Inter-discursive Installation (Video, Sound, Sculpture)
Sculpture Center, New York
Priyanka Dasgupta & Chad Marshall's installation Passage considers the current plight of American immigration, by revisiting the paths that Blacks and early twentieth century Bengali sailors took to the United States, through the holds of slave ships and the boiler rooms of British Merchant vessels. "The New Colossus"—the sonnet by Emma Lazarus, engraved on the Statue of Liberty base as a welcoming address to immigrants—echoes through the installation: translated for the first time into Yoruba and Bengali, and set to traditional music by the artists' collaborators Moses Mabayoje and Monjula Datta. The sound is mixed to evoke the call and response tradition that is indigenous to both cultures, heard through the distinct forms of music belonging to each: the Yoruba drum story and Bengali boat songs, Bhatiyali. Passage, is indebted to the scholarship of Vivek Bald on the lost histories of Bengali sailors who passed as Black in the early twentieth century, settling into communities of color in the wake of anti-Asian immigration laws in the United States. Dasgupta and Marshall’s installation celebrates the spirit and culture that can emerge under conditions of forced displacement (what Frantz Fanon calls a “zone of non-being”), while critiquing the promise of the American dream. The lights of Times Square glow red at the end of the passage—the word “welcome” in Bengali and Yoruba obscuring at times, its signage.