Jeffrey Gibson, ‘Nothing is Eternal,’ American flag video wrapping up in New York, Bay Area and online

Jeffrey Gibson presents Nothing is Eternal, a newly commissioned video with musical composition. Conceived during this pandemic era, the immersive video work depicts the American flag in unsettling stillness, as a marker of territory, and projected onto bodies, while set to a heartrending soundtrack. At once melancholic and beautiful, Gibson renders the iconic image of the flag as both elastic and unyielding. The slow transformation through time, color, and form reflects both a distillation of our social collapse and the reinvention of self and community, referencing the movement and change that is so desired for this nation.

The first exhibition from the Wattis Institute since it closed in March due to COVID–19, “Jeffrey Gibson: Nothing is Eternal” is a hybrid, part in-person, part online exhibition that circumvents traditional institutional barriers with screenings outside the physical space of the Wattis Institute.

Nothing is Eternal belongs to no one and everyone, a video that moves through the Bay Area and beyond like water, slow and stretched across time. It appears in multiple locations simultaneously or in one for a while. It is, like the rest of us, ungrounded and melancholic and it is, like this time, irresolute. 

It embodies the contradiction of emotions that pervade our lives, yesterday as much as today, as we head towards an uncertain future. The work posits hope as much as it evinces a sense of mourning. Gibson asks viewers to imagine a destiny beyond our comprehension, on a pathway paved with both tremendous love and immense sorrow.

The work is as best a response that could be formed to address the violence of institutional timelines, of expectations that remain unreasonable and unsustainable, of a world in crisis, and of living in late capitalism, a train that continues to move with or without its passengers. It is produced through the care and love of many people on each coast, through numerous tears, and under extraordinary, demoralizing conditions.

Reopening should not be a return. There is no request to come back to the institution the way it was. This is an invitation to look outwards, to decenter ourselves, and to conceive of another day, elsewhere.

Nothing is Eternal tracks my impulses during this time,” says Jeffrey Gibson, who began working on the video at the beginning of the COVID–19 pandemic, amidst global uncertainty; the unjust police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many other Black individuals; and the growing unrest and division in the United States. “My attempts to stabilize myself, to see myself, to see others, to feel, and to try and focus and not lose sight that there is a future on the other side of this particular moment. The challenge is to not hold on too tight, to not retreat into our past habits and comfort zones, and to allow change to happen even if it makes us feel destabilized and uncomfortable.”

Schedule of screenings and events:

November 13 – November 20:
New York City – every night at 8:00 pm outdoor screenings on Bowery and Houston, organized in partnership with Art at a Time Like This and For Which It Stands. Free.

October 30 – December 12:
Online viewing at the Wattis Institutes’ homepage.

December 3 – December 11:
944 Simmonds Road, Sausalito, CA – every Thursday and Friday, 5 pm – 7:00 pm outdoor screenings at Headlands Center for the Arts. Free. Attendees must wear a mask and book a 25-minute viewing slot in advance.

About Jeffrey Gibson

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, Colorado, U.S.) combines Native American traditions with the visual languages of Modernism to explore the contemporary confluence of personal identity, culture, history, and international social narratives.

Gibson is a member of the Chocktaw and Cherokee nations.

Gibson’s pieces range from garments and sculptural objects to paintings and video and often involve intricately detailed and technically demanding handwork using materials such as beads, metal jingles, fringe, and deer and elk hide. Mixed with references from popular culture, queer iconography, and contemporary political issues, the materials take on a different meaning while also calling into question the line distinguishing contemporary art from traditional modes of cultural production.

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