Carrie Mae Weems’s “People in Conditions” fixes six dancers in the snow and rain. Extracted from an immersive video cyclorama first exhibited at the Park Avenue Armory in 2021, the photographic series in blue hangs at the center of the exhibition of the same title. Flanking the portraits are selections from older series, all in black-and-white. Among the photographs are Pergamon Museum, 2006, and the triptych Holocaust Memorial, 2007, images that find the artist gazing upon monumental sites while the viewer’s eye rests upon her back. Weems’s posture, absorbed and anonymous, defies a long tradition of frontal portraiture to suggest that observation is contingent upon passivity.
Hanging opposite the dancers is Someone to Watch Over Me, 2008, from Weems’s series “Constructing History.” Within this frame, four white-winged women converse in a garden. The quartet stand as mnemonic witnesses to the course of history and the present as seen by the artist’s camera. The exhibition’s lone video, Holocaust Memorial, 2013, sends the music of Gregory Wanamaker whistling through the room. The footage captures Weems performing between the columns of the monument two years after its design and construction by Peter Eisenman. Punctuated by claps, her dance awakens silent testimonies.