Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner (from Manifest Destiny, The Musical series), Cosmo Whyte, (Atlanta, GA)
Southern Constellations Fellow. July 2016. Sound sculpture, armoire, dishware, glass pane.

Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner (from Whyte’s series Manifest Destiny, the Musical) is an interactive sound sculpture in the public communal dining area focusing on migration, identity, and Southern hospitality.

The sound sculpture plays a 5-minute, distorted, dub track made by the artist with sound samples recorded at Elsewhere. The piece loops every hour through a subwoofer installed on the side of an antique armoire that houses stacked piles of bone china dishware that precariously tremble or violently rattle. Participants are invited to further manipulate the sound and dishware by amplifying the bass at different levels. Etched on the glass door of the cabinet is a quote from Jacques Derrida’s seminars on hospitality: “In this manner of weeping, both hands pressed upon our eyes, we welcome.”

Guess Who connects Whyte’s previous work with themes from Elsewhere and the Southern Constellations Program. As a “sanctuary city,” Greensboro shows that outlying Southern regions can often be major resettlement sites for refugees or immigrants. At the heart of Manifest Destiny, the Musical is the 19th-century doctrine that validated the “inevitable” expansion of US territory throughout the Americas. Whyte uses this text to explore nationalism and exceptionalism in order to find new ways of thinking through migration. During the residency Whyte hosted special guests who recently immigrated to the area to share a meal at Elsewhere and interact with his work.

As a Jamaican-raised artist based in Atlanta, Whyte situates his work in the liminal space between early culture shock and final acclimatization, interrogating his own body (racialized as black, gendered as man) and memories to enter collective political examination. Guess Who speaks to both perceived threats of changing demographics outpacing social responses and the historical implications of displacement, providing audiences with an open-ended question as a final resting point.

Photo credit: Amelia Nura

Photo credit: Amelia Nura

Photo credit: Guido Villalba Portel