STILL HERE Reading List

We asked the featured artists in our film exhibition, STILL HERE, for book & media suggestions that have informed their work. This is what they said.

 

Larry Achiampong

Available in the MoAD Bookstore

Assata: An Autobiography
by Assata Shakur

Towards a Colonial Freedom: Africa in The Struggle Against The World by Kwame Nkrumah

Black Panther: Long Live
The King
by Nnedi Okorafor

Commentary:

I don’t really see reading books as something that is fixed to a particular time period, or that no longer becomes relevant in the future. I treat other forms of media the same way—videogames, movies, etc.

My interaction with Assata Shakur’s writings happened in my late teens. There’s a lot in her words that echo the messages and the morals that my mother has imbued me with, and as a result created a strong relationship with ‘Sunday’s Best’.

Kwame Nkrumah’s writings have shaped much of my thinking along with the likes of Frantz Fanon and other thinkers: the importance of finding and building one’s story and the need for it to not be dictated.

I’m currently loving Nnedi Okorafor’s perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther at the moment, there is a different energy to the series that feels new and real, perhaps due to the West African influences in her writings.

Adama Delphine Fawundu

Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende by Sylvia Ardyn Boone

Flash of the Spirit:
African & Afro-American Art
& Philosophy
by Robert Farris Thompson

Commentary:

These texts inspired me to think outside of a Western paradigm when considering the idea of identity and healing.

Third Horizon (Jason Fitzroy Jeffers)

Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution by Laurent Dubois

Fighting for Honor:
The History of African Martial Arts in the Atlantic World

by T.J. Desch Obi

 

Commentary:

Avengers of the New World is a comprehensive history of the Haitian Revolution that was a companion for our team during the making of Papa Machete, and Fighting for Honor delves into the little known history of martial arts across the African diaspora.

There have long been concerted efforts to make sure the Haitian Revolution and the martial traditions which emerged from Africa don’t live as large in the popular imagination as they should. Papa Machete aims to shed light on a proud legacy of resistance that Diasporic people can draw inspiration from today.

Carlos Javier Ortiz

Black Boy by Richard Wright

I was leaving the South
to fling myself into the unknown . . .
I was taking a part of the South
to transplant in alien soil,
to see if it could grow differently,
if it could drink of new and cool rains,
bend in strange winds,
respond to the warmth of other suns
and, perhaps, to bloom”
— Richard Wright

MELO-X

BELLY (Film, 1998)

JAB JAB (Article, Traditional Mas Archive)

Pulse – History and Culture of Carnival (Video)

Commentary:

“hol on hol on hol on you come inna my house don’t you ever bring scared business to me.”

This is a quote from BELLY. In this scene, Ox the “Original Jamaican Don Dada” stops Tommy from calling him scared. He disagrees, stating that he is the “toughest… roughest.” This is the first meeting prior to their upcoming trip to Jamaica. I was inspired by the cinematography of their arrival to the Jamaican Dancehall. It embodies my love for late 90’s dancehall and was also the inspiration for the color direction of Juvé Nite. That energy is the same on the streets of East Flatbush Brooklyn, and Crown heights during Labor Day Weekend. The quote really resonates with that energy. You can’t have scary energy when you touch road and hit the parkway for Jouvert Night.

JAB JAB and Pulse were integral to the research for Juvé Nite.

Helina Metaferia

Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds
by Adrienne Maree Brown

Sankofa by Haile Gerima (Film, 1993)

Commentary:

I’ve had much inspiration in creating The Call—a video performance project which places female descendants of prominent activists of the past in conversation with one another.

As an Ethiopian-American artist who grew up in the Washington DC metropolitan region, Haile Gerima’s Sankofa film and DC-based bookstore of the same name had a strong impact on my Pan-African sensibility, both personally and as a cultural producer.

Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategy, which provides vision for a holistic new wave of activism, gave me additional inspiration to facilitate this female centered union of descendants as both an artistic and political gesture.

Joiri Minaya

Regarding SIBONEY Commentary:

