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Kapwani Kiwanga, “Off-Grid”

Installed in the New Museum’s Fourth Floor gallery, Kapwani Kiwanga solo exhibition debuts a new body of work that bridges historical research with a site-specific spatial intervention.

Invoking both the use of police floodlights in targeted urban areas and the early eighteenth-century New York legal codes known as “lantern laws”—ordinances that required all enslaved individuals over the age of fourteen to carry lanterns or lit candles after dark—Kiwanga’s installation continues the artist’s investigation into disciplinary architectures and complex regimes of visibility.

Weaving together different layers of opacity and transparency through textile and sculpture, Off-Grid subverts the application of artificial light as a means of control. Instead, the installation is solely illuminated with shifting patterns of natural light. Disconnected from the electric lighting system, the exhibition also stages a type of speculative scenario, evoking both the sudden closure of cultural institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic and a not-so-distant future when museums and society will have to operate with limited access to power.