Rest in Outrage #HeatherHeyer

IMG_2012Rest in Outrage

(These images feature an improvised art ‘ofrenda’ to Heather Heyer victim of a white supremacist terrorist attack in Charlottesville USA, August, 2017. The tribute was made for Heather but also bears the hallmarks of an ongoing practice.)

My last blog post featured a family photograph and was called What would Meri do?

I wrote about wanting to pay tribute to a recently murdered young US activist called Heather Heyer, and called on my ancestors to help me. This is a moment for witness.

My family were survivors of the fascist rebellion in Spain, which led to the Spanish Civil War and the slaughter and exile of thousands (1936-1939). This family history drives my art practice, but I began my work in 2013 when the contemporary  political landscape was not as it is now.

Increasingly, since 2015, I have at times found cause to shift my gaze into the now, drawing unmistakable parallels with those past horrors.

My tribute to Heather therefore also draws on past works, as I build a language to deal with this need for witness and rituals of reparation, including one made in 2014 to Alec Wainman.  His work countering fascism in Spain was not only exceptional but also intricately bound with my father’s story of rescue from a French internment camps in 1939. Here I use the labels attached to a garment as I did then.

For Heather’s tribute,  I also introduce a tea cup from the tea set bought in Nazi Berlin (circa 1931) by British artist Felicia Browne, who lost her her life in the cause of antifascism in Spain in 1939. Felicia was the subject of my recent project called Through An Aritst’s Eye. I think of these two courageous women (who both gave their lives at the age of 32) holding hands across history. I seem to hover between them somehow, offering witness and metaphorically pouring tea

The soap featured is that of a German Jewish firm, Dr Bonner, with a history bound to Auschwitz and Theriesenstadt. At one point the soaps bore the motto “We are All-One or None!” on the label. I work intuitively and, in the process of making, the soap seemed to fly from my bureau to the suitcase (a ubiquitous trope in my work). No whitewash, it seemed to want to say.

The labels themselves bear Heather’s portrait painted over in white (they tried to silence her) but her features come through. Again, no whitewash. No white wash! Here I borrow from a work by Mexican artist Abraham Curzvillegas, entitled Blind Self Portrait as a Post-Thatcherite Deaf Lemon Head. In this work Abraham paints in white over hundreds of paper vestiges of a period of his life, signalling a form of erasure. Heather’s face cannot be erased if we hold firm our gaze and keep her close.

Labels I’ve made in the past have carried typed phrases. For this atrocity I have no words. Not yet. I am rendered mute by incomprehension, but my hands can work.

My plan is to keep making labels – to keep adding as I process and hold my witness. If you’d like to add a message for inclusion on a label please use the comment section.

Thank you for viewing, and for reading. Thank you for helping me bear witness.

UPDATE – the tribute grows.

Incorporating the first message and my Landscape of Resistance labels made on the inauguration of Trump.



Published by soniaboue

I am an artist.

5 thoughts on “Rest in Outrage #HeatherHeyer

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