Artist Kiyan Williams will join Hirshhorn associate curator Anne Reeve to discuss their multidisciplinary practice navigating the relationship between Blackness, trans/gressive subjectivities, and ecology.

Recently completing their MFA at Columbia University, Williams embodies performance as a form of activism. Their early performative interventions took place on the streets of Bushwick and Harlem and used spoken word to call attention to people who have been marginalized or abandoned by society. Since then, Williams has developed an artistic practice that traverses between sculpture, performance, and video, and often uses soil as a primary material. According to Williams, soil resonates strongly in their practice due to its dual connotations of abject filth and generative abundance and the common use of dirt to denote class and race and to “pathologize and police Black bodies, queer bodies, poor folks, and bodies that deviate from normative constructs of identity.”

In 2019, Williams performed the work Meditation on the Making of America for the inaugural season of programming at The Shed in New York. Williams flung and smeared soil on the wall, at times using their body and braids to apply the soil to the canvas. The resulting image takes the shape of a map of the United States, and Williams describes this work as a portrait of America which lays bare the violence and exploitation of Black bodies and land that the country is built on.

Meditation on the Making of America also includes a video documentation of the performance, which will be featured in the Hirshhorn’s online Black Box exhibition In the Beginning: Media Art and History from the Hirshhorn’s Collection, in a section dedicated to performance-based video works that reimagine how we represent the past. The video will be on view from November 1 to 31.

This virtual event is part of Talking to Our Time. the Hirshhorn’s online series of free artist talks featuring a diverse group of artists and collectives. View all events!

This event is also part of #HirshhornInsideOut, the Museum’s initiative to bring art into your home.

This program will be recorded and made available following the event. You will find it on this page and on our YouTube channel.