Kara Walker’s Katastwóf Karavan with Jason Moran

Sat, Oct 12, 2019
1–6:30 pm

Pamella and Daniel DeVos Family Largo

Jason Moran joins artist Kara Walker for the New York debut of Katastwóf Karavan (2018), a steam-powered calliope housed in a parade wagon that will be installed and activated outside the museum for a one-day-only presentation. Featuring the steam whistle typical of a calliope, the custom-fabricated instrument is programmed by Walker with a compilation of jazz, gospel, and songs that, in Walker’s words, represent both “Black protest and celebration.” During the Whitney activation, the calliope will play at set times throughout the afternoon on the Museum’s outdoor largo. Moran himself will play the calliope live at 6 pm. 

Walker created Katastwóf Karavan for the Prospect.4 Triennial in New Orleans as a site-specific commission. Drawing on the calliope’s associations with nineteenth-century New Orleans riverboats as well as the steam engine and other Industrial Revolution-era inventions like the cotton gin, the work’s layered references reveal connections between the history of the city’s cultural landscape and slavery in the American South. She conceived the caravan, with her signature silhouette imagery, in response to the inadequacy of a memorial plaque at Algiers Point, identifying a former holding site on the Mississippi River where enslaved Africans were abused and quarantined before transportation to slave markets across the river. Titled to incorporate the Haitian Creole word that in English translates to “catastrophe,” Katastwóf Karavan interrogates the way in which these dehumanizing and violent experiences have been historicized and underexamined. Through collaboration together and between image and sound, Walker and Moran create an alternative register—with “music as bearer of our emotional history,” as Walker describes—for those catastrophic forces that have shaped culture into the present.

Walker is best known for her candid investigations of race, gender, sexuality, and violence through silhouetted figures that have appeared in numerous exhibitions worldwide. Walker’s major survey exhibition, Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, traveled internationally and appeared at the Whitney in 2007-08. She is the recipient of many awards, notably the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award in 1997 and the United States Artists, Eileen Harris Norton Fellowship in 2008. In 2012, Walker became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her work can be found in museums and public collections throughout the United States and Europe.

This event is free.

Kara Walker: Katastwóf Karavan is supported in part with generous Outside the Box programming endowment funds from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation.

Learn more about access services and programs.