Widline Cadet – Take This with You / Pran sa avèk ou
Huis Marseille is showing 'Take This with You / Pran sa avèk ou', the first European exhibition by Haiti-born artist Widline Cadet. She uses her photographic practice to reflect on her migration background and to explore themes such as kinship, intergenerational heritage and the fragility of memory. Apparent opposites such as presence and absence, fact and fiction, or past and future return in shades and nuances.
Completing the family archive
At the age of ten, Widline Cadet left her native Haiti to settle in New York. She followed her siblings, who had gone before her one by one to join their mother. Cadet hadn't lived with her mother for years by then. 'Deprivation is often an engine for my work,' she says looking back.
Although Cadet came of age in America, she maintained her ties to Haiti and her relatives there. Her curiosity about her family history and the generations that preceded her increased. But of her maternal grandmother, for example, not a single photo existed. Her desire to add to the small family archive prompted Cadet to begin photographing her relatives. However, during her master's degree, she moved further away from her family, limiting her time and access to them. That is why she increasingly turned her lens on herself. With an inward look, she examines her own identity and how it has been influenced by her migration. Motifs in her photos refer to her past, such as branches of the bougainvillea that grew around her childhood home in Haiti, and checkered dresses modeled after her old school uniform.
Yet she might as well embody someone else in her self-portraits. 'My grandmother, for example, who died about thirty years before I was born, but is still a part of me because of her bond with my mother. Such an intergenerational way of knowing someone you've never met makes me think.' This is one of many instances of Cadet shaping someone based on her mother's memories. In a speculative way – guessing at possible versions of the person – she brings figures from the past to the present and the future.
Relationship between black women
Initially, Cadet focused her work on the women in her family, such as her mother and sisters, but she later expanded her repertoire to people beyond. She asked friends and people on the street with whom she felt a click if they wanted to be a model. "There's magic in these chance encounters, and in the generous trust people gave me by letting themselves be photographed," she says. In her photographs she depicts them as her sisters, relatives she has never met and sometimes as doppelgängers. 'That's how strangers came into my work: not as strangers, but as people I imagined I already knew.' It is no coincidence that all those portrayed are black women. Cadet celebrates the natural kinship she feels with them and opposes stereotyped representations of black women.
References to the making process
Because Cadet places women with a strong visual resemblance next to each other, 'doubles' are created in the photos. She sometimes further enhances this effect with photo edits. For example, an observant eye sees that a composition of bent-forward girls has a lot of limbs for only two people. With these kinds of interventions, the photographer makes us look actively and doubt our perception: aren't the 'twins' also a form of 'cutting and pasting'? Whether the lookalikes refer to two girlfriends, two sisters, two variants of the same person or to a dual identity, Cadet leaves undecided.
Direct references to the photographic making process remind viewers that the raw images are also constructed. In one work the camera angle is such that the position of the background canvas is prominently displayed, in another the self-timer is almost defiantly visible in the hand of the photographer.
Take This with You / Pran sa avèk ou
In Huis Marseille, Cadet places her family archive next to her own photos of family, friends, herself and (formerly) strangers. Together they form one archive in which different generations and time layers coexist. Approaching (her family) history through hypotheses creates an interesting dynamic between fact and fiction. Cadet braids them together into an istwa , a Haitian Creole term that can mean both "history" and "story".
Take This with You / Pran sa avèk ou is Cadet's first exhibition in Europe. Just as Cadet's photos often have multiple meanings, the title refers to several things. The phrase came to her mind as a child as she prepared to move to the United States. As an adult, he reminds her of what to take with her when she travels between the two countries. It also refers to the tangible nature of photography as a process that flattens three-dimensional objects and converts them into something you can easily carry with you. For example, in times of loss, photos can bridge the gap between people who are distant from each other geographically or in time.
Widline Cadet (1992, Pétion-Ville, Haiti) was already taught analogue photography during her secondary school years and during her bachelor's degree (City College of New York) and her master's degree (Syracuse University) she further specialized in photography. Cadet lives and works in the United States.
Cadet's work is in several public and private collections, including those of the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), the Pérez Art Museum Miami, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Princeton University Art Museum. It has been published in Aperture Magazine , Foam Magazine , The New Yorker , TIME Magazine , and The New York Times Magazine , among others, and awarded a Mortimer-Hays Brandeis Traveling Fellowship (2013), a Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture artist-in-residence residency (2018), a Lighthouse Works Fellowship (2019), a Syracuse University VPA Turner artist-in-residency (2019), the Museum of Contemporary Photography's Snider Prize (2020), a Lit List nomination (2020), a NYFA / JGS Fellowship in Photography (2020) and a Studio Museum in Harlem artist-in-residency (2020-2021).
Dates and times
|Thursday 21 September||10:00 - 21:00|
|Friday 22 September||10:00 - 18:00|
|Saturday 23 September||10:00 - 18:00|
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