in the absence of ruins, 2021
video, 27 min
Courtesy the Artist
in the absence of ruins is a moving image and oral essay, unfolding as a series of seven notes, in which “official sources” are asterisked with personal reflections and memories narrated in first person by curator and writer Cairo Clarke. Her work proposes a generative methodology, queering archival practices to “develop different relationships to a past we are currently making and a future also forged by us”. Clarke weaves together a layered narrative in which Pompeian materials – such as the carbonised remains of garlic, onion and lentils, as well as ancient marine shells – offer a starting point to read historical trade routes and geo-cultural exchanges across Europe, Asia and Africa through the lens of her own personal history as a British-born member of a family of Caribbean and Indian heritage, noting how exoticism and curiosity have continued to extensively determine the fate of non-European beings, human or otherwise, over many centuries. Her considerations on the infinitely generative potential to layer and grow out of the absence of ruins offer as well an opportunity to engage with Pompeian heritage through a vision of complexity that celebrates entangled forms of interstitial knowledge, in contrast with Western taxonomical and museological practices set to dissect, display and order. SB
Visual and literary references included in the essay can be found here.
Home page image: Cairo Clarke, in the absence of ruins (detail, 2021). Courtesy the Artist
Cairo Clarke (London, 1991) is a curator and writer whose work is informed by slowness. Her work centres forms of knowledge production and dissemination that slip between the cracks, are formed on unstable ground and take on multiple temporalities. Supporting strands of theorising taking place in autonomous spaces and holding space for the mess. Cairo has worked closely with artists to develop and share instances of work across film, performance, printed matter and events as well as sharing self-led curatorial projects. In 2019 she launched SITE, a publication and curatorial project exploring alternative encounters with artist practice and the dissemination of research. Cairo is the 2020–21 Curatorial Fellow at LUX.