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Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York (CCNY) presents a solo exhibition by Joiri​ Minaya ​(Dominican Republic/United States,1990), a multi-disciplinary artist whose recent works focus on destabilizing historic and contemporary representations of an imagined tropical identity through an exercise of unlearning, decolonizing and exorcizing imposed histories, cultures and ideas.

Minaya sees her work as a reassertion of self, in which she uses her cultural background as a base to explore and reconcile her experiences of growing up in the Dominican Republic and living in the United States.

Curated by Corrine Y. Gordon, I’mhere to entertain you, but only during my shift​ examines the construction of the female subject in relation to landscape, looking particularly at “tropical” environments.

«I’m here to entertain you, but only during my shift», Joiri Minaya’s exhibition at Baxter St, NY, 2020. Courtesy of Baxter St.
«I’m here to entertain you, but only during my shift», Joiri Minaya’s exhibition at Baxter St, NY, 2020. Courtesy of Baxter St.

The exhibition features​ new works ​from her ongoing Containers series initiated in 2015, where Minaya takes photographs of women wearing custom head-to-toe printed bodysuits that mimic tropical flora and poses them in seemingly natural environments that have been altered by man.

The original series stemmed from a Google search of “Dominican Women,” where Minaya found specific poses repeated throughout her findings and appropriated these poses through the structure of the bodysuits, forcing the performer to adopt the pose. By doing this, Minaya looks to the parallels drawn between nature and femininity, as both have been imagined and represented throughout history as idealized, tamed, conquered, and exoticized entities.

The title I’mhere to entertain you, but only during my shiftaims to establish a relationship between the viewer and the work, drawing attention to the performative nature of her subjects and the audience’s position as an active observer. It is also a line pulled from one of the original scripts Minaya wrote when she started to experiment with the series beyond photography. She converted the images into a performance, incorporating voice recordings and written text that were strategically paired to the location and bodysuits. As the series continues to be reimagined through new mediums, this exhibition will be the first to present collage alongside her continued photographs, video, and text.

When she exhibited this series in 2018 at the Bronx Art Space’s group show Historical Amnesia -curated by Gabriel de Guzman, it dealt with the lasting effects of colonialism, exoticism, and intolerance on today’s culture- the pictures where shown alongside texts, some of them reading:

“Blending in with your surroundings … there will be someone there … diligently pointing out your difference.”

“A lot of being racialized is about explaining. Where are you from? What kind of fruit? A strange fruit.”

“I’m not a flower, I’m only here to work. I’m here to entertain you, but only during my shift.”

Joiri Minaya, Container #7, 2020, 60 x 40 in. Courtesy of Baxter St.

Minaya has been working with existing mass-produced patterns and processing them, re-contextualizing or deconstructing them to present them in ways that questions the origin of these designs and the philosophies, fantasies and histories they represent.

In 2019, she started designing her own version of “tropical” patterns, highlighting plants that as opposed to being merely decorative, were also culturally meaningful and had a rich history to Native and Black people of the Americas and the Caribbean.

She has been particularly drawn to species that relate to (hi)stories of resistance, plants that symbolize the resilience and hope of the Caribbean people in the face of hardship and adversities, flora that speaks of transformation and healing, highlighting stories of survival but also speaking of continuity, nurture, solace and spiritual strength. Minaya is also interested in celebrating the botanical knowledge of her ancestors and inviting new generations to learn more about it.

“I explore the performativity of tropical identity as product: the performance of labor, decoration, beauty, leisure, service. I’ve learned there is a gaze thrust upon me which others see. I turn it upon itself, mainly by seeming to fulfill its expectations, but instead sabotaging them, thus regaining power and agency,” says the artist.


Curated by Corrine Y. Gordon

Baxter St, The Camera Club of New York, 126 Baxter Street, New York, NY

Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat from noon to 6pm

August 25th – September 30th, 2020

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