True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle)2017
9:39 min
Video, color, sound
True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle) is a two-channel video installation set in Cuney Homes, an affordable housing complex in Houston Texas. The video’s narrative echoes multiple historical accounts of Elmina Castle, one of the first prefabricated buildings in history, shipped from Portugal in 1482 and constructed on the Gold Coast in Ghana today. Dean plays the site manager of a new “Elmina Castle” development amid the existing Cuney Homes, while the artist’s sister and friends (who actually lived in Cuney Homes) play the local residents. The building of Elmina Castle destroyed traditional village homes and heralded the destructive effects of European colonization in Africa – by the 1600’s the castle had become a major port in the Atlantic slave trade. Dean’s fictional, present day, Elmina Castle makes parallels with this event, placing Houston and its current rapid gentrification at the center of the story. Reflecting on the legacy of the slave trade and colonialism, the work explores the construction of subjectivity through surveillance technologies and displaced communities in the 21st century. Dean employs contemporary prefabricated media, such as the cartoon-like point-of-sale display standees often used in marketing campaigns, to interrogate the continuities between the history of colonialism and today’s global consumer capitalism. 

Camera: Sharad Patel, Danielle Dean, Ashstress Agwunobi 
Sound: Tish Stringer
Sound mix: Aidan Reynolds 
Color grade: Paul Kyle
Prop fabrication: Joel Freeman
Performers: Ashstress Agwunobi, Adrianne Campbell, Danielle Dean, Twilana Flowers, Kalia Flowers, Christopher Warren

Included in exhibition:
Trigger Torque, Ludwig Forum
Freedom of Movement, Stedelijk Museum
True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle), MOCAD

Video still, True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle)

Video still, True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle)

Production image, True Red Ruin (Elmina Castle)

Installation view, Freedom of Movement, Stedelijk Museum
Photo: Peter Tijhuis