Lillian O'Brien Davis
I am a line that begins and ends at the same point.
I was born with a hernia, a hole in the lining of my stomach that needed to be sewn closed. I wonder if that is where the languages of my ancestors fell out of me. A hole in my belly that turns me into a sieve rather than a container.
In a cemetery where many of my cousins are buried, I found a stone marked with the name Ione in the ground. Would she recognize me? What am I doing with her name? Recently, at a cousin’s funeral, my aunt Pinky noticed my shoes were dirty from standing in the rain near the grave. She knelt down and cleaned them off for me. “Since I couldn’t look after you as a baby, let me look after you now”. Later she brought pepper shrimp over to our Airbnb in a ziplock bag. “Here you go baby, your uncle asked me to make this for him”.
My curatorial practice generally looks like; thinking with artwork, thinking with other people, asking questions and expressing ideas that maybe go beyond words. I am interested in the complex and contradictory as jumping-off points. I am always thinking about how to sort through my own experiences of loss and responsibility through my work. I came to curating through Art History, though most of my current work is focused on contemporary art and artists. To major in art history it’s recommended you learn German, Italian or French in order to read first-hand accounts and learn art history “from the source”. I don’t speak Gaelic or Patois, my own familial languages, but I can rattle off French and Italian conjugations. I’m always thinking about how to acknowledge this positionality in my work. One way that I do this is by always seeking to open up the dialogue that is unfolding in my work. This might look like engaging in conversations with the artist(s) I am working with, or inviting other collaborators in at different stages. There are a number of artists that I have built relationships with over the years and those conversations extend across multiple projects. I’m constantly thankful that there are people who are willing to connect with me in this way.
Here is just a short list of some of the people and texts that have really had an impact on my practice in no particular order, if you wanted to have a look:
Adrian Piper, artist
Maud Sulter, artist
Okwui Enwezor, curator & writer
John G Hampton, curator & artist
Barbara Fischer, curator
Kim Simon, curator
Emelie Chhangur, curator
Erika DeFreitas, artist
Kate Whiteway, curator & writer
Edouard Glissant, theorist