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Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul


Helen Cammock, I Will Keep My Soul, 2023 (film still). Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London.


The Rivers Institute and U.N.O. Gallery present:

Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul
Oct 14th - December 17 2023

Organized by the Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought

An exhibition of film, poetry, performance, archival documents, and books, Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul is rooted in the social history, geography, and community of New Orleans. British artist Helen Cammock arrived in New Orleans for the first time in January 2022 as part of a residency with the Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought and the Amistad Research Center. I Will Keep My Soul gathers encounters and observations, figured in text and image, of her experiences in the city—it is a gathering on gathering, on the indissociable relationship between art, politics, and the power of assembly.


Drawn in part from archival materials in the Amistad Research Center, I Will Keep My Soul tells the story of artist Elizabeth Catlett’s struggle for agency, creative autonomy, and support throughout her 1976 commission for the Louis Armstrong sculpture in New Orleans’s Armstrong Park. Catlett’s protracted process, revealed through letters and fraught exchanges, acts as a mirror to both past and present, asking how to be artist and activist—and free.


Through a polyphony of contemporary and historical voices—from archivists, artists, writers, and musicians to the protagonists of the civil rights movement, both seen and unseen—Cammock invites both rhyme and dissonance. To these voices she adds her own poetry—and the sound of her trumpet—an instrument she began practicing in New Orleans.

I Will Keep My Soul is an extended query into an American story of art and activism, of culture and capital, of being and belonging. It is accompanied by an eponymous publication co-imprinted by Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, the California African American Museum, and Siglio Press (March 2023). In New Orleans, Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul is organized by Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought (Rivers) and presented at the University of New Orleans's St. Claude Gallery. This exhibition is curated by Jordan Amirkhani, Andrea Andersson and Jade Flint (Rivers). A previous iteration of the exhibition was organized in partnership with Essence Harden (CAAM) for Art + Practice (Los Angeles) as part of a multi-year collaboration between CAAM and Rivers. CAAM at A+P is a five-year collaboration.


Both the exhibition and publication are made possible by the generous support of the Rosa Mary Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, the Teiger Foundation, and the generosity of Stephen Reily. Research was completed through the Amistad-Rivers Research Residency supported by the Mellon Foundation.



Helen Cammock, I Will Keep My Soul, 2023 (film still). Courtesy of the artist and Kate MacGarry, London



Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul. Installation view: U.N.O. Gallery, Rivers Institute, 2023. Photo: Alex Marks



Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul. Installation view: U.N.O. Gallery, Rivers Institute, 2023. Photo: Alex Marks



Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul. Installation view: U.N.O. Gallery, Rivers Institute, 2023. Photo: Alex Marks



Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul. Installation view: U.N.O. Gallery, Rivers Institute, 2023. Photo: Alex Marks


Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul. Installation view: U.N.O. Gallery, Rivers Institute, 2023. Photo: Alex Marks



Artist’s Biography

Helen Cammock (b. 1970, Staffordshire, UK) is an artist working in film, photography, print, text, song, and performance and examines mainstream historical and contemporary narratives about Blackness, womanhood, oppression and resistance, wealth and power, poverty and vulnerability throughout her practice. Her works often cut across time and geography, layering multiple voices as she investigates the cyclical nature of histories in her visual and aural assemblages.


In 2017, Cammock won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and in 2019 was the joint recipient of The Turner Prize. She has exhibited and performed worldwide with recent solo shows including *Bass Notes and Site Lines at Amant in Brooklyn, NY (2023), Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My Soul presented at Art + Practice in Los Angeles, CA and at the St. Claude Gallery at the University of New Orleans in Louisiana (2023), They Call it Idlewild at the Oakville Galleries in Ontario, Canada (2023), behind the eye is the promise of rain at Kestner Gesellshaft in Hannover, Germany (2022), Concrete Feathers and Porcelain Tacks at The Photographer’s Gallery in London, UK (2021), Beneath the Surface of Skin at STUK Art Centre in Leuven, Belgium (2021), Che Si Può Fare (What Can be Done) at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, UK (2019), Che Si Può Fare at the Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy (2019), and The Long Note at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Ireland (2019). Group shows include Breathing at the Hamburger Kunstalle in Hamburg, Germany (2022) and Radio Ballads at the Serpentine Galleries in London, UK (2022).



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