With Hangin’ in Texas Mutu transitions from drawings to a re-engagement with performance. She combines collage with video and related objects in an installation that bears witness to scarred African refugees, is provoked by the execution lore of Texas, and ultimately makes a space for contemplating universal motives for killing.
Like a forest of deteriorating human bodies, suspended wine bottles drip pools of red onto the floor in Mutu’s space. Compounding the sense of mortality is a ripe odor and mass of stigmata-like wounds dug into walls. At the far end of the room is a wide and low video of a woman, the artist herself, in a rocky desert. She hacks at tree trunks with a machete; the ubiquitous tool used in rural Africa for agriculture and violent acts of war.
If the installation mourns death, it also offers a space for release. In the adjacent conference room are several framed collages. Like Surrealist’s exquisite corpses, they combine disparate layers (mushroom-like shape, woman’s head, tumory mass, arching figure) to create a space for transcendence. Through these images Mutu fabricates a metaphoric moment for accessing another world.
Hangin’ in Texas combines media to continue Wangechi Mutu’s meditation on unnecessary carnage, and her interrogation of the idea that killing—of criminals in Texas, of a people in Rwanda, of terrorists in Iraq—can absolve humans from harm or save anyone.