About Jacqueline Clay’s Thesis Project
Black Monochrome: Vanessa Beecroft, Race, and The Other
On the evening of March 10, 1996, six black women stood silently and nearly nude amid photographs, videos, and gallery visitors as a performance by the contemporary Italian artist Vanessa Beecroft titled VB19; it was part of the group exhibition Persona at the Renaissance Society in Chicago. The artist specifically asked exhibition curator Hamza Walker to cast only black women, yet she described the performance as a “black monochrome” with “no political content.” At the height of mid-1990s multiculturalism in art institutions, VB19 complicates the intersections of race, display, and objectification. This text considers VB19 as self-portraiture, a form of cultural and spatial mimicry, and racial display. These theoretical threads reveal Beecroft’s practice of othering the black female body. Moreover, by looking at the different forms of documenting VB19—specifically photographs and video—these practices illuminate an art community and market equally invested in othered bodies.