Afrotecture (Re)Collection Exhibit Heather Hart Combines Black Experience and Architecture With New Installation at UB CFA Gallery

by Schondra Aytch

(above part of the interactive installation by Heather Hart at CFA UB Art Gallery  photo by Nando Alvarez-Perez)

Pulling inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement, Brooklyn – based artist Heather Hart’s Afrotecture (Re)Collection explores the concepts of translation and space. 

The exhibition, which is currently on view at University At Buffalo’s CFA Gallery highlights a recreation of the railing at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee where Martin Luther King was assassinated. Activated by viewers, the sculpture will be accompanied by musical performances, discussions, and organization visits to deepen the conversation around black experiences and architecture.  

“In general, everyone moves through modern space via architectures and built structures and so thinking about that as this implicit information and how we process where we are in the universe is really exciting to me,” Hart explained.

Artist Heather Hart

Hart’s interdisciplinary art which focuses on “exploring the power in thresholds” and “questioning dominant narratives” often involves developing alternative narratives based on audience interactions and discussions inspired by her works.  More specifically, the results of her architectural installations over the years have highlighted the significance of oral history and collective memory – especially within black culture.

“Thinking about the slippages between,  what my father recollects and what my auntie recollects and then what I go, and visit, and actually see is really interesting. I love that idea of translation of space through memory and experience,” Hart mentioned.

Originally from Seattle, Hart’s passion for architecture comes from her father who was a carpenter, and grandparents who were creatives in their own right. Raised with parents she calls “out of the box thinkers” the seasoned artist’s energetic approach towards being creative has elevated the intention of her work. For over 15 years, Hart has had a wealthy series of residencies and published works under her belt, along with impressive funding and support from organizations like The Joan Mitchell Foundation, Anonymous Was A Woman, The Graham Foundation, and most recently The Foundation Of Contemporary Art.

part of Heather Hart exhibition on view at CFA UB Art Gallery

Parallel to her exhibition at UB, the decorated artist is currently running an oral-history archiving non-profit called Black Lunch Table with fellow creative Jina Valentine, which aims to recount and rewrite modern history from various black perspectives. The roundtable dialogue, which began in 2005 has now become a physical and virtual space to document moments, events, and black artists as an alternative history database. Much like the results of Hart’s architectural work, BLT ultimately provides a resource that gives insight into the black perspective and experience. 

Also, recognizing that blackness isn’t a monolith and understanding the need for safe spaces to embrace all different forms of blackness, Hart’s work considers that American history could be biased; An important factor she took into account when developing her Afrotecture installation.

“I began looking at spaces of historical notability and realized that when we look at black history in the archives and such, it’s 90% trauma in this country and so it became really important to me to include joy as well,” Hart mentioned.

Pulling positive reflections, translations, and reactions from the Black experience is also a priority of Hart’s. With anticipation high for the future responses and interactions involving her Afrotecture (Re)Collection exhibition, the decorated artist hopes it will remind viewers to understand the importance of physical space. 

“The visitor participation and activation are what ultimately completes the piece and makes it live, you know it’s not static that way, and that’s a metaphor for historical records to me. We think that history, once it’s written down, stays the same but really … it’s a living history,” Hart concluded. “Every time we grow and change as people, we reframe how we read something or what the historical narrative is. I love that as a way to build an art practice,” Hart concluded.

Heather Hart’s Afrotecture (Re)Collection exhibition which opened this past September will be up until May 21st,2022 . More public programming for the exhibition is to be announced. Also, look out for Hart’s Black Lunch Table collaboration with the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Albright Knox Art Gallery, hosted by UB – coming this Spring. 

Freelance Writer Schondra Aytch