Rodney McMillian’s multimedia work addresses themes of economic inequity and identity in contemporary American society. Deeply engaged with social history, culture and race, McMillian often combines different forms – such as painting, photographs and found objects – in dynamic installations that reveal how past ideas relate to the present.
a beckoning: We are not who we think we are (2014–15) is a large-scale installation presented in dialogue with a video recorded by the artist in Sharjah in summer 2014. Wearing a priest’s cassock, cowboy boots, hunting garments and an Ultraman mask,
the protagonist cannot be placed or defined. As his gesticulations and stomping accelerate to address the viewer directly, he shifts between hero, menace, entertainer and ghost. Presented in Bait Al Serkal, a beckoning: We are not who we think we are reflects McMillian’s interest in systems and structures that maintain social and political inequalities. His environmental sculpture surrounds the public in an expansive landscape painting that recalls open frontiers and the spirit of freedom promised by the American West while simultaneously suggesting how this sublime yet culturally charged imagery validates
an ongoing history of European land grabs from indigenous peoples. Installed in a narrow corridor, the lively painting operates like a conduit through time and space, its disorienting channels of poured colour and vigorous marks pulling one towards an unknowable outcome.
This project was part of Sharjah Biennial 12
a beckoning: We are not who we think we are
Latex, ink and acrylic on polyester, cotton and canvas
Video, 7.9 × 24.4 m
This publication was published on the occasion of Sharjah Biennial 12.