Born in Hamilton, Canada and based in Paris, Kapwani Kiwanga produces works across installation, performance, and video that marry her training in anthropology and comparative religions with her interests in history, memory, and mythology. Presenting rigorous research in imaginative ways, Kiwanga intentionally confuses truth and fiction in her work in order to enable fantastical narratives.
For her first solo exhibition in the United States, Kiwanga presents a site-specific installation, video, and prints that draw on the artist’s research into the design of institutional spaces, including materials found in the University of Chicago’s Special Collections Library. Across the elements of Kapwani Kiwanga: The sum and its parts, Kiwanga deconstructs the physical and psychological qualities of different built environments including schools, prisons, hospitals, and mental health facilities. In the main gallery, Kiwanga brings together architectural elements from historical and contemporary versions of these spaces including wall sections, lighting fixtures, and surface treatments creating a spatial collage that escapes the sum of its fragments. For these works, Kiwanga has drawn from her extensive research into disciplinary architectures throughout time, extracting specific details from the designs of late 19th century workhouses and reformatory schools in Britain and France respectively.