I Am Speaking, Are You Listening? is the sixth of an ongoing series of exhibitions conceived with contemporary artists to reflect on the history and identity of the Legion of Honor. The Legion of Honor readily invites such contemplation. Home to the Fine Arts Museums’ collections of European art from antiquity to Impressionism, it embodies the fact that art history in the West, as traditionally narrated, has been the dominion of white patriarchy. The contemporary program at the Legion of Honor shines a light on the exclusionary nature of this version of history by probing, stretching, and disrupting traditional modes of presentation. Each contemporary intervention forges new conversations, stories, and myths that make us think and feel differently about art and its histories of which many have yet to be told. Using the power of art as a harbinger of change, the contemporary exhibitions at the Legion of Honor anticipate the larger systemic changes yet to come, both within society and its institutions of art by proposing different forms of coexistence in space and time.
Claudia Schmuckli: When I was walking through the museum during installation, one of our staff members came up to me gushing about the exhibition as how it was coming together. But the most meaningful thing she said was that she felt that your work belonged here. And so I wanted to ask you about that sense of belonging.
Wangechi Mutu: I think, what has ignited my inspiration and also probably forced me to constantly reexamine my practice is a slight feeling of discomfort with every place that I feel like I was supposed to be in and where I ended up assuming that I was in the right place.
No matter how much I've worried about not belonging, I think it's been one of the most beneficial cauldrons of my making, because it's always kept me questioning what that means. What does belonging mean? Where do people come from? Whose home is this? Why? Whose institution is this? Who is it serving? And, are the people who it’s serving today, the people that it will serve tomorrow. Can a place be for everyone, you know, can a home be for all of us? Is it big enough? Is it loving enough?
I think institutions are victims of their society and also children of their society. They can't behave any better than the societies they come from. So, if the work feels like it belongs, that's a good thing. I hope the people who it belongs to also come to look for it here.