Kameelah Janan Rasheed is a learner who engages with a range of processes—sprawling Xerox-based installations, large-scale diagrammatic prints, public art, publications, video, and practices based on chance—to explore the poetics, politics, and pleasures of the unfinished. Her forthcoming exhibition at the Benton Museum of Art, Worshipping at the Altar of Certainty, is a site-specific installation that uses this wide-ranging method to challenge a centralized approach to knowledge by considering how we learn.
In its first iteration at the Williams College Museum of Art, the installation consisted of large-scale prints, poems collaged directly onto the wall using excerpts of text, and a free-standing sculpture arranged throughout a temple-like rotunda, a space that served as the college’s first library when it was constructed in 1846 and that is now a gallery in Williams’s museum. Responding to the history of the site and in conversation with the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges—who once imagined a library that holds all possible books and all possible knowledge—Rasheed questions the ideals of completion, comprehensiveness, and familiarity that can often typify both academic and religious institutions. In this questioning, Rasheed engages with the work of scholars Ashon Crawley and Saidiya Hartman, who, with their respective concepts of “undoneness” and “waywardness,” propose to unseat ways of thinking that have become so familiar.
For the Benton Museum of Art, Rasheed will create a new iteration of the installation, including video work, in conversation with the academic context and history of Pomona College, her undergraduate alma mater.
The exhibition was organized as part of the Williams College Graduate Program Contemporary Curatorial Workshop by Mallory Cohen, Nidhi Gandhi, Elyse Mack, and Sinclair Spratley, with the artist. The exhibition is curated at the Benton by Rebecca McGrew, senior curator.