The Body Politic: Video from The Met Collection presents four works created between 1995 and 2016: David Hammons's Phat Free (1995), Arthur Jafa's Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death(2016), Steve McQueen's Five Easy Pieces (1995), and Mika Rottenberg's NoNoseKnows (2015). Alternately provocative, poignant, and absurdist, all of them explore the relationships among power, performance, and moving images. Here, the role of the camera is paramount. Besides a mediating agent and a framing device, the camera also serves as a witness, representing acts of injustice as well as moments of rebellion.
The exhibition title functions in two ways. Historically, "body politic" has been used to describe a community comprising disparate individuals. According to this analogy, responsibility for the overall health of the body politic is shared equally among citizens, just as the fate of any one part has ramifications for the whole. Today, the phrase connotes more generally the politics of the body—that is, the way individual bodies not only suffer political violence but also wield political authority, especially as it has bearing on their race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Each of these meanings is relevant to the works featured in The Body Politic.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.