Consider artist Jazmine. Harris’ ongoing ethnographic project, “Some Thingz Never Change: Monologues From A Stoop In Bronzeville” (2019). The video, shot in black-and-white, opens on three concrete steps: the stoop of the title, representing the block of 49th and Washington Park Court in Bronzeville. A speaker sits, their face purposefully out of frame. They recount their memories of the neighborhood, the space and place where they, and the artist herself, once called home. One-by-one, speakers enter and exit frame, telling stories of childhood days spent outside under the safety of community, neighbors who knew one another’s names, the surety of care, the ever-present threat of economic struggle, and the inextricable links between race and class.
Jazmine., the artist’s preferred moniker, is a 2019 graduate of the University of Chicago’s MFA program in the department of visual arts. A member of the Obama Foundation’s museum team, a 2022 Hooper Prize awardee and a 2022 Kartemquin Films: Chicago Forward Project grantee, Jazmine’s. practice is heavily invested in Chicago, in community as space and place, in the meanings of memory as architecture and the structure of feelings.
The opening question of Jazmine’s. 2019 video installation, “The Space We Place Between Us”—“How does silence feel?”—is expansive, ambiguous and layered. It is at once an inquiry and proposition––that my silence is not your silence but each holds multitudes. Imagine then the lingering, ever-present possibility of these endless divergences coalescing to form something new: a third space, a space that is yours and yours alone.
Jazmine. proposes her work as an exploration and topography of feeling. Her critical relationship to the wide spectrum of affect, those unavoidably human processes and practices, appear throughout her art. Through writing, photography and video, Jazmine. creates visual and aural maps of the heart. She is a storyteller, archiver and chronicler of an emotion’s beginning, it’s endlessly surprising turns and persistent afterlives. We can see such revolutions in her collage. In “Untitled Scrapbook” series (2020), there are images of the day’s headlines interspersed with the intimate; there is a sense of closeness and care in the pages, in their tactility and precision. These works are both memory and moment; a way to imagine, remake and celebrate the self all while under the gaze of a hostile world. It’s space for you, by you, just for you. Now ask yourself, who do you want to be? What do you desire to remember?
A fundamental truth then finds a home in Jazmine’s. work. Emotions are both of the body and beyond its borders. Jazmine’s. work centers the complexities of sight, knowing and remembering when moving through the world in a body. She questions how race and the perception of difference becomes difference, to intertwine and become something bigger than oneself. These are the stories we hold, the stories we tell one another. They are knowledge, potential. They are the practice and origins of love wrapped together in gradients of color and grays.
Jazmine. offers no easy answers in her excavations of past, present and the possibilities of a collective future. Rather, her photographs, scrapbook pieces and writing are linked through celebration of the everyday, the moments made through and by diaspora, community and Black life. Life here comes forth in many forms: from the meditative care of having one’s hair unbraided to the consequences of having a body in this world. Jazmine’s. work is an archive, a secret diary, the laugh that escapes a hand covered mouth. It’s the knowledge, the surety, that those much theorized third spaces are, first and foremost, homes. (Annette LePique)