Profiles  -   -  Share

American artist Cameron Rowland, selected as a MacArthur Fellow in 2019, endeavours to make visible the institutions, systems, and policies that perpetuate systemic racism and economic inequality through his work. The Wesleyan University graduate’s research-intensive practice centres around the display of objects and documents whose provenance and operations expose the legacies of racial capitalism and underscore the forms of exploitation that permeate many aspects of our daily lives.

In a 2016 exhibition, 91020000, Rowland presented a series of objects, including courtroom benches, desks, and leveler rings for manhole openings used in road construction, manufactured by New York State prison inmates, who are paid $0.10 to $1.14 an hour. Rowland also documents the procurement of the items from Corcraft, the market name for the Division of Correctional Industries within the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision. Corcraft sells the items at below market value to government and non-profit agencies, meaning, in effect, that such agencies are complicit in perpetuating injustices of the criminal justice system.

View this post on Instagram

#CameronRowland Pacotille, 2020 Brass manillas manufactured in Birmingham, 18th century; glass beads manufactured in Venice, 18th century 103 x 68 x 3 cm (40 ½ × 26 ¾ × 1 ⅛ inches) #Rental. . European goods traded for enslaved people were manufactured specifically for this purpose. Manillas were used as a one-directional currency, which Europeans would offer as payment but would never accept. The Portuguese determined the value of slave life at 12–15 manillas in the early 1500s. Birmingham was the primary producer of brass manillas in Britain, prior to the city’s central role in the Industrial Revolution. The British also used cheap beads acquired throughout Europe to buy slaves. Eric Williams describes the “triple stimulus to British industry” provided through the export of British goods manufactured for the purchasing of slaves, the processing of raw materials grown by slaves, and the formation of new colonial markets for British-made goods. The production of European goods for the slave trade supported domestic manufacturing markets. British trade in West Africa was understood to be nearly 100% profit. . “What renders the Negroe-Trade still more estimable and important is, that near Nine-tenths of those Negroes are paid for in Africa with British Produce and Manufactures only. . . . We send no Specie or Bullion to pay for the Products of Africa, but, ’tis certain, we bring from thence very large Quantities of Gold; . . . From which Facts, the Trade to Africa may very truly be said to be, as it were, all Profit to the Nation.” . Goods produced for the trade of slaves, which carried nearly no value in Europe, were called pacotille. Pacotille translates from French to English as “rubbish.” . Cameron Rowland: 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73 opens tonight from 6-8pm, all welcome. The exhibition will be open until 12 April, Tues – Sun, 12-9pm.

A post shared by Institute of Contemporary Arts (@icalondon) on


Running until 12 April 2020 at London’s ICA, Rowland presents his first UK show, entitled 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73, curated by Richard Birkett. A minimalistic display of paperwork and objects relating to the history of the transatlantic slave trade and the relationship between slavery and property ownership is supplemented by a meticulously written academic text composed by the artist. “Colonization and slavery expanded the definition of property throughout the British Empire. Colonized land and enslaved labor were made interdependent. In Barbados, by 1672, the enslaved were legally defined as chattel (moveable property) as well as real estate (immovable property). This exceptional legal status meant that the enslaved existed both as part of the plantation’s value and as a fungible commodity,” Rowland writes.

