b. 1996, San Antonio, TX
Lives and works in Minneapolis, MN
Candice Davis (she/her) is a conceptual artist working primarily in digital media, installation, and performance, with a focus on engaging audiences with social issues. For AOV11, Davis engages an interest in genealogy through continued work on an online search tool that would allow Black Americans to search through Slave Schedules–lists that prior to 1870 serve as the primary means for documenting Black people, namelessly and as property. Davis‘ fellowship period has also included a host of adjacent artistic projects, all of which explore non-empirical visual representations of historical and genealogical research.
My conceptual practice holds a mirror to White violence and complacency. I primarily focus on digital media, installation, and performance as a means of witnessing the trans-generational experiences of marginalized people. As a Black woman in the United States, I recognize my existence as the result of centuries of displacement, trauma, exploitation, and propagation for the benefit of Western capitalism. My work explores an identity formed by generational survival of and resistance to imperialism.
My process relies on research and examination of the past as a framework for critiquing the present. I prioritize the meaningful way that visualization and tactility can help make generational experiences of the disenfranchised more visible and intellectually accessible. The archives and history of Black people are integral to my practice. I source physical and visual materials from the archive and use them in my work as a means of bringing them back into the present. I mimic the way that, when retold, histories that exist exclusively in an oral tradition, are fluid and become integrated into personal memory rather than remaining distant and stagnant. By visually showcasing parallels between issues of transgenerational relevance, I create a more easily identifiable link between the experiences of my diasporic contemporaries and those of their ancestors.
Through my work in personal genealogy and family history, I have learned to consider how the hierarchy of a physical or evidential archive within Western culture excludes people who have been marginalized. In a country like the United States, where history is highly reliant on documentation, people of color often fall victim to poor documentation by a racist government. To limit the genealogical search process to only the parameters under which the original documents were created poses a particular challenge for historians of color. And to limit the interpretation of these records to that which is purely empirical tends to disregard the emotionality and nuances of their context and impact.
In 2018, I began prototyping a search engine that would allow Black Americans to search through Slave Schedules. Prior to 1870 the primary means of documenting Black people was namelessly, as property, on these Schedules. The proposed search tool would allow users to filter through digital transcripts of the Slave Schedules using parameters of age, gender, and racial identity [Black or Mulatto], in order to identify the slaveowners of slave ancestors, unnamed on the documents. The advantage of identifying an ancestor’s potential slaveowners may point towards additional information about the slaveowner’s family and plantation. Knowing a potential slaveowner’s name helps researchers begin to unpack name origins, helps with the identification of other primary documents, and reinforces accountability for slavery by implicating beneficiaries by name. The goal is to share the code through open source developing websites for others to use as a basis for their own similar database creation.
The Art(ists) on the Verge fellowship period has facilitated a host of adjacent artistic projects, all of which explore non-empirical visual representations of historical and genealogical research. The first of these projects was the digitization of family photos and documentation of oral histories. The second project, 1900 Columbus: Artist Working with Archive, was an installation and publication surrounding the visual storytelling of histories related to location. The final interpretive projects from the fellowship period were part of a larger examination of methods of memorial for ancestors. Exhibited under the title I Was Born With A Silver Spoon in Your Mouth, this series of projects maintains a focus on the penultimate goal of realizing the Slave Schedule Search while acknowledging that within the realm of historical research there are limitations to what quantitative records can represent. This is especially so when those records were created in a context of oppression and trauma.