Citation

In Absentia

Author:
Ọnụọha, Mimi
Year:
2019

In the early 1900s, sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois was asked by the US government to conduct research on black rural life in Alabama. Using interviews with over 20,000 residents, he compiled a report filled with text, maps, charts, and tables of data. After months of work, the report was never published.

Nigerian-American digital media artist Mimi Ọnụọha asks what happens when data is made to disappear by those who want to obscure the reality of racism and power. Across sensory registers, In Absentia re-circulates fragments of Du Bois' famous report as a meditation on suppression and distortion.

Borrowing language and visuals from Du Bois' work, In Absentia subverts multiple media forms—data visualization, audio installation, print booklet—to complicate assumptions about how to interpret data, in both its presence and absence. "How many find their work halted not by lack of data, but by an unwillingness to hear?" Ọnụọha asks. And what is our responsibility both to listen and advocate for racial justice?