When people come to the exhibit called “The Day Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Era Room,” which opened to the public on Friday, they will see “the joy that comes from this space,” Beachler said. “We often talk about tragedy and I think what I want people to see is pride and joy as they step into the trees of space and then explore deeper.”
She said that “every square inch” of space has a reason and a story, from the iron nails in the wood siding (representing both the chains of African bondage and the freedom of those chains) to the Haitian artist Fabiola Jean-Louis’ adaptation of a 19th century corset dress, its shiny gold details and vivid colors pushing back historical restrictions on gender and race.
The exhibition is really a room within a room. Visitors enter a space covered in wallpaper and can walk around the house looking through glass walls and cut out windows. There are two connected sections: a more rustic area, representing the original Seneca village house, with items like a small hair comb recovered from the site; and a more futuristic room, with a five-sided TV nod to mid-century TV consoles and showing new work by filmmaker Jenn Nkiru. In the period room are images of Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr, but also Beyoncé and Stacey Abrams. There’s Venetian glass, an ornate gourd meant to hold palm wine as a way to welcome visitors to Cameroon’s chiefdoms, and a modernized transistor radio that contemporary Kenyan artist Cyrun Kabiru says transports people. across space and time.
For theaters, it’s very important to showcase a mix of objects from the Met’s collection as well as new acquisitions and commissions, said Max Hollein, director of the Met.
“It’s a way to demonstrate our commitment to engage and support the artists of our time,” said Hollein.
He said pushing the boundaries of what could be a period room was “unprecedented” for the museum. “It’s an opportunity to have new and necessary conversations and to illuminate stories that haven’t yet been told within our walls. “
Met curator Lawrence said that after the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, the team invited everyone in the Met building for a conversation about the project and to get feedback – there were so many people. who wanted to attend, not all of them could fit into the Zoom meeting. “It sparked an ongoing conversation that really continues to the present moment,” she said.
But for the audience, the process is probably less important than the piece itself, a sparkling wonder, with surprising objects everywhere you look. Take, for example, the massive 2018 portrait of Andrea Motley Crabtree, the first black woman to be a scuba diver in the U.S. Army. She wears a wetsuit and holds a giant helmet, seated royally, gazing out over the period room as if she were roaming her kingdom. This is my domain, she seems to be saying.
“The coin brings the future and the past to a community that has kind of lost these things,” Beachler said. “It’s finding a place to thrive, to be vulnerable, to be active. I wanted to put it all in – and I wanted to honor those in Seneca Village and all communities across the United States who hadn’t been fortunate enough to get a spot before.