The Katastwóf Karavan
Kara Walker and Jason Moran
New Orleans, LA
Installation view: Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, Prospect New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, 2018
Photos by Alex Marks
Public installation and performance
Katastwóf Karavan is an artwork that includes a fully functional calliope (a steam-powered musical instrument resembling an organ) housed in a parade wagon. It is a custom-fabricated instrument that pipes a composition written by the American jazz pianist Jason Moran inspired by the songs and sounds associated with the long history of African American protest music. The sounds programmed by artist Kara Walker include a compilation of jazz, gospel, and songs of Black celebration and protest. The work is titled after the Haitian Creole word for “catastrophe” as an allusion to the subjugation, violence, and humiliation of life for African Americans in the Antebellum South. The four scenes portrayed in this work feature silhouetted figures in Walker’s distinctive style. The work was originally designed for Algiers Point in New Orleans, which was used as a holding center for African captives before they were ferried across the river to be sold into a lifetime of slavery.