Critics’ Picks

  • Najja Moon, Your Mommas Voice in the Back of Your Head, 2020, polycarbonate glass, dichroic film, 4-channel audio, 87 x 21 x 30".

    Najja Moon, Your Mommas Voice in the Back of Your Head, 2020, polycarbonate glass, dichroic film, 4-channel audio, 87 x 21 x 30".

    Miami

    Najja Moon

    The Bass
    2100 Collins Avenue
    March 18, 2021–January 1, 2022

    “We all do what we can . . . what we can.” There’s a choir of voices emanating from Najja Moon’s sculpture Your Mommas Voice in the Back of Your Head, 2021, that offer lessons in cadence: specifically, what an intonation can do, and how one sparkling word can illuminate an entire sentence. The artist’s brilliant piece houses four audio channels in its glass casing, through which a quintet of mothers recite parables, affirmations, insults, and warnings—the manifold lexicons of love—in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole, Miami-Dade County’s three most-spoken languages.

    The recently commissioned work is part of New Monuments, a five-year initiative by the Bass asking artists via open call what ought to be publicly memorialized. Moon wanted to create an homage “to my mom, whom I thought of immediately,” said the artist—though the piece is a celebration of all mothers. For it, Moon conducted a series of interviews with forty or fifty people about their moms, looking for recurring patterns—but also dissimilarities—in the sayings they bestowed upon their children. The texts became a script and then a polyphonic incantation highlighting the nuances of motherhood. “Dime con quien andas y te diré quién eres” (Tell me who you’re with, and I’ll tell you who you are), one mom warns. Says another, “I don’t want you to ever feel guilt,” which quietly broadcasts a lifetime of lessons that become wisdom.

    When sunlight filters through the piece’s dichroic-film-colored glass, heliacal yellows and pinks flood the nearby sidewalk and, when you lean in close to hear the audio, your face. Despite Miami’s ongoing climate issues, the impact of resumed evictions, and a ceaseless pandemic, there’s been a recent influx of tech corporations; sadly but predictably, this economic boom has brought about a displacement of lifelong residents. Moon’s installation is a tender glimpse into her subject: She knows that not all mothers birthed their children or are exclusively women. Still, her monument—a confrontation between the city’s newcomers and its matriarchs—is its own form of care.