Simone Leigh is a sculptor and, increasingly, a social sculptor. In her work for the 10th Berlin Biennale, the artist is drawn to the enduring tactics of black feminist resistance. Through an ongoing research process, Leigh has connected her social practice with the legacy of the United Order of Tents, which was set up in 1867 as a secret society of mutual aid among black nurses and still continues to give courage and succor to women as they enter the battlefields of everyday life.
Leigh’s video work Untitled (M*A*S*H) (2018) imagines a fictive order of black nurses operating on the front of the Korean War, a conflict that began between the United States and North Korea in 1950 and never officially ceased. Like M*A*S*H—the long-running American TV show (1972–83) it parodies—the work directs attention to the overlooked life in the staging grounds. Showcasing the agonizing choices faced by those who staff the tented encampments of war, it perhaps also serves as a reminder that our neighborhoods remain a warfront too. Using only artist’s tools, Leigh asks: How do we transform ourselves and others?