Performance: video with sound
McCallum & Tarry
"In Evenly Yoked (2010), their latest collaborative video endeavor and part of the Projection series, McCallum and Tarry explore their relationship as an interracial couple, this time through the lens of a series of interconnected and historically bound narratives. Dressed intermittently as a contemporary couple on their wedding day, an aristocratic couple in the antebellum south, and a confederate soldier and a slave, the artists look at race relations on an intimate scale over time and across space. These three sets of roles permit McCallum and Tarry to investigate the tensions of their bond as well as the personal, cultural and historical challenges that have informed it as they embody these iconic characters and enact their experiences. Seamlessly shifting between the sentiments of brides and grooms on their wedding day, and the prickly power structures dictated by stereotypes of race and gender in the antebellum south, the artists negotiate the intense presence of the painful bonds and joyful distinctions inherent in their, and indeed all, conjugal relations.
The culmination of their interest in self portraiture and a conflation of the intimate and public histories that permeate their marriage, this newly commissioned work asserts an array of familiar binaries: white and black, master and slave, husband and wife, plantation owner and lady of the manor. As the artists oscillate between these guises, as well as their mutual love and struggle, they examine themselves and each other through carefully deployed mirrors—on stage and on the wall—occupying the ambiguous terrain of this connection. Facing one another across a dressing table, they reflect on their union and return to a premarital state in their relationship, playing out the most private of emotions before an empty theater. Architecturally framed by a literal stage, McCallum and Tarry transform themselves into thespian players in a precarious performance that reflects on the pleasures and pitfalls of union. In addition to period make-up and dress, McCallum and Tarry continue the theme of exchange seen in their earlier video works, literally putting on and taking off each other’s black and white make-up, conjuring highly charged images of vaudeville performers and circus clowns. Despite their self-consciously chosen outfits and mutually exchanged complexions, they remain at once separated not only by a divisive mirror but also by the very differences that draw them to one another, differences that inevitably surface no matter what their roles. Thus their clever costumes—elegant and celebratory nature of wedding clothes, the menacing constraints of a corset, and the unmistakable markings of military soldier and slave—enable the artists to look at one another as a means of looking within themselves as they embrace and negotiate the most difficult and universal of all human relations."
Source: "Evenly Yoked." In Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, edited by Jennie Hirsh, 22-23. Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art, 2010.
Spelman College: Museum of Fine Art, Atlanta, GA
The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD
Director: David Schweizer
Cinematography, editorial: Gavin Rosenberg
Production: Ben Zimbric, Caleb Wertenbaker, Jacob A. Climer
Crew: Alexandr Skarlinski and Maryland Institute College of Art's Exhibition Development Seminar 2009-2010 students
Original sound composition: Imani Uzuri
Special thanks to: The Engineers Club
Audio: Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in Harlem is Heaven (1932)
© Bradley McCallum 2022