Lorna Simpson Creates Haunting Meditations On The State Of Blackness In America

Your piece “Enumberated,” at 12 feet tall and 9 feet wide, is arguably the focal point of the exhibition. It’s such a simple yet searing image, can you talk about how this piece came to be? 

It’s a detail from an advertisement I saw that was counting these nails. The first thing that came to my mind whenever I see that way of counting to five ― those four lines with a line through them ― is always a prisoner carving marks into a wall. Probably from film, or maybe Albert Camus.

Counting ― whether counting time or incidents ― that’s something we do unconsciously. When something happens over and over, or we’re waiting for something to end. When I think of Black Lives Matter and the platform they have given to families that have experienced police brutality, the mothers and sisters and wives, there is always this waiting that occurs in terms of: Will these officers be prosecuted? All those things — waiting and time and outcome, the repetition of that, is something that I feel.

The piece is conceived of as a series of five panels. As you approach it, you really don’t see that they are nails, but they just look like these strikes. The unrelenting enormity of the number and counting. I’m not trying to direct the viewer to a specific political event, but more of a conceptual space. Living in the time that we’re living in, the viewer will come to some of their own conclusions as to how they might read the work. It’s not imperative that someone understands everything that I’m saying right now. 

You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you often meditate before beginning a day in your studio. How has this routine influenced your practice, if at all? 

I think it’s really to keep my sanity. For some people, mediating or yoga is this thing of calming. For me, meditating can be upsetting. I can be weeping. But it brings me to how I am feeling now. Rather than trying to avoid it or readjust, it makes me confront it. However I am in that moment, in that emotional state, I accept it. I can feel vulnerable or sad and distraught and still work. Part of the practice of working is accepting that there will be a range of emotions and states that come in, not just a good happy state in which to work. I can say to myself, ‘I don’t feel great today. Okay, let’s go in with that.”

Lorna Simpson’s work will be on view until Oct. 22, 2016, at Salon 94 in New York.

Article source: