‘In Their Own Form’ explores black identity through time travel, alternate realities

Grace Barnes

Through the lens of contemporary photography, “In Their Own Form” reimagines the transnational Black experience and what it might look like without the burden of racism and oppression permeating Western culture.

The exhibition, located in the Christian-Green Gallery and the IDEA LAB, was curated by Sheridan Tucker Anderson, a former curatorial fellow for diversity in the arts at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. The exhibition features 13 artists from across the African diaspora, including Ghana, France, Brazil and South Africa. 

Anderson said she had the freedom to make the exhibition her own, so she took the opportunity to bring a wide range of artists’ narratives together. She said that she was interested in supporting emerging artists who might do things differently as well as more recognizable artists. 

“I wanted to make sure that the collection had a more holistic and cohesive understanding of contemporary art, but I also wanted to take the opportunity to build connections, or start relationships between the museum and emerging artists that they hadn’t already known about,” Anderson said. 

The photos seek to reimagine the Black experience by exploring time travel and the concept of alternate realities. Anderson said these themes are rooted in Afrofuturism — a historical movement that encompasses non-Western mythologies and Egyptian characteristics, combining elements of science fiction, fantasy and escapism.

“We all kind of share this connection of travel, being from one place but experiencing completely different understandings of the world,” Anderson said. “That is the one tie that binds us all.”  

Cherise Smith, executive director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies, helped bring the exhibition to UT. Smith is an avid lover of contemporary photography and Afrofuturist works, and said the exhibition engages visitors with different ideas about time and reality. 

“For me, what is significant is the emphasis on imagination and on how these artists are imagining alternate realities and alternate futures for Black people,” Smith said. “I want people to just come for the art, but while they’re there, see some very interesting uses of costumes, thinking about alternate realities, whether they’re real places or imagined places.”

Lise Ragbir, director of the Art Galleries at Black Studies, said the exhibit’s wide range of narratives highlight the differences across the Black diaspora. 

“This show in particular looks at certain experiences — Black experiences — and how we might imagine ourselves or our places in the future,” Ragbir said. “So when we’re considering narratives that affect us all now, we can’t overlook questioning what our future might also reveal.” 

Ragbir said she is excited to be able to feature such a far-reaching exhibition like this on UT’s campus and hopes students will come and appreciate the works.

“It’s always encouraging to see how artwork from around the world can end up on UT’s campus, and that’s really a testament to the value of the space, and even how UT is able to bring narratives and artwork from so far beyond to students right here in Austin,” Ragbir said.