In 1984, the author and Black feminist, Audre Lorde penned the essay, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” where a “mythical norm” was defined as “white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, and financially secure.” Lorde wrote that anyone that exists outside of that identity lives on the margins of “the trappings of power.” In the exhibition She Fell from Normalcy, artist Christie Neptune, counters those hegemonic idealizations described by Lorde through a sci-fi fantasy that centers around blackness, femininity, and a struggle with depression.
Neptune tells The Creators Project, “I deal with depression and it’s my attempt to reconcile that period. I developed this series of work that validates that experience in the African-American female. Depression is typically stigmatized in communities of color. It’s me speaking out and pulling away at those labels that limit my experience.” She adds, “You always hear this thing, ‘black people don’t get depressed that’s some white people shit.’ I decided to build up a mythical norm that is queued to Audre Lorde’s essay, where she describes how we are trying to live up to standards.”
In the video for She Fell from Normalcy, Neptune creates a matrix-like “afro-surrealist” world that tracks the evolution of two black female figures. They begin unconscious, existing outside of society which evokes the discrimination people of color deal with. The figures ask, “Why do I feel this way? Where’s my strength?” and “Why am I not like them?” The figures traverse the space with a desire to leave the world that discriminates against them. At the end of the film the two figures, whose eyes are mostly watching what’s above, look at each other. In that moment, the figures look at each other devoid of the misconceptions often placed on them.
She Fell from Normalcy, exists a three-part series entitled, Eye of the Storm that Neptune began in 2012. The first iteration, Shadow of Self, features prints of two white men laying on a platform underneath a picture of a black family smiling and staring at him. It is a critique of the white male gaze. The Manuscript: Pulling at My Labels, Neptune presents a text modeled to appear as a computer chip where she removes the race and gender identities that often goes before the word “artist” in descriptions of artists of color. She writes, for example, “I am not a Black Artist. I am an Artist,” and “I am not a White Female Artist. I am an Artist.”
In a two-channel video work that accompanies the manuscript, Neptune can be seen taking photographs of herself while she pull at labels with the phrases from the manuscript. “With the entire project, I am trying to imagine a world where I can pull away the labels that define my personal experience and form my own identity,” says Neptune. “It’s really an investigation of what it could look like if we had this break from the perceptive modes that governor and define the self.” She adds, “I think I tackle that by using white space that is devoid of the social-political systems that historically limits the experiences and marginalizes people of color in this whole decorative thing we call the world.”
See the video here:
She Fell from Normalcy continues through July 30 at Hamiltonian Gallery. For more information, click here.