Who Has the Right to Opacity?
24 April 2024



Instructions, various materials & performative gestures 

↛  A template was provided to the installation team with instructions to cut a crescent-shaped aperture into a street-facing wall of the exhibition space.

↛  The initial proposal and contribution to this grant-associated exhibition, made in the beginning of October 2023, was rooted in trying to think through the complex interplay of capital — financial, social, and cultural — at play within arts funding, particularly in the aftermath of a global pandemic, and in the wake of initiatives to acknowledge previously under-recognized positions. 

↛  What are the different dynamics of a smile? Who benefits from what? What space do we have to move within institutionalized appreciation?

↛  A dialog was offered and opened to the curators to develop a work over the months leading up to the exhibition opening; the work started to mark the conditions of exhibition; the shifting political landscape shifted the motivations and meanings behind the proposed gesture. Some version of “a smile” remained.

2024         A Home for Something Unknown,  nbk,  Berlin

Other objects are placed, unlabeled, throughout the space and, sporadically, on the street beyond the gallery, including:

・ A mask made for a party in 2007; hung back-side out; it remains unclear if the brown face is mine or someone else’s. 

・ An enlarged and digitally altered scan of a pack of vintage German quotation-mark typographic labels.

> As an artist, teacher, and editor, Douglas Boatwright is invested in the politics of representation – particularly in how representation in regard to identity markers like race is instrumentalized within the machinery of the culture industry. He questions how conventions within processes of seeing, sensing, recognition, and valuation contribute to the preservation of existing power structures.

Boatwright frequently works site-specifically, intervening in institutional contexts to interrogate operational values and processes that remain suppressed from view. At n.b.k., Boatwright cut a crescent-shaped hole into a wall covering a street-facing window, creating an opening reminiscent of a comic-like grin. This disembodied smile provides and frames a view from the outside in and vice-versa.

Boatwright’s work aims to destabilize meaning production and to point out the ambivalence of a seemingly unambiguous gesture:

・  Is the smile an indication of approval, an extension of friendliness? ・  When perceived benevolence operates as a lubricator of social, cultural, and financial capital, what conditions might prompt a smile to shift to a marker of complacency?

・  How could these potential meanings exist simultaneously, or slip from one to the other?


A Home for Something Unknown exhibition booklet