Article

“Made-Unmade-Remade”: Art, History and Identity in A Postcolonial Kinderhood (1994)

Author: Chloe Julius (UCL)

  • “Made-Unmade-Remade”: Art, History and Identity in A Postcolonial Kinderhood (1994)

    Article

    “Made-Unmade-Remade”: Art, History and Identity in A Postcolonial Kinderhood (1994)

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Abstract

This paper explores Elaine Reichek's 1994 installation A Postcolonial Kinderhood in relation to the histories it resurfaced, namely those of American Jewry, modernism, architecture and interior design. Situating the work in the mode Hal Foster designated as ‘archival’, the paper contends that Reichek’s investment in these histories was decidedly post postmodern, which is to say, with A Postcolonial Kinderhood, Reichek attempted to weave history back together, rather than pull it further apart. This was achieved literally with embroidery, through the eleven hand-stitched samplers that lined the installation’s four walls. Part of the installation’s broader recreation of Reichek’s childhood home in 1950s Brooklyn, these samplers evoked America’s colonial period – the English textile form had been brought over by colonial settlers in the seventeenth century – as well as the subsequent (and various) Colonial Revivals in American architecture and interior design. Yet while Reichek’s samplers faithfully replicated the design, scale and composition of earlier precedents, she updated the form’s textual component by hand-stitching remarks made by friends and family on the subject of their Jewish identity. Through these texts, Reichek brought her samplers into the 1990s while connecting her installation’s address of Jewish identity to a much longer American history. During a period in which the category ‘Jewish art’ was being reformulated as a distinct subset of American art, A Postcolonial Kinderhood presented both ‘Jewish’ and ‘American’ as too entangled with one another to be separated out into two static categories. Pointing beyond the specifics of this particular tangle of art and identity, this paper will hold up A Postcolonial Kinderhood as exemplary of the historical reckoning that played out in American art of the 1990s.

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Published on
01 Feb 2022
Peer Reviewed