The Circular Ruins
by Jorge Luis Borges

I ended the first part of my video Siboney with the last words of this short story: “With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he also was an illusion, that someone else was dreaming him.” I first read it in undergrad, not long before arriving to this work. The laboriousness and daily discipline of dreaming a subject from scratch in the story to me echoed the endeavor of repeatedly painting the same motif on the wall, as well as my inquiring in the origin of the myth of the Mulatta. I think Siboney carries that self-awareness of the creator that discovers (spoiler alert) that he’s the mere projection of someone else’s dream. Those words – terror, humiliation, relief – resonate with my own realizations in the relation between an othered identity, desire, performativity and projection. The second part or Siboney responds to that discovery, and also echoes the sense of destruction the story ends with.
The Performativity of Performance Documentation by Phillip Auslander This text was probably what set me out to conceptualize performance art that was specifically made for the camera and for a thoughtful and crafted documentation, as opposed to one that is made for a live audience where the documentation is incidental or peripheral. It also made me think of notions of authenticity in performance, authenticity in general, and it’s performativity.
Negroid / Negrista Poetry
in the Caribbean
This was a movement from the 1920’s to the 40’s where in many places in the Caribbean there was a desire to “uplift” the figure of the black and mulatto, which was widely tragically executed by mostly white middle class poets in a savior fashion. There were also actual black and mulatto poets who spoke about their own first-hand experience (most notably Nicolás Guillén) and incorporated afro-antillean expressions and language rhythmically and creatively (as opposed to caricaturesque, like the first group). Both groups, however, succeeded in objectifying the mulatta woman in their writing, often framing her in terms of either sexualized dance or nature, rarely speaking to her thoughts or subjectivity, thus reading these poems (specifically the one from Dominican authors) while conceptualizing, performing and editing Siboney was a great source of material to react to.
Feminist and Decolonial Theory

 

Black Skin, White Masks
by Frantz Fanon

The Souls of Black Folk
by W.E.B. Du Bois

 

Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey (Essay)

It’s hard to separate or highlight only one of these authors / books / ideas at once because as I was making Siboney I was reflecting on all of them at the same time. Du Bois’ Double-Consciousness (The Souls of Black Folk, 1903) was useful to have language to understand the idea of seeing the world as oneself while at the same time having the awareness of oneself through the eyes of a racist society (from a U.S. point of view), but I always felt more of a triple or even quadruple consciousness, constantly thinking about gender and immigration status / foreignness as well. With similar ideas, Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks (1952) remains one of my favorite books, stemming from a Caribbean / creole experience and a relationship to a “mother land” or colonizer that I understood very well. I also really enjoyed his psychoanalysis approach, as I was reading this along with Lacan’s ideas on Otherness and Laura Mulvey’s Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975), which introduced me to the Male Gaze and ideas of observer / observed that were central to works like Siboney and remain present in my practice to this day. But it was really Gayatri Spivak’s criticism of French feminism and question “can the Subaltern speak?” that, like Fanon, served as a bridge between broader ideas (of otherness, feminism and postcoloniality) and a Third World positionality that I related to.
Beyond SIBONEY Commentary:

Poetics of Relation
by Edouard Glissant

 

Edouard Glissant’s “For Opacity”, a chapter in his book Poetics of Relation (1990), has given me language to talk about visibility and hypervisibility, or rather, to escape it. Glissant defends the “right to remain opaque,” a refusal that gives me solace from the exhaustion of a society that demands constant transparency, legibility and scrutiny from people of color. This has been important for my series Containers more prominently, but also for the wallpaper series in Tropical Surfaces (Redecode and Redecode II: La Dorada). Visibility and opacity are also concepts that resonate as a visual artist, so to think about them as metaphors for decoloniality is very powerful.
In Defense of the Poor Image by Hito Steyerl (Article, 2009) Hito Steyerl’s “In Defense of the Poor Image”(2009) speaks to the deterioration of images as they relate to mass-reproduction, distribution, speed and accessibility in terms of how they exist and are transferred online as files. “The poor image tends towards abstraction” – quotes like this (and the essay in general) were relevant when I was making works like #dominicanwomengooglesearch, the postcard series following this work, and Redecode I & II.

Picturing Tropical Nature
by Nancy Leys Stepan

Picturing Tropical Nature by Nancy Leys Stepan (2000) is a book that analyzes how mainstream ideas of tropical nature have been constructed by the European and American imagination, informed by literature, travel writing, drawings, photographs and paintings from the 19th and 20th century. By looking into the origins of these projections, Stepan questions the very nature of representation. Departing from ideas on this book, I’ve made work that establishes – and challenges – relations between how women of color are paired with tropical landscape and described in an interchangeable manner.

Disidentifications
by Jose Esteban Muñoz

Jose Esteban Muñoz’ Disidentifications (1999) speaks to minorities extracting or repurposing mainstream culture while neither becoming part of it nor fully rejecting it. This idea informs and builds upon my longtime interest in regurgitation: to consume culture / identity, internalize it, then bring it back out, re-performed, re-arranged, deconstructed, self-evident. This concept has been very influential to my approach to hyper-tropical images and my ideas on performing a projection.
Cultural Identity and Diaspora by Stuart Hall (Essay, 1996) Stuart Hall’s question “How can we stage this dialogue so that, finally, we can place it, without terror or violence, rather than being forever placed by it? can we ever recognize its irreversible influence, whilst resisting its imperial eye?” (from Cultural Identity and Diaspora, 1996) when speaking about the “European Presence” have been important in my work, as well as Hall’s ideas on Encoding and Decoding when talking about communication and meaning, and just Hall’s work in general.

 

STILL HERE

Curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah, Dexter Wimberly and Kiara Venturra
May 8, 2019 to August 11, 2019

Categories:  Exhibitions & Events