The New Period Room at the Met envisions a thriving Afro-Futurist community | Smart News


The room combines art that evokes imagined futures and artefacts from different contexts within the African diaspora.
Anna-Marie Kellen / Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Art Museum‘s period rooms typically invite visitors to enter a recreation of a very specific time and place: a bedroom in an ancient Roman villa north of Pompeii, for example, or a large lounge in 18th century Paris. Either removed from historic estates and rebuilt at the Manhattan Museum, or designed by curators to display artifacts in authentic frames, these complex spaces imagine an imaginary past for a modern audience.

“Each period room is a complete fiction”, curator Sarah Laurent recount Vogueit’s Marley Marius. “But the invisibility of the curator’s hand – the pretense of authenticity – is what people like, right? “

For the new installation “The day before yesterday, we could fly: an Afrofuturist period room”, The museum decided to go with a different premise.

Met's New Period Hall envisions a thriving Afrofuturist community

The room is built around a fireplace inspired by examples found in the ruins of Seneca Village.

Anna-Marie Kellen / Metropolitan Museum of Art

“We talked about what would happen if we begin with fiction instead of hiding it, and we used this fiction as an opportunity to introduce new narratives into the museum, ”says Lawrence Vogue.

The room is based on Seneca village, a 19th-century predominantly black community in Manhattan. Instead of trying to recreate a room from that time and place with the appearance of historical precision, the space mixes artefacts from different contexts and works of art that evoke imagined futures. (Afrofuturism, the movement referenced in the title of the piece, refers to “a transdisciplinary creative mode that centers the black imagination, excellence and self-determination”, according to a Met declaration.)

To create the room, the Met hired Hannah beachler, the decorator responsible for the appearance of the fictional and futuristic African nation of Wakanda in Marvel’s Black Panther. She led a team of five curators who collected historical artifacts from the village of Seneca and other historic African American communities, as well as items such as a ceremonial palm wine vase made in the grasslands of Central Africa in the 19th or 20th century and contemporary art by African and African-American artists.

The group has also commissioned new works of art. A video work by Jenn nkiru, Out of time, plays on a multi-sided TV inside the room. Around the structure is a mural, Booming and potential, moved (again and again and …) through Njideka Akunyili Crosby, which features maps of Seneca Village, images of some of its residents, and symbols of African American culture like okra. The title of the installation comes from Virginia Hamilton’s Black Folk Tales Collection, People could fly.

“It was about bringing the past and the future together in one space for a community to hold onto,” Beachler said. Beautiful Houseis Hadley Keller. “I wanted him to bring the diaspora and different perspectives on being black.”

According to Central Park Conservatory, Seneca Village began in 1825 with the purchase of plots of land in Upper Manhattan, not far from where the Met is today, by African Americans and the AME Sion Church. At the time, the neighborhood was sparsely populated, providing residents with a haven from the racism they were likely to encounter downtown. After the abolition of slavery At New York in 1827, the community grew, eventually becoming home to more than 350 people, including immigrants from Germany and Ireland. Speak National park service (NPS), Seneca Village had its own streets, three churches, two schools and two cemeteries.

In 1857, the city of New York acquired the land by eminent domain, expelling the inhabitants and demolishing their city. Columbia University and City University of New York archaeologists searched the site in 2011, but found only a few household items.

Met's New Period Hall envisions a thriving Afrofuturist community

“Windows symbolize never seeing the whole picture,” Beachler says.

Anna-Marie Kellen / Metropolitan Museum of Art

“There are no existing photographs”, says Ian alteveer, another Met curator who worked on the show, at Vogue. “There are only pot shards and foundation remnants and a hand-drawn map that was made in 1856 as a sort of survey to destroy the village.”

Laurent tells Cultivated magazineIt’s Julie Baumgardner that the Period Room is built on the premise of the alternate history of a world in which the Seneca community has continued.

“There is this collapse between past / present / future and a notion of diasporic time,” she says.

The installation is built around a central hearth modeled on those found in the village of Seneca during excavations. Plexiglass windows cut through the structure’s clapboard walls, allowing visitors to view the objects inside.

“Windows symbolize never seeing the whole picture,” says Beachler Beautiful House. “I don’t know my full ancestry. But you have to look through the past to see the future and through the future to see the past. There is a wonderful intersection.


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