Cracker Politics, The Limits of Colonial Knowledge
By Tatiana Mouarbes
Regional culture, recorded history, and their disjuncture is the stuff of artist Michael Adno’s multivalent work Cracker Politics, The Limits of Colonial Knowledge. Since 2013, the artist has been involved in this ongoing research project, centered on an exploration of Florida’s colonial history and its fractal legacy in the state’s contemporary period. Adno’s aesthetic and conceptual approach in Cracker Politics involves interdisciplinary research and fieldwork into complex and conflicting micro-histories. He traces seemingly disparate information through various institutional structures and work on-site to uncover repressed historical connections, isolating those forms capable of complicating the overarching narratives of history from which they are excluded. This inquiry has taken the artist to archives, historical societies, sites and communities in Florida, Washington D.C., and New York, where he has collected visual, textual, and filmic historical information, along with his own photographs and materials, assembling an iconographical anthology of his own to work from.
What marks the significance of Adno’s project is his preoccupation with institutions - historical and cultural, local and national - as centers of knowledge production inextricably tied to the communities and histories they represent. Adno’s nuanced investigation into the structural logic of collecting and framing history through institutional bodies takes place at the level of content, i.e., what’s displayed, and form, i.e., how it’s displayed. Through this mimetic gesture, Adno stages a return to the institution in order to foreground its author function in the construction of history and its role in national identity. Elaborating micro-histories and the hidden connections they avow, Adno divulges in occluded historical matter and local lore that makes up the contemporary cultural and political landscape. Part of which he finds exists in fragments scattered across regional, state, and national archives in addition to the materials generated by his work with researchers, historians, and local community members. What the diverse array of material can attest to, then, is the institution’s involvement in complex processes of inscription by which materials housed in their collection are embedded within a hegemonic construction of history if misrepresented. Beginning from points of omission, Adno’s Cracker Politics aims not to fill in these historical chasms but rather labors to open them up for critical reflection; using the methods and tools of the institutional apparatus to produce a more layered understanding of national history in our present-day moment.