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Contact Traces

May 9, 2021 - June 7, 2021

An array of small objects are organized in a grid pattern and fixed to a white wall, including a paper clip, various coins, a tea bag, a bottle cap . . .

Featuring works by Derya Akay, Lenka Clayton, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Ilana Harris-Babou, and Jenny Kendler

Care is difficult to define. Acts of caring for the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of ourselves and others can be variably contradictory: quotidian, yet revolutionary; selfish, yet virtuous; obligatory, yet emancipatory. In this past year, the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for social and racial justice, and the ongoing climate crisis have brought care’s urgency and significance to light. As a result, inevitable questions have surfaced: Is acknowledging our interdependence sufficient? Do the blurred lines of reciprocity offer something more? Contact Traces emerges from a year wherein support systems have failed or fallen horribly short of expectations. In the wake of these failures, caregiving is exposed as a vital web of interrelations on which individual and collective survival depend.

The artists in Contact Traces question assumptions of care as an act of benevolence. Their works suggest that individuals can disrupt the systems that do not recognize the value or labor of uncompensated care by spotlighting the process of caregiving and its messy aftermath. As we work toward a post-pandemic world, Contact Traces cries out against a “return to normal,” suggesting that a society in which care is fully recognized could be more just and sustainable.


CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
CCA Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice


Wheelchair accessible
BIPOC artist(s), Women curated, Women artist(s), LGBTQIA+ artist(s)
Image Alt Text for Screen Readers
Slightly grainy image of two pairs of feet soaking in white tubs on small white towels on a beige tile floor. One set of legs is wearing jeans, the other camouflage pants. The tubs are filled with green and brown sludge, and have a device attached at the edge connected to a wire that attaches to something off screen.
Event Type
Gallery, Visual Art
Pandemic Info
By Appointment


CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
360 Kansas Street
San Francisco, CA 94103 United States
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415 355 9670
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