The two Rebeccas of this installation’s title are the nineteenth-century figures Rebecca Cox Jackson (1795–1870), a Black spiritualist and free woman who, among other callings, founded the first Black Shaker community in the United States, and her companion and protégé Rebecca Perot. The early American Shakers and their particular form of communal spirituality reflect an essential nexus for Smith’s investigation of radical generosity and divine inspiration.
Jackson experienced a religious awakening in 1830 and subsequently left her settled married life in Philadelphia to travel as an itinerant preacher, an indication of the ways in which ecstatic experience functioned for her and other women of her time as a source of personal power. In the course of her travels, Jackson discovered the Shakers of Watervliet, New York, a group whose spiritual practice aligned closely with her own beliefs. Welcomed as a prophet, she stayed there for four years before departing with Perot to establish the Philadelphia “family” of Black Shakers. Following Jackson’s death in 1871, Perot adopted her surname—fully conflating their identities—and continued to lead the Philadelphia community for forty years. In this installation, two abstract, hand-painted “scratch” films dedicated to the Rebeccas are projected onto rotating disco balls that disperse the light and the Rebeccas’ visionary energies throughout the space.
Space Station: Two Rebeccas, 2018
Wallpaper, disco balls, turntable, motor, fur, shag carpet, two projectors, and two-channel digital video (color, sound); Rebecca Jackson: 2 minutes, 25 seconds; Rebecca Peroth: 2 minutes, 57 seconds
Courtesy of the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York