New York City, NY
In her work, Leigh (b. 1968, Chicago, IL) demands that the concerns, roles, and rights of women of color are recognized as central, rather than pushed to the margins. Her exhibition and residency at the New Museum will consider the possibilities of disobedience, desire, and self-determination as they manifest in resistance to an imposed state of deferral and debasement. Whereas discourses of patience, pragmatism, and austerity often underscore political debates surrounding the failures of public health care and related conditions, Leigh finds inspiration in parallel histories of urgency, agency, and intervention within social movements and black communities, past and present. Troubling the notion of separate narratives, she implicates violent, institutionalized control and indifference as the conditions under which forms of self care and social care can become radical or alternative.
Focusing specifically on an expanded notion of medicine, “The Waiting Room” will reference a wide range of care environments and opportunities—from herbalist apothecaries, to muthi [medicine] markets in Durban, South Africa, to meditation rooms, to movement studios—and will involve a range of public and private workshops and healing treatments. Blurring the distinction between bodily and spiritual health, or between wellness and happiness—and, in doing so, countering the perception of holistic care as a luxury good—Leigh will convene practitioners who view social justice as integral to their work. The project will also take into account a history of social inequalities that have necessitated community-organized care, traditionally provided by women, from the United Order of Tents, a secret society of nurses active since the Underground Railroad, to volunteers in the Black Panther Party’s embattled clinics active from the 1960s to the 1980s. “The Waiting Room” will suggest that creating a space for wellness may require both the making of a sanctuary and an act of disobedience against the systematic enactment and repudiation of black pain.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website