Pope.L Sweet Desire a.k.a. Burial Piece 1996

The video documenting this performance opens with the following questions: “What do black people want?” “Who do they want it from?” “Why do they want it?” For Sweet Desire, which took place at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Maine on a hot August day, Pope.L had himself buried in the ground up to his chest for eight hours. Wearing a white collared shirt, red hat, and tie, the artist gazed on as a bowl of vanilla ice cream placed in front him slowly melted in the sun.

Having previously crawled on the ground, for this action Pope.L goes below grade, taking the acts of submission so central to his Crawl works a step further by rendering himself completely immobile. Pushing his body to its limits through an extreme test of endurance (he had to be unearthed and hospitalized midway through a subsequent performance), Pope.L underscores the polarity of desire and what he calls “have-not-ness,” a contradictory condition he considers to be definitive of the experience of oppressed peoples.

Gallery label from October 21, 2019–February 1, 2020
Medium
Video (color, sound; 4:19 min), five inkjet prints
Credit
Acquired in part through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus, Anne and Joel S. Ehrenkranz, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The Jill and Peter Kraus Media and Performance Acquisition Fund, and Jill and Peter Kraus in honor of Michael Lynne
Object number
88.2019.1-7
Copyright
© 2020 Pope.L. Courtesy of the artist.
Department
Media and Performance
Research in progress; information about this work may be incomplete.

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