Bhabha, Homi K. · On ‘Hybridity’ and ‘Moving Beyond’

Bhabha focuses on the concept of post-colonialism. He begins his essay with a quote by Heidegger which states that a “boundary is that from which something begins its presencing.” This suggests that the concept of something, yourself for example, does not form an identity until it comes across a boundary or something that negates it. Our identities are in part formulated by that which constrains us.

Bhabha writes that the ‘post’ in post-colonialism suggests a ‘beyond’, where time and space collide and where all manner of contradictions exist together. It is not just ‘after’ colonialism or ‘anti’ colonialism, it is about creating/challenging/intervening/resisting in order to bring about societal change in the present. These in-between spaces, as he calls them, are also sites where identities are formed. We are unique, and all the mixed up in-betweens that we negotiate create the hybrid.

Renée Green, Import/Export Funk Office, 1992, installation view, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2016

Renée Green’s work introduced me to archival art. As someone who has collected and hoarded countless things and materials over time, I am drawn to this way of displaying and interrogating objects and histories through installation. What I like about her work, and what I strive to create with mine, is the openness and questioning it suggests without shaming or preaching to the viewer. Her work reminds me of the video piece I saw at the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple years ago by Stan Douglas called Luanda-Kinshasa (2013). Funk music, to me, is the definition of hybridity and resistance. That video played a large role in my work because of its play with documentation, politics of representation, repetition, and humor.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s family photos are incredible. I like how he recognizes that he’s been an artist since he was born and that everything is performance. Art is oftentimes woven into the everyday of indigenous artists. The following photo is of him taken by his father in his “first drag”, as he calls it. Hybridity also includes the merging and mixing of genders.

GP’s first Drag, Mexico City, 1962. Photo taken by his father.

Do I care about art that isn’t identity based? I mean, I love Richard Tuttle and his works but I don’t really care at the same time. There is so much going on politically and otherwise that to make work that isn’t reactionary to its time is boring. I don’t want to see another female nude, I don’t want to see paintings of flowers, and I don’t want to see still lifes unless they are subversive in some way.

The work of Walter K. Scott explores his hybridity of identities through graphic animated narratives. The web story Xinona (2017) is just one part of his astute observations as a Mohawk man navigating Canada’s art scene.

Working primarily in video, Divya Mehra’s work is more than East meets West. She explores living in the diaspora through social media and pop culture, the meaning of Otherness, and the intersectionality of institutionalized racism. Her work is approachable, smart, funny, and questions the viewers role in perpetuating racism.

Jeffrey Gibson. American History, 2015

Jeffrey Gibson is one of my favorite artists, for his technique, his work ethic, and the beautiful pieces he has created through learning from the knowledge of elders and those around him. He works with his identity, politics, and history very subtly where it doesn’t hit you until afterward the power of his work.

Now for some funk music