Het Nieuwe Instituut invited artist Shertise Solano to create a public artwork for Rotterdam’s metro stations. Sharing her vision of Black Lives Matter, Solano’s Me/We is a display-screen photo montage that invites travellers to take a moment to reflect on what the movement means to them.
The starting point of Solano’s piece is the Muhammad Ali poem Me/We, a two-word text, open to multiple interpretations, that the boxing legend came up with when addressing a group of Harvard students in 1975. Like the poem, you can also view Shertise Solano's work in different ways: both as a celebration of community spirit and the collective on the one hand, and of pride and gratitude for individual talents and opportunities on the other. We ask her a few questions abut the piece.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Rotterdam and grew up in Delfshaven, a place where I still live with love. I graduated from the theatre school in Utrecht and worked as an actress and theatre maker for many years. A while ago, I made the switch to visual art, and a lot has happened since then. This year I was accepted for the Master of Fine Arts programme at the Piet Zwart Institute here in Rotterdam.
What’s the story behind your work on the display screens of Rotterdam’s metro stations?
Muhammad Ali’s poem conveys an important message for our own time, in which increasing divisions are becoming more visible at the same time as a growing sense of mass solidarity and togetherness. For me, his words Me/We connect the individual with the collective, making ‘I’ and ‘we’ one.
I think that the image I’ve made visualises the strong identity of the collective that is constantly growing and multiplying and that has a high degree of alertness and activity. When you watch Ali perform the poem, you can also see the joy that he brings to it, in a high ‘Wheee!’ This gives the ‘we’ many meanings for me: the happy child on a swing (Wheee!), the cry of union with our ancestors, or the exclamation that now activates all your (hidden) talents to work together.
What conversation would you like to start with the public through your work?
I hope people ask themselves these questions: Who am I today? What can I do today? What can ‘we’ mean together?
What does Black Lives Matter mean to you personally?
Support! Power! Commitment!
Past, present or future – which has the most influence on your work?
My work comes from within, where past, present and future live together. That’s why my work is never influenced by one time, and that’s something that always happens indirectly.
Anything else you’d like to share?
“Who is the greatest? Me / Wheeeee!!”
Shertise Solano's work Me/We can be seen in the Rotterdam metro (at Dijkzicht, Blaak, Centraal, Zuidplein, Wilhelminaplein, Schiedam Centrum and Kralingsezoom stations) throughout July 2020.