Cauleen Smith, We Already Have What We Need, 2019.

Cauleen Smith, We Already Have What We Need, 2019. As installed in Cauleen Smith: We Already Have What We Need, MASS MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts (May 25, 2019–April 2020). Photo: David Dashiell, courtesy MASS MoCA.

Past Exhibition

Cauleen Smith: We Already Have What We Need

July 15, 2021 - October 3, 2021
Brown Foundation Gallery


Cauleen Smith's exhibition, "We Already Have What We Need," at CAMH emphasizes caring acts as antidotes to injustices.

Organized by MASS MoCA, it presents film, video, sculpture, textiles, and drawing. The show, exploring human needs and realities, features sail-like projection screens and a neon work. Smith rethinks representation using sci-fi and cinema languages, rendering visible the often unseen. The exhibition weaves themes of historical erasure, loss, and the redemptive power of art. BLK FMNNST Loaner Library and sequined banners convey wisdom, inspiration, and pleas for change across multiple formats.

Love. Resist. Dream. These rallying cries echo throughout Los Angeles-based artist Cauleen Smith’s works, which remind us to nurture each other and the planet that sustains us.

Cauleen Smith: We Already Have What We Need presents works by the acclaimed Los Angeles-based artist, and features film, video, sculpture, textiles, installation, and drawing. The exhibition emphasizes acts of caring as antidotes to the injustices and inequities that shape our past and present. For over three decades, Smith (b. 1967, Riverside, California) has harnessed acts of imagination and the power of revolutionary thinking to envision a better world. The title of the exhibition—and the expansive video installation at its center—suggests that, in fact, “We Already Have What We Need.”

Organized by MASS MoCA, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston will present a site-specific version of the exhibition, including a new installation and a recent work in neon. At the center of the gallery, sail-like projection screens take us on a metaphorical journey to a familiar—yet alternative—elsewhere. Merging projected images of nature with provocative still-life arrangements featuring plants, quotidian objects, and African figurines, Smith examines varied notions of our basic human needs, from the material to the spiritual, the personal to the universal. Using the languages of science fiction, Third World Cinema, and Structural film (which reveals its mechanics), she rethinks traditional representation and the realities it constructs, rendering visible both the people and the systems often kept invisible, or recasting what we know in a new—and colorful—light.

We Already Have What We Need weaves together themes of historical erasure, loss, and separation from one’s native culture, as well as the redemptive power of art, music, and text. For example, the books Smith represents in her drawing series, BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989-2019 (2019), arm us with wisdom and inspiration, while her sequined banners—sewn with messages such as “My Pathology is Your Profit” and “Camera, Pen, or Gun?”—simultaneously tell it like it is and offer simple pleas for change. Across multiple formats, Smith addresses a range of subjects related to the African Diaspora, the human condition, and the transformative power of art in all forms.


Cauleen Smith: We Already Have What We Need is organized by MASS MoCA and Susan Cross, Senior Curator. The exhibition’s presentation at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston is organized by Rebecca Matalon, Curator.


Principal exhibition support was provided by Anne and Greg Avis and the Coby Foundation. Lead support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts with contributing support from LEE Filters and Susan J. Weiler. Programming at MASS MoCA is made possible in part by the Barr Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and Massachusetts Cultural Council.

CAMH’s presentation is funded in part by the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.

Extended Media



Exhibition labels are available in English and Spanish.