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Cara Cole | Illuminated Manuscript
July 6 - August 26, 2018
High Noon will open a pivotal and daring exhibition by Cara Cole on July 6, 2018, on view until August 26. Illuminated Manuscript derives from what Cole refers to as her Rape Narrative, a narrative (and term) sanctioned by a university after she disclosed being sexually harassed, assaulted, and abused by a professor. Cole brilliantly and daringly reclaims the process of redaction and transforms her Rape Narrative into an immersive sequence which is the content of this exhibition. Illuminated Manuscript marks Cole's NYC solo debut.
“Every time you read it, you’re demoralized. It’s not just what he did, but that he was able to do it for so long. The Rape Narrative spans six years, and the losses keep piling up. It makes you sick and sad and filled with rage that it went on for so long. But that’s not on you. That’s on him," Cole recalls in her artist statement.
"You are no longer able to create anything new. When an idea finally comes to you, you wince and feel sick because you know it’s the only thing you can do and you don’t want to do it. If you can’t create, then you have to subtract, take the already existing radioactive material in the Rape Narrative and transform it. Redaction is a violent act. It was wielded against you and others, against every woman who comes forward."
The viewer's own body becomes part of the installation, intuitively serving as an examining agent against the imposition of the giant 48” x 37” panels which become ominous, screaming, relentless in their gridded repetition. They’re displayed for the rumination of all on the destructive cultural institutions of power and indulgence, like Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses, nailed to the cathedral door in violent opposition.
In this interpretation, the title Illuminated Manuscript finds its irony. Historically, manuscripts are handwritten whereas Cole’s are digitally rendered, 21st century style, though the imperfections in the digital methods of redaction imply a human hand. Faint traces of boxes and softly off-tone blacks create a sort of patchwork, like memory. Manuscripts are religious texts, law and government texts, texts to uphold and glorify social order. Cole’s manuscript is a non-linear narrative which oscillates between starkness and lyricism. It speaks to absence as presence and existence as a double-edged sword. It’s a manuscript to disrupt the current illusion of social order.
Through creating this impelling sequence of hero-scaled images, Cole emboldens concepts explored throughout various past series. Gods and Heroes depicts larger-than-life images sourced from scientific medical texts, showing unidentifiable children interacting with various natural phenomena, implying that our relationship to both the micro and macro-cosmic stems from the same longing for control. An Immortality of Bliss deals with the concept of sacred versus profane as well as consent, as seemingly pornographic images (a combination of real models, dolls, and magazine photos) are diffused and reduced to a “type,” echoing Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Theresa. In Illuminated Manuscript, Cole explores new territory in working with subject matter that is auto-biographical, re-contexualizing a personal narrative into something universal.
"It’s terrifying to try to exist in the world again, because not only is the man who raped you determined to punish you, so are many powerful people who support that man. These people you once admired now frighten and disgust you. 'The truth will come out,' they say, and 'women lie.' They are determined to be right no matter the cost," states Cole.
"When you tell your mother what you fear, she says, in typical fashion, 'Don’t worry about it.' Your friends say, 'Remember who it’s for. It’s for you and others like you.'"
To date, Cole has been denied access to the un-redacted investigative report that resulted from her Rape Narrative. It has been subject to public debate without her participation. Illuminated Manuscript is Cole's first creative endeavor following her trauma-induced hiatus from the creative process, one of the many losses she faced as a result of her Rape Narrative.
Cara Cole’s work has been included in more than seventy exhibitions internationally, including Young Photographers, curated by Lalla Essaydi at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Visual to Political at the NYU Photo Center, and disJointed at Maumau Gallery, Istanbul, Turkey. She received her her undergraduate degree at OCAD University in Toronto, Canada and her MFA at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She has been fortunate enough to receive numerous grants including awards from the NEA, the Canada Council for the Arts and the Banff Writing Studio Residency. Cole has lived in Nepal, Indonesia, Romania, Turkey and Morocco.
Cole is currently completing her first novel, Dangerous Prey, which draws from her life as a photographer. “This dreamlike novel explores themes of death, fear, religion, god, salvation, filling up, emptying out, foreignism, and the endless search.”
Politics / Letters | Art of #MeToo: Cara Cole's "Illuminated Manuscript" by Theresa Smalec
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