GREATER NEW YORK
MoMA PS1 | OCTOBER 11, 2015 – MARCH 7, 2016
Sondra Perry’s multidimensional video portrait of a black family is a powerful antidote to the repetitive displays of racialized state violence too often displayed on our screens. Lineage for a Multiple-Monitor Workstation, one of the brightest-shining works in this year’s Greater New York, unfurls on two large screens in a small green room. The artist deploys music, multiple windows, and shifting, dreamlike narratives to explore her maternal lineage. During a visit to her grandmother’s New Jersey home, Perry, with a presence and humor reminiscent of Lena Dunham’s early videos, directs her family in the enactment of various invented and inherited rituals. These activities, never fully explained, are presented with contrasting detachment and emotion. In one scene, Perry asks the family sitting around the dining room table to don matching chartreuse ski masks; they comply, and this absurdist gesture is movingly juxtaposed with the overlaid tune of their softly harmonizing voices singing a gospel song. In another scene, Soundgarden’s grunge-rock “4th of July” plays while the artist’s older female relatives enact an old family tradition, folding and burying an American flag in the backyard with military solemnity. In a third scene, three teenaged girls identified as part of the family by their chartreuse ski masks (outfitted with long black ponytails) prance and strut confidently through the neighborhood and gaze across a body of water, heralding the future. The video ends hauntingly, with Perry’s grandmother reciting the lyrics to The Clash’s “The Guns of Brixton.” “You can crush us, you can bruise us, but you’ll have to answer to [. . .] the guns of Brixton,” she croons. Perry’s work invokes the now classic idea of the personal as political, and embodies the spirit of this year’s Greater New York, which affirms that the politics of race—and place—matter.