Critics’ Picks

Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo, Bitches and Witches, 2019, video collage, color and sound, 4 minutes 19 seconds.

Berlin

Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo

Galerie im Turm
Frankfurter Tor 1
July 5–August 18, 2019

American artist Christa Joo Hyun D’Angelo’s exhibition title, “GHOSTS,” may cause visitors to anticipate a house of horrors. But once inside, they’ll find that the one-room space situated on the wide GDR boulevard of Karl-Marx-Allee has been cast entirely in soft red lighting and contains a pair of silver, thigh-high boots encrusted with rhinestones (Heels for All, all works cited, 2019) and a larger-than-life butt plug affixed to tendrils of chains (As Long As You Remember Who’s Wearing the Trousers). At times, the ghosts referenced by the artist’s sculptures and video works—the still-palpable remains of misogyny, racism, and HIV stigmatization—are summoned covertly, as in her intricate video collages The Cool Girland Bitches and Witches, which accumulate and regurgitate pop-cultural images and their stereotypes of femininity (“the slut,” “the bitch”) from classic cult films including The Craft(1996) and Kill Bill(2003).

The central work of the exhibition, however, is a more personal two-channel video portrait, Protest and Desire. In it, Ugandan-born, Germany-based Lillian speaks candidly about the realities of life as an HIV-positive black woman. As she breaks down the layers of violence associated with her diagnosis, Lillian discusses her struggle for self-definition “beyond the sickness,” against the unstoppable tide of stigmatization perpetrated against migrants—women, in particular—and their perceived sexuality, as well as the deeply colonialist equation of the African continent with the spread of HIV. In a nod to the wider aesthetics of the exhibition, D’Angelo’s video braids the kitschy patina of mass-marketed romance (shots of giant German gingerbread cookies emblazoned with the words “Ich liebe dich” in frosting, heart-etched padlocks symbolically fastened to bridges) with a politically charged plea to listen to the near-spectral voices of racialized women in their struggle for sexual self-determination.