Andrea Chung’s multi-room installation is a meditation on motherhood, the legacy and trauma of slavery, and Black temporality. Titled if they put an iron circle around your neck I will bite it away, the work is on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (JMKAC) through October 1.

Chung’s project interprets Drexciya, an underwater Afrofuturist utopia conceived by the enigmatic Detroit electronic music duo of the same name. This mythical Black Atlantis is populated by the descendants of pregnant African women who were thrown or jumped overboard during the Middle Passage on their journey into slavery. Rather than succumb to death, the women gave birth to babies who did not need air to breathe, forming a peaceful civilization in the vast abyss of the Atlantic Ocean.

Installed in the historic John Michael Kohler home, Chung’s evocation of this watery realm presents the residence of a sea-dwelling Drexciyan woman. Saturated in shades of celestial blue, the rooms of the 19th-century house are transformed into nurturing spaces intended to be suffused with maternal love. The exhibition title, taken from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, invokes the theme of motherhood. Morrison’s novel gives literary form to slavery’s devastating impact on the bonds between mother and child.

This reimagining of the Drexciyan mythos also aims to reflect what Chung describes as “the laws of Black physics.” She defines this as the ways Black people move differently through time, existing in a perpetual state of becoming, where they traverse imagined pasts and futures to navigate a present full of dangerous and harmful systems. 

Chung hopes to craft an immersive site of potentiality where time and space collapse, and alternative worlds and futures are within reach.

if they put an iron circle around your neck I will bite it away is on view through October 1 at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Admission and parking are free.

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