Event Blog #3: Kiyan Williams

Between Starshine and Clay (2022): Kiyan Williams

In the Hammer Museum, the Kiyan Williams’ first solo museum exhibit, Between Starshine and Clay (2022), is currently on display. The name of the work is taken from Lucille Clifton’s 1993 poem “won’t you celebrate with me” (Hammer). The work is an installation piece that takes up a rounded room and is a whole-body experience. The work aims to look at the “ruined bo”y" and the potential to rise above and create “new genealogies” (Hammer). Similar to the works of David Roy, Bobby Joe Smith, and Bomi Yook, this installation used sound to create a visceral experience that grounded the viewer into the mind and feelings of the artist. I thought that this soundscape was especially eerie and had a chilling effect on the viewer. Sound art is an art form that allows for interactive elements with the sound and the visual aspects of the work (Tate). It had the feeling that there was a creeping sense of importance tied to the artwork and an uncontrollable quality that reverberated in one’s bones.

The work is an installation that redesigns the whole room with even the floor being installed as a matching texture to the base of the pedestal of one illustration. According to the museum display, the work is made of earth and includes Kanekalon synthetic hair which includes the “innovative everday hairstyles of Black femmes” (Hammer). Hair is an important site of resistance for Black women. State and societally imposed rules and expectations on hair have historically discriminated against Black women (Wilson). Therefore including the hair into the artwork demonstrates a form of resistance. The inclusion of culturally significant sites reminded me of the paper written by Kimmerer that looks how sweetgrass is an important, tangible aspect of the Earth and native culture (Kimmerer). The tangible land or natural aspects of ground and earth were incredibly meaningful and perhaps contributed to the somewhat ethereal aspect of the exhibit.