It seems, at least, to flutter proudly. Hung from a tall pole in front of the BMA, the flag is more than large enough (at 6 by 10 feet) to catch the eye of passing motorists, and on a breezy spring day, it comes to life, its familiar pattern of white spangles on a blue field and tidy stripes rippling lightly. Nothing remarkable here, perhaps: just one of so many American flags displayed before so many staid stone facades. But stop a moment and look closer. The white stripes, you’ll notice, have been replaced with black ones, and the stars with skulls and crossbones. The stock icon has yielded to something darker and more ominous.
And it offers, in the process, an apt introduction to the artwork of Stephanie Syjuco, whose Vanishing Point (Overlay), a three-part installation at the BMA, is slated to run until May 16. Syjuco, who was born in Manila in 1974 and is now based in San Francisco, has developed a dynamic and provocative creative practice that combines photography, sculpture, and installation and that reveals an abiding interest in historical narratives, archival materials, and the construction of power and of notions of authenticity.
That may sound like a mouthful, but the works in this show are conceptually crisp, thematically unified, and sharply pointed. Each uses historical material centrally in generating a potent critique of America’s racist and xenophobic pasts, laying bare the violence that has long characterized this nation’s collective national unconscious.