Ciara Elle Bryant’s installation Server: Love Ta, Love Ta Love Ya at McKinney Avenue Contemporary collages photographs to create a visual bibliography while building a physical space for Black representation.
Ciara Elle Bryant’s Server: Love Ta, Love Ta Love Ya
October 16, 2021–January 8, 2022
McKinney Avenue Contemporary, Dallas
Apps and cloud storage, invisible art bought with unseen money—it seems like the more technology advances, the more removed we are from reality. There’s something to be said about trusting the safety of possessions to non-tactile platforms, but for many populations, invisibility is all too familiar.
In Ciara Elle Bryant’s installation Server: Love Ta, Love Ta Love Ya, being seen and heard is an urgent priority. Walking through the pictorial space at McKinney Avenue Contemporary in Dallas allows a meditation on the Black experience, but it also amplifies Black originality and representation. Additionally, Bryant’s exhibition serves as a visual bibliography of the Dallas-based artist’s experiences and showcases the photograph as both personal and political.
Entering the gallery, I was met with an assemblage of box televisions on the floor all tuned to a different station or playing a music video. Each of the televisions serves as an analog ambassador of Black music and vernacular.
Meanwhile, hundreds of collaged photographs are assembled on the gallery walls, where images of social media posts, news stories, memes, viral videos, and Bryant’s personal photographs offer an immersive experience and snapshot of the Black experience. These photographs of Black families, friends, and celebrities may leave some puzzled, but it’s not daring to say that people have a deeply embedded misunderstanding of Black culture and therefore a misreading of American culture.
The photo album is a rare, prized, and protected archive in Black families. Taking a picture is an accessible freedom of representation. Photos are captured not only to remember, but as proof of existence in this world with its history of erasure and its future of virtual reality.
If a picture says a thousand words, then Bryant’s installation has a million things to say. There are various collages throughout the gallery and each seemingly has a theme, including wealth, resistance, fashion, and beauty standards.
Sonically, Timbaland and Magoo’s 1997 hit single “Luv 2 Luv U” echoes from an adjacent room. There, I discover a shrine installation for the Nike Air Force One sneaker. Floor-to-ceiling shoeboxes showcase this shoe’s national impact on fashion and global cultural significance. (Who could forget Nelly’s 2002 blockbuster track “Air Force Ones”?) Looping videos, sourced from all around the world, project images onto the boxes—everything from cleaning tutorials to the proper lacing technique.
While the music, GIFs, and memes are all alluring, dozens of advertisements along another wall create an undertone, and it eventually becomes difficult to ignore the ways the Black body, celebrity or not, is often targeted for trends in fashion, music, and even slang. This reaffirms the significance of the photograph and the role it plays in building a narrative.
In a world full of digital footprints, music covers, and sequels, Bryant’s installation provides a clear picture that there can be a blurred line between invisibility and transparency. The formidable exhibition also illustrates that today’s digital images have never been easier to replace, erase, and appropriate.
Ciara Elle Bryant’s Server: Love Ta, Love Ta Love Ya is on view through January 8, 2022 at McKinney Avenue Contemporary, 1501 South Ervay Street in Dallas.