Biennale of Sydney

Gina Athena Ulysse


Gina Athena Ulysse

Born 1966 in Pétion-Ville, Haiti
Lives and works in Connecticut, United states

Gina Athena Ulysse is a feminist interdisciplinary artist whose approach considers manifestations of power and vulnerability in unprocessed horrors of the past. With her method / praxis of rasanblaj (gathering ideas, things, people and spirits) she confronts the visceral in the structural. Her work reorients notions of aesthetics by pursuing beauty in the simplest of natural things.

An Equitable Human Assertion RASANBLAJ 

Calabashes, cowries, herbs, natural pigments, resin …

What if our point of departure in encounters with difference stemmed not from domination, but an impulse of radical vulnerability? What would we turn to if we did not cling to power? Would we recognize and comprehend that difference as an opening? Expansive. Limitless. Extremities. Revelation. A space to meditatively confront and embrace our socially limited imagination? Would we become more aware of our sensibilities … feel a multitude of sentiments, feel that, as Toni Cade Bambara asserts, ‘the revolution begins with the self … in the self’. Deference. Humility. Surrender. Grace. Can these sentiments be reflected? What reflects them?  

An Equitable Human Assertion is a site-specific rasanblaj (a gathering of ideas, things, people and spirits). Variations of the primary materials in this work are found all over the world including Australia. The Kwi – shells made from the kalbas or calabash tree (Lagenaria siceraria) – are the simple, sacred and profane holder of rasanblaj. They are known for their multifunctionality and significations, routinely used as containers for eating and storage, carvings, musical instruments, and as religious objects. In this rasanblaj, the Kwi are and have become living things … primordial beings possessing aesthetics in their myriad forms, patina, textures and vibrations. Reflected in the Kwi and other materials of this piece (cowries, indigo, ochre … etc.) is the ancestral imperative in Afro-diasporic traditions and found referents in the long history of Indigenous Australian artistic expression. This work is an assertion of shared attachment to the land and comparability in experiences of self-determination in the persistent shadow of colonialism, displacement and fracture. This installation performance cautiously assembles physical and sonic materials in a movement toward wholeness and a quest for beauty in nature, despite our human tendency to denigrate the earth and each other. With their inherent force, the Kwi create possibilities for new encounters.

Courtesy the artist

Exhibited at