Leilah Babirye presents 'Tuli Mukwano'
Each year Socrates Sculpture Park presents an exhibition of new commissions made by the artists awarded the Park’s Emerging Artist Fellowship. Conceived for the landscape and produced on-site in the outdoor studio over the course of the summer, these pieces respond to the Park’s unique history, landscape, and community. ‘The Socrates Annual,’ 2018 exhibition does not adhere to a specific theme but rather presents the diversity of processes, material approaches, and subjects that comprise the most compelling public art practice today.
For the 2018 exhibition, projects range from a decolonial greenhouse to audio-sculptural portraits of Queens hip-hop legends. Approaches vary among community-centered pedagogy and production, material experimentation, and redeployment of historical forms of construction, among others. This year contemporary and historical land-use is examined by several artists in projects including a labyrinth of fences and gates, and a steel and textile installation that traces the East River ecology of waste flows through land, water, and biological life. Additionally, several artists employ representations of the human figure, perhaps suggesting a time for reflection upon the Humanist philosophies that seem precarious with looming climate change and ongoing political conflict.
Included in the exhibition is Leilah Babirye's ‘Tuli Mukwano’. Carved with a chainsaw from a giant pine log, the sculpture is a dual portrait of two figures existing outside the confines of gender binaries. The title, which translates to “We are in Love” in Swahili, stands as a call for the public recognition of LGBTQIA people persecuted throughout the world, from Babirye’s native Uganda to local communities within the United States.