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frieze video - 30 Nov 2018

The Thing: Hank Willis Thomas’s Pin Collection

The first pin I got was ‘Keep the Faith Baby’ – those words were probably the first I read on my own, long before I understood them

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The first pin I got was ‘Keep the Faith Baby’, something that my mother Deborah Willis, artist and photo historian, had in her collection for a long time pinned to a board.

Those words were probably the first I read on my own, long before I understood them.

It was only at some point in my mid-twenties that I realized ‘Keep the Faith Baby’ was a kind of slogan for Adam Clayton Powell, a civil rights activist and congressman. It was then that I realized that these objects and images that seem inane, and kind of kitsch, can have other meanings and narratives embedded in them.

- Hank Willis Thomas

‘The Thing’ is a new series of eight short films starring Jarvis Cocker, Neil Tennant, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Goshka Macuga, Jeremy Scott, Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Mack and Haegue Yang. For the series, Frieze asked each artist to choose a single object of significance from their working or living environment and discuss what makes it special. Directed by Peter Strickland and produced by Jacqui Edenbrow, the series is based on a long-running frieze d/e magazine column, ‘Das Ding’, featuring artists such as Brian O'Doherty, Adrian Piper and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. Read all the previous series’ respondents here.

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist living and working in New York City. His work focuses on themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His solo exhibition ‘What We Ask Is Simple’ runs at the Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte, North Carolina until 2 March, 2019.