Solange Releases Her First Performance Art Book

'In Past Pupils and Smiles' delivers an insightful look into the Grammy-winning artist's creative process.


Multi-hyphenate artist and cultural icon Solange Knowles has released her new art book, In Past Pupils and Smiles. 

The book celebrates the Grammy-award winning singer’s self-composed and directed closing performance of the same name at the 58th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale de Venezia, and offers an intimate behind-the-scenes look at her sonic, visual and spiritual creativity. 

With In Past Pupils and Smiles, Knowles wanted to express the emotions of mourning; a tumultuous period of uncertainty she related to lingering in mud. “I wanted mud. To dig my hands in soil. To scream. To give offerings,” recounts Solange, who had debuted a host of performance pieces including Witness! (2019) earlier that year. “This piece gave me permission to myself to feel it all. I feel like this piece specifically was a moment of mourning, was a moment to express how much grief comes from loss, to be able to bury it and to have a service for that.” 

Now presented in a hardcover edition, the 188-page monograph serves as a visual exploration of art performance’s themes such as identity, loss and protection. It reveals the genesis of the artist’s Venice Biennale piece, alongside an array of negative portraiture photography from the performance, reflective conversations with Solange’s creative team, insight into the performance’s lighting and set design, as well as written contributions from Delfina Foundation Director, Aaron Cezar. 

Speaking on the release, Cezar adds that “for the Venice Biennale’s first official performance programme, we spotlighted artists who are defining this and the next generation of performance. Solange is at the forefront of this movement of artists who understand performance not as a medium but as a way of processing the world around us. Spanning music, movement, design and visual art, her practice breaks out of accepted categories and genres, and critically questions why these boundaries exist in the first place.”

The book was conceptualized by Saint Heron, designed in collaboration with Querida and published by Anteism. It is available online for $55 USD.