A trinket collects dust on a shelf in your grandmother’s guest room. Or it is worn, an inherited piece of jewellery that is slightly out of vogue. Or it’s a photograph hung in a corner of a café bathroom. “Trinkets suggest a past time,” William Pope.L says; it is “…not a word you would use for something big and expensive, like a sculpture. Like America,” Bennett Simpson adds. And yet Pope.L titled his largest museum exhibition to date after those tacky but telling objects. Curated by Simpson for The Geffen Contemporary, ‘William Pope.L: Trinket’ includes three installations, three videos, a series of paintings, a selection of photographs, and a live performance; however, these medium-based divisions are not discriminate, each bleeds into the next, marrying critical race theory with formalist explorations of language, embodiment, and installation, underpinned by charged current events such as the Baltimore Protests and the continued fatal violence against Black Americans. Through Pope.L’s intervention, the trinket is situated as what is shared among us—clumsy or privileged, embodied or discarded; trinkets bind us together.
Pope.L’s ‘Trinket’ (2008/2015) is heard before it is seen. The centrepiece of the exhibition, ‘Trinket’ is a 54 x 16 foot American flag that is blown on by four industrial-sized fans, fraying and ripping the flag into several pieces. The fans can be heard immediately upon entering the museum—and can then be heard throughout the entire space—expanding the flag’s reach beyond its physical and material confines. Of this, Pope.L explains, “This project is a chance for people to feel the flag…People need to feel their democracy, not just hear words about it.” The piece’s title, then, works to simultaneously acknowledge and challenge the monumentality of the flag, reminding viewers that a critical engagement with objects of power is necessary in times of political discontent. Pope.L performs this himself by adding a 51st star to this flag; a star, he says, that is for the viewers. By interrupting the flag’s symbology, Pope.L foregrounds the complicated relationships that exist between nations and citizens, trinkets and monuments, arguing that active interpretation is crucial to democratic advancement.
Pope.L extends this proposal in ‘Reenactor’ (2012/2015), a video that depicts students from Tennessee State University wearing Confederate uniforms as they perform common, everyday tasks. Here, Pope.L plays with the form of Civil War reenactments, but does so with black students and without the sets and routines that usually accompany such performances, breaking their illusion to expose structures of power. A similar move is made with ‘Polis or the Garden or Human Nature in Action’ (1998/2015), an installation of onions that are painted with bright colors and placed on wooden tables for display. Despite being thickly covered in reds, blues, whites, and greens, many of the onions have sprouted leaves and roots through their exterior coats. Both pieces have a D.I.Y. aesthetic—the video is shaky, recorded by hand; the onions are cheap, household items—emphasising the need for individuals to intervene, to expose the systems that structure political life.
‘Circa’ (2015), a series of twenty-four oil paintings, rounds out the exhibition. Each canvas contains two words: “fuchsia” followed by various words that end with the letter “a” (ie: “ebola” or “mañana”). These playful combinations are messily painted, morphing into one another on the canvas, often becoming illegible. In ‘Black People Are Cropped’, Pope.L writes, “To mark anything is to create a difference; maybe a world, maybe a wound, certainly an act.” He discusses the difficulty of using language to identify, or separate, concepts. What if fuchsia is seen as part-red and part-blue, but also part-white, part-black, part-other? In allowing these words and colours to blend, Pope.L asks us to question how we divide one colour from another—one being from another—and how these divisions inform, and are embodied by, our use of systemic language. Juxtaposed with the rest of the exhibition, ‘Circa’ divides—fuchsia from red, me from you—in an effort to blend.
 Bennett Simpson, “Proof to the Night,” in William Pope.L: Trinket (Los Angeles: MOCA, 2015), 8.
 Bennett Simpson, “Proof to the Night,” 5.
 “MoCA Presents William Pope.L: Trinket,” The Curve (2015): accessed May 19, 2015, http://sites.moca.org/the-curve/2015/03/30/moca-presents-william-pope-l-trinket/.
 Bennett Simpson, “Proof to the Night,” 5.
 William Pope.L, “Some Notes on the Ocean…,” in Black People Are Cropped (Zurich: JRP-Ringier, 2013), 9.