“A Brief History of Love in VII Acts” is an exercise in “critical fabulation” that queers the archive by using love as a vehicle to explore alternative histories. Through fabricated historical images, this collaborative project between photographer and curator Fikayo Adebajo and costume designer and painter Poppy Whitehorn reclaims the narrative imprinted on historical imagery. When the colonial gaze has been returned, we look inwards to form new points of convergence through which we imagine our new realities.
Emulating the styles of portraiture practices throughout history, historical, contemporary and cultural references are blurred to create a surrealist montage that calls into question the validity of the Western epistemological claim to truth and objectivity. References are drawn from daguerreotypes, to West African studio portraiture, from genre paintings to the odalisque pose and portraits of Victorian theater actors. Gender, class and cultural binaries are similarly distorted, allowing each individual to break free from the trappings of normativity. The idea of the “other” is broken down by creating new norms and new frames of references. The subjects themselves slowly begin to become more interior, as their outward gazes turn inwards at each other. Thus, the camera becomes a tool for self invention through performative portraiture. The staging of scenes and invention of characters allows us to reimagine histories of oppression as histories of love, expressiveness, intimacy and togetherness as defining features of our pasts, presents and futures.