Central City is emerging as an arts district as new spaces like Gallery X and the Creative Alliance of New Orleans' Myrtle Banks Building gallery expand the offerings on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Meanwhile, some edgy works by Danish-Trinidadian artist Jeannette Ehlers at the nearby George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art lend a palpable sense of critical mass to the mix. As a Creole native of Denmark, Ehlers was shocked when she learned that her Nordic homeland had a slave-based colonial past. The Danish West Indies almost vanished from grade school history books after becoming the U.S. Virgin Islands in 1917. That realization caused Ehlers to create performances, videos and sculpture related to its obscured history. The most lyrical video, Black Magic in the White House (pictured), is based on the colonial governor's mansion's complex history with African-Caribbean people expressed via a dancing spirit's mysterious candles and Voodoo diagrams. Whip It Good is a darkly visceral and unsettling look at the motivational role played by whips as a spectral yet physically forceful figure literally lashes out with abandon. Although her work is widely exhibited in Europe, this is Ehler's first full-fledged U.S. solo exhibit, and New Orleans' Caribbean heritage makes it a natural fit.
More works about nations and migrations appear in Gallery X's visually sparse yet intellectually weighty False Flags expo featuring works like Ruti Sela and Maayan Amir's Flags of Convenience video exploring the tragic history of big companies obtaining shipping charters from tiny nations, enabling the shippers to operate outside the law. Visually, Tania Bruguera's activist conceptual project, The Francis Effect, is barely there yet probably the most weighty of all — a simple banner and a petition to Pope Francis requesting that Vatican citizenship be extended to all immigrants everywhere — a gesture that would grant them legal status. The pope reportedly is considering it.