View this post on Instagram

#CameronRowland #Encumbrance, 2020 Mortgage; mahogany: 12 Carlton House Terrace, ground floor, hallway to gallery… The property relation of the enslaved included and exceeded that of chattel and real estate. Plantation mortgages exemplify the ways in which the value of people who were enslaved, the land they were forced to labor on, and the houses they were forced to maintain were mutually constitutive. Richard Pares writes that “[mortgages] became commoner and commoner until, by 1800, almost every large plantation debt was a mortgage debt.” Slaves simultaneously functioned as collateral for the debts of their masters, while laboring intergenerationally under the debt of the master. The taxation of plantation products imported to Britain, as well as the taxation of interest paid to plantation lenders, provided revenue for Parliament and income for the monarch. Mahogany became a valuable British import in the 18th century. It was used for a variety of architectural applications and furniture, characterizing Georgian and Regency styles. The timbers were felled and milled by slaves in Jamaica, Barbados, and Honduras among other British colonies. It is one of the few commodities of the triangular trade that continues to generate value for those who currently own it. All addresses at Carlton House Terrace are still owned by the Crown Estate, manager of land owned by the Crown since 1760. 12 Carlton House Terrace is leased to the ICA. The building includes 4 mahogany doors and 1 mahogany handrail. These 5 mahogany elements were mortgaged by the ICA to Encumbrance Inc. on January 16th, 2020 for £1000 each. These loans will not be repaid by the ICA. As security for these outstanding debts, Encumbrance Inc. will retain a security interest in these mahogany elements. An encumbrance is a right or interest in real property that does not prohibit its exchange but diminishes its value. The encumbrance will remain as long as the elements are part of the building. As reparation, this encumbrance seeks to limit the property’s continued accumulation of value for the Crown Estate. The Estate provides 75% of its revenue to the Treasury and 25% to the monarch. (All 5 pictured)

A post shared by ESSEX STREET (@essexstreetgallery) on


The artist has taken out a mortgage on the ICA’s mahogany doors, fitted when Carlton House Terrace was built in the 1830s. Mahogany was felled and worked by slaves and the building that the ICA leases still belongs to the Crown. Expanding on mortgaging’s use in British North America, K-Sue Park writes: “One way colonists imposed their own conception of property on land was first to impose their own conception of money and credit on indigenous people. Colonists extended credit to indigenous people to draw them into debt, inducing them to then take out “mortgages” on which they would later foreclose.”

View this post on Instagram

#CameronRowland probability of escape, 2020 Police car searchlight 50 x 15 x 29 cm “[I]f any poor small free-holder or other person kill a Negro or other Slave by Night, out of the Road or Common Path, and stealing, or attempting to steal his Provision, Swine, or other Goods, he shall not be accountable for it; any Law, Statute, or Ordinance to the contrary notwithstanding.” – ‘An Act for the Governing of Negroes,’ Barbados, 1688 “[I]f any person shall kill a slave stealing in his house or plantation by night, the said slave refusing to submit himself, such person shall not be liable to any damage or action for the same; any law, custom or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.” – ‘An Act for the Better Ordering of Slaves,’ South Carolina, 1690 “A citizen may arrest a person in the nighttime by efficient means as the darkness and the probability of escape render necessary, even if the life of the person should be taken, when the person: (a) has committed a felony;(b) has entered a dwelling house without express or implied permission;(c) has broken or is breaking into an outhouse with a view to plunder;(d) has in his possession stolen property; or(e) being under circumstances which raise just suspicion of his design to steal or to commit some felony, flees when h e is hailed.” – SC Code § 17-13-20 (2012), South Carolina, current statute … 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73 at #ICALondon Opening Tomorrow. Tuesday January 28 5-8PM. Exhibition on until April 12, 2020. Curated by #RichardBirkett @icalondon –

A post shared by ESSEX STREET (@essexstreetgallery) on


Elsewhere in the space, three police searchlights are installed against one wall. Strings of eighteenth-century manillas, brass armlets used as money, lie in a heap on the ground. A coin hangs on the wall near a framed lease for a mooring at the Albert Dock in Liverpool. The dock was historically at the centre of the British slave trade and the mooring will remain empty for the duration of Rowland’s lease; the coin is a guinea, made from gold mined in West Africa; and the manillas were British-made, used as currency to buy slaves. Rowland is providing new models for art to engage with justice and, in the process, throwing into question some of the basic premises of Western art, including the edifying power of the aesthetic object and the autonomy of the work of art itself.



Cameron Rowland, 3 & 4 Will. IV c. 73 at ICA | Open until 12 April 2020



Feature image: Cameron Rowland, New York State Unified Court System, 2016, oak wood, 419 × 146 × 91 cm. Courtesy: the artist and Essex Street, New York; photograph: Adam Reich

Stay up to date with Something Curated

Privacy Preference Center

Close your account?

Your account will be closed and all data will be permanently deleted and cannot be recovered. Are you sure?