Lorna Simpson b. 1960
The Institute (2007)
The Institute, 2007
Single-channel video installation, color, sound
Duration: 5:13 min.

"In creating that split-screen work, Simpson used footage from a promotional film produced by an institute in Wichita, Kansas; there, students with learning and speech disabilities were, presumably, "rehabilitated," which is to say, socialized. On the right side of the screen we see Barbara, a young disabled black woman who has difficulty speaking; on the left side of the screen we see various white women holding children. We hear Barbara in dialogue with a speech therapist; she's claiming or trying to claim her voice and thus her identity. But we don't know what the white women sound like. In the drawings, the actresses are further silenced--they're figures in the silent world of a drawing. But what does it mean to take an actress's voice from her? An actress's voice is her writing, her means of interpretation. What interests Simpson in her drawings is her own interpretation, her line of thought reaching from Barbara, who is real, and extending to the white women on the other side of the segregated screen, women who are a performance." -Hilton Als