In Prospect New Orleans, artists rely on history to capture the city’s complicated present

The first edition of Prospect New Orleans opened in November 2008, just three years after Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the city forever, highlighting the systemic injustices facing communities of color on the Gulf Coast. This legacy is very much present in the fifth iteration of Prospect, “Yesterday, We Said Tomorrow,” curated by Naima J. Keith and Diana Nawi. This year’s exhibition sees 51 artists in 16 different venues bringing together themes of the violence of slavery, indigenous genocide and more recent subjugations such as the invisibility of migrants and environmental degradation. The wake of history lingers forcefully in the way these artists think through their works of art today.

Just like the first Prospect launched during the long recovery phase of an emergency, so is the Prospect.5. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and destruction caused across Louisiana by Hurricane Ida last August held back the opening of this exhibit, in some ways these crises have made this year’s edition a ‘all the more relevant and necessary in the city. While previous iterations of the Triennale opened wide, this fall, Prospect.5 opened relatively quietly, launching a few theaters at a time over the past month and moving its official gala to January 2022.

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