I sit down at the fire and I become aware of my uniform. I had not seen it. It is indeed ugly. I stop there, for who can tell me what beauty is?
— Frantz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness” (1952)
What do we use to define who we are? In (Untitled) Fanon, artist Madison Cooper delves into issues surrounding the definition of culture and the intricacies of race. Through printed photographs and projected images, she navigates the web of identifying factors and experiences she uses to solidify her own Blackness. Each of these works is an act of self-reflection; an effort to comb through memories and consider signifiers—such as church services and hair care products—that have influenced the ways she perceives her Black identity. Her focus on portraits of family and friends, as well as self-portraits, further emphasizes the deeply personal nature of Cooper’s recent body of work. The result is a visual assemblage of intimate moments and social performances that question what it means to be Black.
(Untitled) Fanon draws inspiration from the literary work of Frantz Fanon (1925–1961), a renowned Black psychiatrist and philosopher who made significant contributions to postcolonial theory and critical studies in the twentieth century. In his 1952 essay, “The Fact of Blackness,” Fanon proposes the concept of ontological resistance: the notion that centuries of colonization and oppression have stunted the ability of Black people to escape preconceived ideas and harmful stereotypes surrounding Black identity—perpetuated by White people—and develop their own sense of self. Cooper explores this concept through her photographs, working toward a personal definition of what Blackness means to her.
(Untitled) Fanon is organized by Madison Cooper with Center Space Project.
Madison Cooper (b. 2000, Dallas, Texas) lives and studies in Austin, Texas. Cooper is currently a fourth-year BFA Studio Art student at The University of Texas at Austin. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at The Museum of Color, Austin (2020) and Big Medium, Austin (2019). She has also participated in the Cohen New Works Festival at UT Austin (2021) and exhibited work in Hear and Now, a drive-through exhibition organized by Center Space Project for TEDxUTAustin (2021). Cooper is a Summer 2021 fellow at the Ox-Bow School of Art.