Spoons in Chains (I Wonder Which Child Didn't Eat Today)

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    Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio
Metal spoons and rusted chain
9 x 4 inches
Collection of
Souls Grown Deep Foundation

Spoons in Chains, a pair of crossed eating spoons hanging from a metal chain, is not just about bondage, lynchings, hangings, and the reified aphorism that hunger begets crime, anger, insurgency, and ultimately the lopsided social relations that result in such violence; nor even is this piece merely about slightly less obvious givens concerning the historical "starving and domination" of black people (one thinks of the tactics of sieges) or even the "starving and keeping ignorant" of black people (the X is after all the mark of illiteracy). What happens when another sense of the chain—of the chain as a self-referential metonym—is introjected here? And if the spoon is not abruptly assumed to be only a metaphor for food, but can be seen also for its instrumentality, its utility as lever, then one begins to experience this piece as depicting intermediaries trapped within linkages—more like synapses than perceptions per se. We encounter a commentary on the nature of signification itself and the true difficulties of African American or human survival: that the levers or conduits (our spoons) of sustaining "signifieds" are bound up not in chains but as chains or with chains of signifiers, whose composite sign—its longed-for unity of signified and signifier—is the X, the most overdetermined mark available, the sign of signification spinning at the crossroads, scratching its head, returning there forever but also always leaving. Spoons in Chains "liberates" longing from the dichotomy of "freedom versus bondage."