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Photo by Cauleen Smith, Lessons in Semaphore, 2014 (still). Courtesy the artist.

Cauleen Smith

Signals from Here

March 5 – 15; September 17 – October 28, 2020

Cauleen Smith (b. 1967, Riverside, California) is an artist working in film, installation, sculpture, and performance. Trained as a filmmaker, Smith spent the earliest years of her career making experimental films grounded in Black feminism. Smith’s early films were recognized in film festivals including Sundance and SXSW, but did not share an aesthetic of subject matter that interested the commercial film world at that time. Influenced by her father’s interest in the Japanese arts of bonsai and suiseki during her childhood, Smith moved into more expansive visual arts, combining sculpture, installation, and film in immersive multimedia installations.

Smith presents five films and videos on High Line Channels. In Three Songs About Liberation (2017), three women recite accounts from Gerda Lerner’s 1972 book Black Women in White America: A Documentary History. The video Crow Requiem (2016) aligns the common association of crows with evil, darkness, and danger with that of the false association between Black men and violence. The video follows a community of crows migrating between Syracuse and Auburn, New York across the history of those two cities. Lessons in Semaphore (2014), the inspiration for the exhibition’s title, features dancer taisha pagget as she sends a message to her brother via semaphore flags in a grassy lot in Chicago. In H-E-L-L-O (2014), nine musicians activate historical sites in New Orleans with the iconic five-note greeting from the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Song for Earth and Folk (2013) is a blues ballad between the planet and its human inhabitants composed of found footage from The Chicago Film Archive and scored by the Chicago-based band The Eternals.

Smith’s exhibition on the High Line concurs with her exhibition Mutualities on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Signals from Here is organized by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.


Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support is provided by Shelley Fox Aarons and Philip E. Aarons, The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson. High Line Channel is supported, in part, by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.