Turner Award-winning British artist Helen Cammock’s first exhibition in the United States features film, poetry, performance, archival documents, and books rooted in the social history, geography, and community of New Orleans, a place she visited for the first time in January 2022. Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul is a gathering of encounters and observations, figured in text and image, of her experiences in the city. Cammock convenes both contemporary and historical voices—from archivists, artists, writers, and musicians to the protagonists of the civil rights movement—and adds her own through poetry, ceramics, and the sound of her trumpet, an instrument she began practicing in New Orleans.
Drawn in part from archival materials in the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans, I Will Keep My Soul is threaded with the story of artist Elizabeth Catlett’s struggle for agency, creative autonomy, and support throughout her 1976 commission for the Louis Armstrong sculpture in New Orleans’s Armstrong Park. Catlett’s protracted process, revealed through letters and fraught exchanges, acts as a mirror to both past and present, asking how to be artist and activist—and free.
Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul is organized by the Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought (Rivers) and the California African American Museum (CAAM) and presented at Art + Practice (A+P). This exhibition is curated by Jordan Amirkhani and Andrea Andersson, Rivers, in partnership with Essence Harden, CAAM, as part of a multiyear collaboration between Rivers and CAAM. CAAM at A+P is a five-year collaboration.
Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul is made possible by the generous support of the RosaMary Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Research for this exhibition was conducted in the archives of the Amistad Research Center as part of the Amistad-Rivers Research Residency supported by the Mellon Foundation.