Love and Oblivion

An exhibition exploring queer possibilities of affirmation, extravagance, and extinction


Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Performance
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions



Arien Wilkerson


Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce Love and Oblivion, exploring queer possibilities of affirmation, extravagance, and extinction, on display at Slought from August 5, 2021 through September 9, 2021. The event is free and open to the public, and has been curated by Arien Wilkerson of Tnmot Aztro. An opening performance/rave will take place on Thursday, August 5, 2021 from 7:30pm-12am. The exhibition features work by artists including Kevin Hernández Rosa, Zygote, Domsentfrommars, ARL, Qiaira Riley, John Carlo Dionisio, Zay Ali and Arien Wilkerson, whose work serves as a commentary on love, loneliness, and the search for meaning amidst the pandemic.

For many, the isolation and suffering caused by COVID-19 led many to reflect on their own oblivion. Emotionally, loss and grief took hold inside many in our communities as we pondered our own extinction, even as we challenged ourselves to find new ways to relate to ourselves and one another. This was especially pronounced for many individuals in the Queer community, who experienced additional feelings of uncertainty on top of their everyday oppression. Some were forced to quarantine with people in their lives who made them feel unsafe, while others managed to foster new relationships in rebellion against the constant uneasiness of the circumstances. This exhibition invites us to consider how these times have profoundly altered how we cared for one another and ourselves, as well as how we frame and think about love itself.

In her book Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments (2019), Saidiya Hartman examines Black intimate life in Philadelphia and elsewhere, and explores the wayward lifestyles that many Black women developed in the early twentieth century in the wake of past confinement, flight and captivity. Black women, she writes, sought "to wander, be unmoored, adrift, rambling, roving, cruising, strolling and seeking." Love and Oblivion seeks to similarly convey the wayward lifestyles of queer Black trans women, Black trans nonbinary, and other gender nonconforming individuals during this pandemic. At the same time, the project also conveys how many came to reject the Afrofuturist belief in endless possibilities. "Already fighting for existence with the puissant, internalized omnipresence of chattel slavery," curator Arien Wilkerson argues, a different relation to futurity emerged for many in these communities. The desire to not be remembered and to be actively forgotten by the public emerged, as did a desire to exist alongside the void of obscurity, nonexistence, and emptiness. Beyond pain and suffocation, beyond the very idea of futurity itself, Love and Oblivion seeks to stage the existential condition of living with "no future" -- a manifesto, in effect, for radically accepting all that is unknown.

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"Queer Black trans women, black trans non binary and gender non conforming folks, femmes, studs, butch queens and faggots of all sexual orientations have largely been vilified not only for our existence yet throughout the puissant internalized existential feeling of chattel slavery.

Our truths shift over time - and some things that once were true, may not be true in the present. The pandemic taught us more about relationships than we liked to know. We entered into a world where the possibilities of the unknown became so close to us, so attached to the mechanisms of how we navigated the world. We used to think being in a state of unconsciousness or unawareness brings us pleasure, nirvana, or ecstasy. The reality Covid re-introduced ourselves to challenged us as humans who are continuously running a race of trying to relate to one another. [...]

Oblivion is beyond the idea of future, it's no future. The exhibition also lives in a state of no future, where we think beyond just the mechanics of black Afro futurism and how those mechanics can seem like utilitarian geometrical notions of the solidity and at times commentary on how we constantly live in a state of trying to figure out the unknown future."

-- Arien Wilkerson

Arien Wilkerson (They/she) is a Philadelphia-based gender fluid, black queer choreographer, performer, filmmaker, and installation artist. Wilkerson is the founder of Tnmot Aztro, a collaborative multidisciplinary performance installation company that considers the complexities within art that derive from the alienation of objects, identities, the body, sounds, and humans. Wilkerson has received numerous nominations and awards, including The National Endowment for the Arts "Big Read" Grant (2018), the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund award (2018), and was a New England Foundation for the Arts Rebecca Blunk Fund Awardee (2018).

Qiaira Riley is an interdisciplinary artist whose work explores archiving, Black women's cooking phenomenology, ancestral veneration, internet art, and simulacra.

Domsentfrommars is an interdisciplinary artist and performer, who works at Tnmot Aztro and is directing work with the company for 2021.

Kevin creates Ietsisic devotional sculptures from naturally eroded and insidiously mundane found objects.

John Dioniso is a fashion photographer who values the authentic and passionate movement.

ZYGOTE is an experimental sound duo comprising Zechara Trinity Powell and Travis Golden.

"If she could feel deeply, she could be free. She knew that beauty was not a luxury, but like food and water a requirement for living."

"What took place behind closed doors of a rented room in a lodging house was a moment, an interaction of the revolution of black intimate life that was taking place in New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago in the first decades of the twentieth century. It was part of the general unrest that came to define the age and the New Negro."

— Saidiya Hartman, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals (2019)

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