What is it about a place that makes it instantly recognizable? Is it a certain style of architecture? Could it be the townspeople? Perhaps it is the local food? Or rather, is it us who makes a place familiar? Do our experiences follow along wherever we go? Is it possible that our memories of place compress so that every place becomes one? These questions and more are pondered in Have I been here before?, the first exhibition organized by Charlotte Street Foundation’s inaugural Curator-In-Residence, Jamilee Polson Lacy.
Featuring artworks by:
Have I been here before? brings together Kansas City-specific and not-so-specific moments, memories and histories in an attempt to capture what is just so familiar about this place, that place or any place. The exhibition features the work of Kansas City-area visual and conceptual artists who combine real places with false memories and exaggerated perceptions to create sites and situations that may be vaguely familiar to viewers. Each displayed artwork contributes to a vast and varied view of the local urban landscape and draws attention to the real and imagined territories navigated by city-dwellers and travelers alike. While much of the show incorporates found sources originating in and around Kansas City, a considerable portion of the installation relies extensively on artistic chimera to highlight the strange, even fantastical elements of the urban experience attributable to déjà vu, mis-remembering and recollections of grandeur.
Drawing further comparison between the historical and illusory qualities of the city-place, Have I been here before? also features personal and collective remembrances and stories from local writers and thinkers. Put in writing just for this exhibition, these old memories, fresh interpretations, and critical analyses of the greater Kansas City locale, as well as travels in and out of the area, add another dimension to this exploration of place and memory. Featured writing ranges from travelogues and historical accounts to short fictions and non-fictions recounting the lives of place-dwellers. Excerpts from each piece of writing are scrawled along the gallery walls, operating both in tandem with displayed artworks and as ancillary reading throughout the exhibition’s installation. The complete texts, artist biographies, and a curatorial essay are presented in a limited edition poster publication designed by UMKC students Karen Daugherty, Erik Mitchell and Aamina Nahlawi. This publication is available exclusively at la Esquina throughout the run of the show.