R.I.P. Germain’s new exhibition “Jesus Died For Us, We Will Die For Dudus!” opened in February at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (I.C.A.). Saturated with references that explore niche sentiments within lawless and baggy spaces, “Jesus Died For Us, We Will Die For Dudus” is quite possibly one of the most poignant pieces of art happening in the U.K. right now.
The hyper-real aspects of the exhibition are both haunting and mesmerising. How bizarre to think that objects we glaze over in our everyday lives become spheres of immediate significance. But how accurate is the real world? The ‘retail’ environment the audience is launched into at the start of the exhibit will be alienating to most. Defining characteristics that may only be familiar to us via popular T.V. shows that displays the gritty underground of drug manufacturing.
Known for his indeterminate brilliance, R.I.P. Germain wants to invite the audience into a world that examines the complex logic of cultural gatekeeping within Black culture and the (mis)perception of these dynamics in a broader (white) world. But this comes at a price. Because when R.I.P. Germain does something, he does it in full. Tapping into all five of the audience’s senses, he invites the audience to touch and move items around. But adding to the realism even more, he specifically curated perfume scents to hang over each room like a dark cloud. As soon as you enter, your mind drifts to purgatory. They are scents that neither put you in a good place nor a bad area; they serve to locate the audience at the scene of the crime.
The Upper gallery is something special. R.I.P. describes the rooms as a “niche of black culture” filled with statement jewelry pieces with natural diamonds.
The parallels between the two galleries are shocking. Both display black identity as a commodity to non-black people; the stereotypes are very loud and robust while the layers to each piece remain at a slow boil, ready to explode from the tensions. Questions surrounding the notion of commerce and accessibility offer a critical look at consumption structures—specifically Blackness under the gaze of white discourses.
Jesus Died For Us, We Will Die For Dudus! is a puzzle. Trying to find the answers to the clues R.I.P. Germain has laid out becomes a relentless expedition. Everything appears evident in the light until the layers start revealing themselves. There are many questions left that one is desperate to have answered. But maybe some questions aren’t meant to be solved.
Discover more from GUAP’s Arts & Culture section here.