The process-driven practices of artist Laura Anderson Barbata engage a wide variety of platforms and geographies. Centered on issues of cultural diversity and sustainability, her work blends political activism, street theater, sculpture, and arts education. Since the early 1990s, Anderson Barbata has initiated projects with people living in the Amazon of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Norway, and New York. The results of these collaborations range from public processional performances to artist books and handmade paper, textiles, garments, and the repatriation of an exploited 19th century Mexican woman. Over the years, Anderson Barbata’s art has brought public attention to several issues of civil, indigenous, and environmental rights.
Transcommunality focuses on five collaborations that Anderson Barbata has made across the Americas and presents them together for the first time. Though varying in process, tradition, and message – each of these collaborative projects emphasizes Anderson Barbata’s understanding of art as a system of shared practical actions that has the capacity to increase communication around topics of cultural diversity and to create sites of human connection or belonging. In featured projects such as Intervention: Indigo, characters that represent ancestral and protective spirits reckon with the past to address present-day systemic violence and human rights abuses. In The Repatriation of Julia Pastrana, Barbata’s efforts critically shift the narratives of disability, human worth and cultural memory. Earlier works crafted with Yanomami and Ye’kuana peoples, as well as Barbata’s most recent creations, profoundly consider the impact of an individual on their local community’s future, through actions of reciprocity that are both intentional and organic.
Transcommunality offers a space to contemplate ritual, folklore and impact of the natural environment on culture. It equally centers oral histories and the interdisciplinary academic thought that shapes Anderson Barbata’s engaging creations. Celebrating the human experience, Anderson Barbata’s globally diverse collaborators consciously revive intangible cultural heritage and resist homogenization by deploying skills inherent to the survival of their local expressions. Performance documentation and stunning garments throughout the museum invite onlookers to connect with the traditions of West Africa, the Amazon, Mexico, and the Caribbean while exploring visual narratives.