Jimmie Durham Caliban Codex 1992

  • MoMA, Floor 2, 207 The David Geffen Wing

Created on the occasion of the five-hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in North America, the Caliban Codex uses Shakespeare’s 1610–11 play The Tempest as a vehicle to explore the condition of language under colonial rule. Through a combination of text and images, Durham presents a series of fictional diary entries (purposefully misspelled as “dairy”) by Caliban, an enslaved inhabitant of the island where The Tempest is set. Caliban is often described as a monster by other characters, including Prospero, his cruel master. The language and tone of the diary entries demonstrate the inevitable failure of attempts to understand selfhood through the lens of an oppressor: “I don’t know what I look like,” Caliban writes. “Since Dr. Prospero came there’s nothing here that reflects me.”

Gallery label from 2020
Pencil on fourteen sheets of paper
dimensions vary; sheet (each approx.): 21 1/4 × 15 1/8" (54 × 38.4 cm)
Committee on Drawings and Prints Fund
Object number
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

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