“There’s a connection between me and place in my lens-based work, as well as in my sculptural practice,” Benjamin says. “I am interested in visualizing and mapping me and place in the Caribbean.” Benjamin has traveled around the Caribbean, Brazil, and Senegal researching the culture around seascapes and coastal space. “I am particularly interested in the repositioning of the Caribbean from colonial plantocracy to tourism destination and how photography, as early as the late nineteenth century, was instrumental in crafting the carefully constructed imaginary of the region as a picturesque tropical paradise.”
For the exhibition, Benjamin has created new works that expand upon his continued interest in time and timelines, including a new iteration of his CORE sculptures. Made of cornmeal, sand, and beach detritus, each of these sculptures is site-specific and resemble core samples, with objects embedded like stratigraphic layers.
Benjamin pairs the sculptures with images that are hung on the wall; like the CORE works, these images map time and space, but not necessarily following logic or chronology. The exhibition includes new iterations of an ongoing body work of altered archival photographs that circulated widely in travel media, such as postcards, and were instrumental in constructing a paradisiacal tropical imaginary of the Caribbean. These archival interventions are paired with contemporary photographs made during Benjamin’s travels, with some produced during his residency. Contemporary landscape photographs are treated with a veneer of blue paint, creating a “day for night” effect, once popular in cinema, evoking memory and signaling the trope of the “tropical dream.”