Dec 12th 2021

Bells for Her


2100 S Marshall Blvd. Unit 105 Chicago, IL 60623

Opening Sunday, December 12th, from 3PM - 6PM

On view through Saturday, January 23rd

Bells for Her
Ále Campos, Marylu E. Herrera, Alayna N. Pernell

Opening reception: Sunday, December 12, 3–6pm

Exhibition runs from December 12, 2021 – January 23, 2022

Masks will be required for entry, and there will be a limited capacity in the gallery;
lobby and patio spaces will accommodate overflow.

Following the opening, gallery hours are available by appointment only.

Please contact to make arrangements
to visit RUSCHWOMAN during the run of the exhibition.

“Offering an alternative way of witnessing these scenes produces a hermeneutic refraction that allows us to ethically account for these extinguished lives, although it cannot fully subvert the power of the archive to silence and commodify…This is a matter not only of reading along the bias grain, but also explicitly demonstrating how power works in making certain historical subjects invisible, brutally hypervisible, and silent. This is an effort to (re)construct another kind of history that does not reproduce colonial (and disciplinary) power.”
–Marisa J. Fuentes. Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016. Print, pp. 128/142

“What errant thoughts and wild ideas encouraged her to flout social norms and live outside and athwart the law in pursuit of pleasure and the quest for beauty? Or to never settle and keep running the streets? Was it to experience something akin to freedom or to enjoy the short-lived transport of autonomy? Was it the sweetness of phrases like I want you, I go where I please, Nobody owns me rolling around in her mouth?

…She well understood that the desire to move as she wanted was nothing short of treason.”
–Saidiya Hartman. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019. Print, pp. 225/230

“And through the portal they can make amends…
Can’t stop what’s coming
Can’t stop what’s on its way”
–Tori Amos. “Bells for Her.” Under the Pink. Atlantic Records, 1994

RUSCHWOMAN’s second chapter comprises the reenactments, recuperations, confabulations, and liberatory interventions to be found in the practices of Ále Campos, Marylu E. Herrera, and Alayna N. Pernell. These three artists entangle themselves in the partiality of archives, be they personal, cultural, or institutional. Questioning the violence and loss bound into the project of history building, they develop an array of tools for memory work as a form of repair. In the counter narratives they produce, shifts in power around point of view in storytelling—particularly the dignity assigned to being empowered to speak for oneself—are variously celebrated and mourned. Self-possessed fugitivity is here understood as an affront to systems of control, and yet at RUSCHWOMAN there are sightings of a discrepant She (angelic radio wave visitations, emancipated women, maligned goddesses, Celeste, anonymous untold stories) who approaches and withdraws of her own volition.

Within the cosmology of Ále Campos’ gender-noncompliant drag performances, mothers, grandmothers, high femme personae, and goddesses such as the Aztec/Pipil deity of abundance, Chicomecoatl, congregate as oracles from whom issue an investigation into the gendered and sexually oriented effects of nationality and colonialism, the misogyny of patriarchal systems of power, and the regulation of Latinx identity. Through video, performance, and an array of elaborate costumes, prosthetics, and talismans, Campos proposes possibilities for queering the technologies of selfhood and the social which have been long-maintained through overlapping religious ideologies, strict class distinctions, and rote stereotypes of Brown bodies in the diaspora. The works included in Bells for Her portray the ways that the past is variously taught (as tradition, history) and channeled (as improvisational pagan ancestral ritual).

Marylu E. Herrera articulates complex aesthetic (and by extension, ethical) dimensions of hybrid cultural vantage points. Following on years of work that mine the histories of traditional Mexican culture and its export into American immigrant experiences, Herrera’s most recent project has been based in her efforts to reconstruct and index a life’s work of her paternal grandfather Antonio, who left behind dozens of mixed tape cassettes he recorded from radio music, spoken interludes, prayers, and incidental reflections of his everyday life. In a blend of installation sculpture and photography, Herrera has recreated portions of her grandfather’s elaborately ornamental home environment, which serves as a point of departure for self consciously cross-cultural fantasy. Approaching, analyzing, and deconstructing Antonio’s audio collages has mapped more than just the familial relationships in which these materials occur: this is a provocation that asks who is authorized to build which histories, and how are those legacies made to matter as they come to be processed by a body politic.

Alayna N. Pernell uses photography as an instrument for justice oriented forensics. In her research practice, she is invested in the ways dispossession has been enacted and agency violated through the apparatus of photography with regard to long stretching histories of enslavement in the United States. At close range, Pernell has delved deeply into the Art Institute of Chicago’s photographic holdings that document the lives and bodies of Black women who were stripped of their ability to consent to their images being made by the legal justifications of chattel slavery. Many such collections of images exist in art institutions around the globe, and how they continue to be owned and used is fiercely contested and scrutinized. Through rephotographing, recontextualizing, and intervening into the associated information by which these images are archived, Pernell invites her audiences to wonder with her about the responsibilities and challenges that surround these archival materials. The efficacy of approaches to care and healing are tested in Pernell’s ongoing work to give form to an ethics for how power is represented.

RUSCHWOMAN is located at 2100 S Marshall Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60623. After the opening weekend, Bells for Her will be viewable only by appointment. Those interested in visiting the exhibition may contact the gallery through her website, where directions to the space whether by driving or public transit are also available.

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