Artist Theaster Gates was on the way to a lobster roll snack shack when he spotted a ‘beautiful’ uninhabited island that piqued his curiosity.
And Malaga, that small chunk of land off the coast of Maine, went on to inspire an exhibition that explores ideas of race, territory and inequality in the United States.
The thought-provoking work of the Chicago-based contemporary artist is on show at Tate Liverpool from tomorrow until May.
Amalgam, which features installations combines sculptures, film, dance and music, is the first solo UK show for the 46-year-old and follows an exhibition of the pieces at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
From the mid-19th Century, Malaga was home to an ethnically-mixed community living in relative isolation. With the island earmarked as a potential tourist destination, in 1912 the state governor ordered their eviction and the community was forcibly relocated to the mainland.
They were offered no housing, jobs or other support and some were involuntarily committed to psychiatric institutions. A century on, the island remains uninhabited.
The exhibition includes three large scale works.
Island Modernity Institute and Department of Tourism 2019 is a multi-part installation depicting an imagined archaeological study of Malaga, incorporating artist made objects as well as items retrieved from the island itself.
A 20-minute film, Dance of Malaga 2019, combines the slow-moving choreography of American dancer Kyle Abraham, performed and filmed on Malaga island, intersected with archival feature film footage and is accompanied by a new score from Gates’s musical collective, The Black Monks.
And finally, So Bitter, This Curse of Darkness 2019 is an atmospheric immersive space dotted with pillars made from salvaged ash trees, topped with bronze casts of African wooden masks, honouring the forgotten people of Malaga.
Other exhibits include Altar, a giant slope of tiles inspired by the former homes and which occupies the same space as three cabins did on the island, and a blackboard wall which tells the story of Liverpool’s slave trade as well as being inspired by historian David Olusoga’s book Black and British: A Forgotten History.
Theaster Gates Amalgam is at Tate Liverpool from December 13 to May 4. Tickets £10.50 with £8.50 concessions.