I Will Keep My Soul

Helen Cammock

Essays by Jordan Amirkhani and Andrea Andersson, a score by Roshanak Kheshti, story by Kristina Kay Robinson, afterword by Cameron Shaw, with excerpts from an interview by Courtney J. Martin

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Cloth, 10.75 x 7.75 in.
188 pages, full color
A copublication with the California African American Museum and the Rivers Institute, 2023

PDF Press Release

Featured on Hyperallergic‘s 2023 holiday gift guide. The eponymous exhibition in New Orleans runs through December 17.

Convening polyphonous voices from past and present, I Will Keep My Soul is an orchestral layering of photography, historical documents, poetry and interviews, all rooted in the social history, geography and community of New Orleans.

In this prismatic artist’s book, UK-based artist Helen Cammock traverses the city, rendering her observations and encounters into reverberant texts and percipient photographic images that tender the city’s invisible histories. She weaves these contemporary sequences with archival materials from the Amistad Research Center to sustain the city’s complex past. The book object itself—its flexibility, its tactility, its use of transparent paper to layer images and texts—invites the reader into a capacious experience in which multiple and sometimes competing truths can be seen and heard.

Among the newspaper clippings, instructions for activists, a nineteenth-century publication on Creole slave songs that speak the long struggle for Civil Rights, the most persistent historical voice in I Will Keep My Soul belongs to sculptor Elizabeth Catlett whose observations punctuate each section of the book. Cammock also draws on correspondence and photographs that articulate Catlett’s participation in the Civil Rights movement as well as her struggle for agency, autonomy and support during her 1976 commission to create a bronze monument to New Orleans musician Louis Armstrong, sited at Congo Square, a place laden with histories of immense oppression as well as celebration.

The textual contributions by Jordan Amirkhani, Andrea Andersson and Kristina Kay Robinson are not positioned as traditional art criticism, but instead further deepen the reader’s knowledge, experience and understanding of the opposing forces—geographical, economic, historical, cultural—that have formed the city New Orleans.

Summoning, holding and arranging these voices with extraordinary deftness and acuity, I Will Keep My Soul coalesces into a rhizomatic and particularly American story of art and activism, of culture and capital, of being and belonging.

look read listen

Find a portfolio of Cammock’s film stills selected from the book and read Jordan Amirkhani’s contribution “All Water Has a Perfect Memory” at The Paris Review Daily. Listen to an interview with Cammock conducted by Kate Wolf at the Los Angeles Book Review Radio Hour.


J. Howard Rosier chooses I Will Keep My Soul for Vulture at New York Magazine (6 Best New Book Releases in April):

“Cammock, a Turner Prize–winning multidisciplinary artist, casts the city of New Orleans as both a case study and a chorus of voices … The project is tied together by the story of the late Elizabeth Catlett, a sculpture and civil rights activist who taught at Dillard University and was commissioned to create a monument to Louis Armstrong in the city’s Congo Square. Cammock’s portrayal of Catlett’s fierce intelligence adds color to the portrait of New Orleans and its place in Black history.”

Melissa Pierson writes at Hyperallergic:

“How does a book’s static format capture the temporal, ever-changing nature of gesture, thought, music, all the motion that defines social history? By doing something very close to what I Will Keep My Soul accomplishes: breaking through the fourth wall of the page. We are not only invited to flip back and forth between visual elements, but we are given a means to mediate them. Interspersed throughout are several transparent pages. When turned they seem to introduce a sense of time’s hazy scrim falling over the fresh clarity of the present — and when paged back to lie atop the facing image, they reverse time. This enacts the way layers of time are sequentially excavated in the archive, the very enterprise that underpins the artist’s multi-tiered project.”

Elizabeth Zuba writes at Diagram:

“Cammock follows the memory of materials as they sink and shift back toward the living, filtering and draining between time and space, objects and people, responses and silences. In Cammock’s hands, the soul we keep, what you might call our living breath, glimmers in the movement between.”

Cammock talks with Artforum, more writing about the book at The Brooklyn Rail, and her eponymous exhibition is a top pick by multiple publications during Frieze LA: The Art Newspaper, ArtNews, Ocula and Frieze Magazine.

about the artist

Helen Cammock uses film, photography, print, text, song and performance to examine mainstream historical and contemporary narratives about Blackness, womanhood, oppression and resistance, wealth and power, poverty and vulnerability. Her works often cut across time and geography, layering multiple voices as she investigates the cyclical nature of histories in her visual and aural assemblages. In 2017, Cammock received the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and in 2019 was the joint recipient of The Turner Prize. She has exhibited and performed worldwide including recent solo shows at the Whitechapel Gallery, The Photographer’s Gallery (London, UK), STUK Art Centre (Leuven, Belgium), Collezione Maramotti (Reggio Emilia, Italy), VOID (Derry, Northern Ireland), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, Ireland), Kestner Gesellshaft (Hamburg, Germany) and group shows at Serpentine Galleries, Tate Britain (London, UK), and Hamburger Kunstalle (Germany). Other upcoming solo shows include Oakville Galleries (Toronto, Canada) and Amant (New York).

exhibitions & past events

This artist’s book is published on the occasion of an eponymous and multifarious exhibition which premieres in Los Angeles at Art + Practice, in partnership with the California African American Museum, February 11–August 5, 2023.

In New Orleans, from October 14 – December 17, 2023, the exhibition will figure across multiple sites and include Cammock’s film installation, outdoor text-based work, a roving music series and her selection of working materials by New Orleans artists who shaped her experience in the city.

In New York City on Friday, March 31 at CARA (Center for Art, Research and Alliances), the evening included a reading (and singing!) by Helen Cammock and then a conversation between Cammock and writer and art historian Re’al Christian. In London on Tuesday, April 11 at the Kate MacGarry Gallery, Cammock read (and sung?) then spoke with Andrea Andersson, curator of I Will Keep My Soul and director of the Rivers Institute. The gallery also exhibited a selection of Cammock’s text-based works from the project.


see also


I Will Keep My Soul Breathes Through Its Skin

Elizabeth Zuba, Diagram


Helen Cammock: I Will Keep My SoulAn exhibition of film, poetry, performance, archival documents and books

October 14 – December 17, 2023


About to HappenCecilia Vicuña

Essays by Andrea Andersson, Lucy Lippard and Macarena Gómez-Barris and an interview by Julia Bryan-Wilson


Rock of EyeTroy Montes-Michie

Essays by Andrea Andersson and Tina Campt, interview by Brent Hayes Edwards and afterword by Cameron Shaw

✼ elsewhere:

“How do you know where the boundaries of a life are? How do you know where to stop? Or when something doesn’t apply?” —Nicole Rudick in conversation with Sam Stephenson at AIR/LIGHT


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