Carnival of the Grotesque: Kara Walker’s Insistent Resistance in New Orleans
#KaraWalker does it again! As we all know, Walker has made violence and grotesque of America’s racial history her central theme. Her installation at the Mississipi River Trail in #NewOrleans.
The title comes from the Haitian Creole word for “catastrophe," and relates to the painful history of the location of Walker’s installation: In the 18th century, it was the site where enslaved Africans from West Africa were quarantined after being unloaded from the ships that forcibly brought them to New Orleans before they were transferred to the slave markets on the French Quarter side of the river.
The piece consists of an 8,000-pound steel parade wagon laser-cut with Walker’s recognizably unsettling silhouettes, which encloses a 32-note steam-powered calliope
The calliope, which Walker had custom-built for the installation, is intended to provide a counterpoint to that on the Steamboat Natchez a short distance upriver.
Instead of the tourist-friendly tunes on the Natchez, Walker’s calliope will play songs resonant with the African-American experience, with a selection ranging from traditional spirituals and protest anthems like “We Shall Overcome” to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”
In the voice of “sideshow barker-in-chief, aka Miss Kara,” Walker describes the genesis of the project in a statement accompanying the installation which will be available at the site over the weekend.
“We here in the U S of A have never given a Name to the Event which has defined generations,” writes Walker. “We simply say ‘Slavery’ as if that were a legitimate job instead of what it was, a Catastrophe for millions.”
Check out more articles on Kara Walker's latest installation in New Orleans!