Research Embossed: Kenturah Davis Exhibition in London

Artist Kenturah Davis works at the intersection of image and text, embossing information to render a sense of the moving figure. We were deeply moved when Kenturah reached out to share how research became part of her dialogue with Katherine Dunham in a show that just opened at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.

Kenturah Davis drawing of Black women moving in four quadrants, with text embossed.

In the upper right quadrant, Davis writes: 

the research of kate elswit and harmony bench have an ongoing journey to theorize about the kind of embodied knowledge created in dunham’s oeuvre. they gather the archive and tease out what they call “visceral data.” the concept of a “body of knowledge” becomes so charged and meaningful in this context. saidiya hartman’s work comes to mind, with her meaningful examination of ‘the archive’, bridging the gaps of the historical record to fill in an embodied understanding of experience across time and space. harnessing tools of photography and data enacted to criminalize and surveil oppressed populations (black women, in particular) and instead reconstruct the lives of women outside of the conventions of society.

kate elswit and harmony bench create a visual language to convey the transmission of culture. dance compositions themselves are rendered as “an interconnected set of gestures, rhythms and practices that link performers, including those who may never have performed together at the same time.” the part-to-whole relationship is hyper-dynamic as individual performers influence each other through the framework of dunham’s choreography. their research also pulls together the physical movement of the dance company across space and time, mapping their travels around the globe and representing the duration of their presence as elevations in the map. the spatial rendering reveals a kind of granular architecture that floats around the globe like a cloud:  thousands of days, dozens of performers, coalescing, separating and reuniting. it evokes a kind of fugitively that evades containment as they express the poetics of movement around the world."