Amani Willett – Disquiet


Artist: Amani Willet
Title: Disquiet
Publisher: Damiani
Year: 2013

What do we worry about when we lay in bed at night? Our individual lives, small and humbling, amble forwards quietly – not often epic tales, but stories nonetheless, that leave off much as where they begin. Amani Willet’s Disquiet follows the structure of a classic novel or a storybook – it offers glimpses of private life, unfolding and changing and is set, as all great stories are, against the backdrop of great events. It is one man’s tender response to becoming a father, and bringing a child into the world in a time of profound uncertainty. Shot between 2010-2012, the images simultaneously trace the first years of Willet’s son’s life and the current unrest of America (Occupy Wall Street, Obama’s first term, international wars and protests).

Punctuated by grainy, smoky images of clashes between protesters and police, the book is one of harmonies and discords. These images come to the fore to then be replaced by dramatic landscapes and the silent and staged images of Willett’s family. Here we find images pieced together like sparse theatre sets, within which slices of light fall across the protagonist(s) as they sleep, or ambulate slowly through the ever-present darkness of the book.

Though pregnant with a contemplative quietness, a feeling of unease endures and it gives a peculiar power to the age-old saying ‘the calm before the storm’, though what is next we could never know. As Obama speaks through the portal of a television screen to an empty room, and the artist’s pregnant wife peers through the curtains from the darkness of their home, the work illuminates the way in which the outside world seeps (almost silently) into our private lives. Disquiet is a tender account of personal human experience interweaving with the rest of the world, but be warned, though beautiful, it is tense with unease.