Over the past decade, Paris-based artist Kapwani Kiwanga (b. 1978, Hamilton, Canada) has created complex installations, sculptures, performance lectures, and films that consider myriad subjects including marginalized histories and colonial economies. Drawing from her training in anthropology and the social sciences, Kiwanga’s rigorously researched projects often take the form of installations that stage new spatial environments while exposing the ways in which bodies experience and inhabit structures of power.
Installed in the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery, the exhibition debuts a new body of work that bridges historical research with a site-specific spatial intervention. Invoking both the use of police floodlights in targeted urban areas and the early eighteenth-century New York legal codes known as “lantern laws”—ordinances that required all enslaved individuals over the age of fourteen to carry lanterns or lit candles after dark—Kiwanga’s installation continues the artist’s investigation into disciplinary architectures and complex regimes of visibility. Weaving together different layers of opacity and transparency through textile and sculpture, Off-Grid subverts the application of artificial light as a means of control. Instead, the installation is solely illuminated with shifting patterns of natural light. Disconnected from the electric lighting system, the exhibition also stages a type of speculative scenario, evoking both the sudden closure of cultural institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic and a not-so-distant future when museums and society will have to operate with limited access to power.
“Kapwani Kiwanga: Off-Grid” is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director and Madeline Weisburg, Curatorial Assistant, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the New Museum.
Image: Installation view: “Kapwani Kiwanga: Off-Grid,” 2022. New Museum, New York. Photo: Dario Lasagni