a holistic survey of Jackson’s work to date, a culmination of varied discursive elements present in Jackson’s more than a decade long career. These portraits and movement studies offer a sense of the breadth of her practice, while at the same time taking her into new territories with regard to the range of her performances.
Jackson has used the archival impulse to assess the impact of the colonial gaze on the history of photography and its relationship to ideas about the body. She uses her lens to deconstruct 19th and early 20th century portraiture as a means for questioning photography’s role in constructing identities. Her thesis is further complicated by the presence of the artist’s figure. She uses her own body to perform the characters with whom she concerns herself.
Jackson’s images have a compelling complexity: They are richly laced historical allusions, reappropriations of past moments and maps of the ethical considerations involved in the relationship between photographer, subject and viewer.
While Take Me to the Water is consistent with the artists ongong “memory work,” it is a striking departure from her commitment to lived histories as she has chosen to embrace the magical worlds of speculative fiction. Her new characters inhabit an aquatopia populated by aquahumanoids whose attributes are inspired by African and African Diasporic water spirits. From Olokun to Mame Coumba bang, from Kianda to Drexciya, from Yenanja to Mamiwata, Jackson is interested in “the mythic worlds we have studied,”yet emphasizes that she is, “more concerned with those we have been taught to forget.”
Image: Ayana V. Jackson, Double Goddess … A Sighting in the Abyss, 2019