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The White Power 'Gin/Machine to Harvest the Nativist Instinct for Beneficial Uses to Border Crossers Everywhere

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soft pastel, charcoal, and oil sticks on paper; graphite and ink on paper
86 3/4 x 216 in. (220.345 x 548.64 cm)

About This Artwork

“Most pieces have to do with exchanges of power, attempts to steal power away from others.” —Kara Walker

In this work, Kara Walker imagines harvesting racist anxieties and fears. In the artist’s words, the work captures “thoughts about illness and the body politic and trying to imagine a fantastical mechanism whereby the bile of racism might be transfused and converted into nourishment for all.” This narrative is developed through a large triptych and several small works on paper. The works on paper feature a laboratory where white women’s bodies are emptied of both casual and overtly racist thinking. The extracted material is then used for the benefit of “border crossers everywhere.” The triptych presents a crescendo to these dissections, showing a white woman’s body in the process of being drained, with its vitals flowing through umbilical cords to Black people. On the right, tubes extend to Black figures in supine and fetal positions, perhaps on the brink of or already past death. On the left, a line of Black people, arranged shortest to tallest, stand with mouths agape to receive the “nativist instinct,” fed from a medical professional dressed in a hazmat suit. Through a complex critique, the work addresses the increasing visibility of white nationalist rhetoric and policy in the United States, specifically using open racism and xenophobia to stoke its efforts.