“We felt marginalized and outside of a system that didn’t acknowledge our existence,” artist Theo Eshetu recently reflected. “It became our ‘project’ to find ways of expressing ourselves in an attempt to integrate with a system that didn’t include us.” The relationship—and often misfit—between the individual and social and political structures was a central concern for artists around the world during the 1980s. Their work often touched on major public debates on pressing social issues, including the aids crisis, reproductive rights, and racism.
The artists in this gallery invoke the human body—both as a physical entity and as a complex symbolic terrain—to address matters of self-enlightenment, trauma, anti-racism, and social justice. Working across a range of mediums, they deploy personal reflection as a means of underscoring how the experiences of the individual and that of their broader community are inevitably bound together, hinting at the potential for collective action.