Art21 Episode #258: In a candid one-on-one conversation, Kara Walker and composer/musician Jason Moran discuss their collaboration for the Prospect.4 triennial in New Orleans, "Katastwóf Karavan" (2018). Installed at Algiers Point on the bank of the Mississippi River and activated daily across three days in February 2018, the work featured a thirty-two-note steam calliope performed by Moran and housed in a wagon developed by Walker.
A contemporary calliope, “Katastwóf Karavan" uses the mechanics of American manufacturing to uplift the voices it once suppressed. Historically this “music is used for people who are captive” Moran notes, eliciting feelings of both celebration and distress. “As a stationary object, it always needs to be activated,” Walker explains. "When you have monuments or commemorative things that just exist, they sit there and they disappear."
Walker and Moran share how performing “Katastwóf Karavan" at Algiers Point pays tribute to Africans who were brought there to be sold into slavery in the 1700s. The calliope will honor “millions of ancestors, in a way that we aren’t sure about what we’re about to touch,” says Moran. Not intended to live in one place, Walker hopes to tour the monument to other locations similar to Algiers, noting “there are many places like that in the America’s and I think that it’s worthwhile to explore.”
Kara Walker explores the raw intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in her work, crafting vivid psychological narratives from a contemporary perspective on historical conditions. Over the past two decades, Walker has unleashed the traditionally Victorian medium of the silhouette onto the walls of the gallery, creating immersive installations that envelop the viewer. Walker’s multi-media work—which includes drawing, watercolor, video, and sculpture—often reconsider grotesque caricatures, probing their persistence in popular culture and reclaiming their subjugating power to alternative ends.