Thursday, September 30, 2010
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Okay, one of the things I am learning is that the creative journey is as much about action (or the making) as it's about the thoughts, messages, and intentions that drive the work. As a Black artist I am often shouldered with the responsibility of 'identity'. And, while I do profess an attraction to race and gender as a point of departure, I find that the core of my work speaks to a more collective (American) identity. So, what is this thing that links us all together as Americans? I think it's our unique, and often pathological ability to consume, buy, and accumulate. I think it's become a sort of individual manifest destiny, bolstered by our churches (think: The prosperity movement), self-help gurus (The Secret), and a bevy of other sources too various to name. Because of this element of our national character, I taken to investigating the notion of packaging and how this enhances consumptive practice...
Our (American) history continues with the persistent notion that anything is potentially sell-able, and if the body corporate has its way even naturally occurring phenomena won't be safe. I am not judging this factor of American life, I am fascinated by it. By identifying, and being identified, as black I have an acute awareness of the body (a naturally occurring phenomena) as a commodity to be consumed. Which brings me (naturally) to 'Disney Units'...
As a general habit I've been collecting the CAPTCHA phrases you might find when registering for an online account. Developed as a means to identify humans from computers, CAPTCHA provides an unwitting commentary of contemporary culture. Okay, I'm reading a lot into these word couplings, but isn't that apart of my role as an artist? (I goes deep, SON!) In either case, my collection includes the descriptively unnerving: Disney Units. I began thinking (deeply) about the fact that this company represents a huge chunk of our cultural currency. That its products, or Disney Units, are accumulated and spent like cash in our own psyches. Disney reminds us what princesses look like, that abstinence until marriage is more valuable than sex education, that a well-meaning brunette high schooler need only take a blonde pill to become a pop star, and that black girls are really all conjure women. The Disney Company is a caricature specialist, who has taken what it previously accomplished through animation and successfully animated live action people. This next body of work will focus on this high level of complex packaging to present my own version of 'Disney Units'. Stay tuned...
It often starts with the title. And, of course, my intention was to be provocative. But I've learned that provocation is only one piece of the puzzle; it's a mere snippet of the dialogue I hope to inspire. I am discovering that if you're precise about your choices, you can create transcendent meaning by using the spectacle. And "kenya eats a cracker" was most certainly a spectacle. After donning a bright yellow vinyl suit, I sat in front of a green buffet spread of eleven types of snack crackers. Saltines, Cheez-Its, Matzah, Honey Grahams, Ritz, Water Table Crackers, Club Crackers, Goldfish, Wheat Thins, Triscuit, and Barnum's Animal Crackers- each figured prominently. I stuffed the dry morsels into my mouth, a continuous loop of 'consumption', while a recorded narrative served as the soundtrack. The text for the piece was composed using the package copy of the aforementioned products. And, inspired by the expiration dates on each of the boxes, I researched the dates for historical significance. Apparently, every day is significant. It's fascinating that this level of enlightenment can be found on a Triscuit box... I think that "kenya eats a cracker" was one of my most successful attempts at maintaining a balance between being simply looked at and being thought about.
Audio and performance documentation are forthcoming. In the meantime, please marinate on the accompanying text embedded below. A special thanks to Simone Leigh,
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Friday, September 24, 2010
It truly a wonder that the things you are interested in creatively evolve from seeds planted early in your life. I've always been a researcher of sorts, a proud armchair academic and lover of libraries; so it seems a natural progression that my performance work would include scholary activities. Hence the Works Cited component to my upcoming work "Kenya Eats A Cracker". Apparently EasyBib does not have a categroy to cite packaged foods. Fortunately for me, the Mordern Language Association (MLA) has their main office in New York Ci-tay! After a brief conversation with a representative from the editing department I had the answer, at least one that will hold until their next conference...
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Modern Language Association of America (referred to as the Modern Language Association or MLA) is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. The MLA aims to "strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature." It has "30,000 members in 100 countries," primarily academic scholars, professors, and graduate students who study or teach language and literature, including English, other modern languages, and comparative literature. Although founded in the United States, with offices located in New York City, the MLA's membership, concerns, reputation, and influence are international in scope.
26 Broadway, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10004-1789
Phone: 646 576-5000
Fax: 646 458-0030
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Kenya Eats A Cracker
A work for performance by Kenya (Robinson)
A work for performance by Kenya (Robinson)
September 25 @5pm
45 Main Street 8th Floor Suite 800 DUMBO Brooklyn 11201
"Kenya Eats A Cracker" is an edible examination of racial/class politics, history, religion, and consumer culture. This piece has been developed in collaboration with Dominic Andrew Terlizzi.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The squeaky wheel speaketh...
I attended a panel last week at Lori Bookstein Fine Art, 'Making Ideas Work, How Big Art Projects Happen". I came with BIG expectations, especially since I thought the focus was on BIG ideas. But I was left with a better outcome instead- a healthy critique on what we (the art community, in particular) view as a big art project. Apparently big art projects are constructions. As in something you build. Physically. Be it a humongous cat in the Catskills, monumental plaster in Key West or an earth bag community center in Haiti- you've got to build big. Also, big art projects are executed by men. With the occasional girlfriend who is strangely absent from the panel discussion... but I digress.
As a conceptual artist I am critical of the panel the organizers brought together. I found that the works were so object based that the size of the idea didn't really matter, just as long as the end product was substantial. The fact that the artists featured were all men sent a disturbing message as well. Ultimately though, I fault myself for not speaking up in that moment- although I must admit it took a bit of time for me to realize what irked me about the discussion. In actuality big art projects are concepts that don't necessarily end up as physical constructions. In fact, a friend and colleague (Sara Hart) wants to provide free child care/ art instruction to a female headed household as an extension of her photography practice. Women as single parents spend up to 53% of their median income on child care in New York State. With that small piece of information Sara's idea sounds HUGE and it's still a construction, but of a different sort. She proposes to build communities, expand a family's cultural expression, while exploring the possibilities of her own experience.
So, next time, whenever we speak about big art projects, let's remember to include depth as well as height, and use emotion, discovery, and connectivity, as building materials too.
I've been fortunate enough to be included in the current session of the Triangle Arts Workshop. The Workshop is a wonderful collection of artists from around the world- working, networking, creating and sharing. Check their blog for continuous updates as well as information about this weekend's Open Studio.
"And so… I return to the world of blogging minus a computer and a consistent internet connection, but equipped with a new friends and colleagues. As a Workshop Resident there are many considerations that have already expanded my studio practice. I am encouraged to step outside a comfort zone that I didn’t even know existed, interact with artists of various mediums and cultures, all while coming up with something spectacular within the span of two weeks! In the midst of all of this we were offered a respite: a meatless barbecue (the corn on the cob was off the hook!) and serenaded by a bluegrass duo called Crooks and Perverts. And yes, there was beer… and wine, libation to wallflowers and social butterflies alike. Me, being the butterfly that I am, almost missed the stealthy injection of networking hidden in the merriment… almost. Whether is was the virtues of Robert Rodriguez, extolled by our host Magalie, or Matt’s critical theory of the 99 cent store, tomorrow’s looking like some magical inspiration fuckery in the studio."