The project of “Subject-Object Ambivalence” is to design a cultural institution that privileges, and spatializes, Blackness. In this new vision of cultural space, individuals occupy both the subject and object positions. The simultaneous awareness of being seen by others as an object, while occupying a racialized subjectivity, is a dissonant reality of the Black experience in America. In his seminal 1903 work The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois referred to this dissonant reality as “double-consciousness,” the “veil,” or, more simply, “two-ness.”
Occupying a place to both see and be seen, as Tony Bennett writes, collapses the disconnected experiences of either being a subject who sees or being an object that is seen. The resulting ambivalence—of being both a subject and object—is the exact experience of two-ness Du Bois speaks to and Black people experience. My project posits that providing a subject-object experience in an institutional context actively subverts and dismantles the traditional hierarchy, power, and distance imposed by institutions through time. What results is a framework for rethinking institutions and challenging the dominant paradigm of the production of knowledge and culture.