Thursday, May 12, 2016

Arting Into the Afrofuture

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Pioneer Works, Brooklyn.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. Of course, I’ve gone to a bunch of art events in the meantime (because I just can't seem to stop arting!). So I decided to just do a bit of a roundup here…

On April 8th, I attended a workshop at the Queens Council on the Arts (QCA) for their LAB series, simply called Artist Solo Exhibition Preparation, given by multidisciplinary artist Shervone Neckles. The topic was of interest to me as an artist, because I had never really tried to wrap my head around what it would mean to prepare for an entire show of my own work (until now I have only participated in group exhibitions, or organized exhibits for other artists). Shervone gave a lovely presentation which touched on everything from research and preparation to organization and execution. What I liked most was that Shervone offered us a very close look at her art and process of creating a cohesive storyline which carries throughout her body of work. She even presented a work-in-progress (and asked us for feedback), a screening an animated film, “Give and Take.” Shervone was super personable, gave a well-organized presentation, and her work also happens to be fantastic (you can check it out at On a side-note, I have been to a bunch of workshops offered by QCA (which are usually free for members and very affordable otherwise) and they have all been totally worth the while. I highly recommend (even if you don’t live in Queens!).

Next, on April 29th, I attended a sort-of experimental event at New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). It was called Sharing Perspectives: Reporting the impact of art internationally presented jointly by NYFA, Flux Factory and the Node Center as they invited people from the arts community to come together to have some wine and then some conversation. From what I could tell, I believe that the circle was made up mainly of visual artists. There were two specific questions posed: “How do you believe art should function?” and “What is a moment when art challenged your idea of how it should function?” We all broke out into groups to discuss our ideas for a while – it was a smart and spirited conversation. After that, one person from each group got up and reported on what their group came up with. In the end, NYFA Director, David C. Terry thanked us all and said that this was the first of what they hope to be many, expansive, international conversations around art. I was very happy to have been a part of it.

Then, on April 30th, I attended the Afrofuturism Conference 2016 #BLACKISVIRAL, at the New School. I was really interested in this conference since the term Afrofuturism is something of a buzzword that’s been popping up in so many contemporary art spaces over the last couple of years (specifically those that feature art of the African Diaspora). I was curious to see how the organizers of this event (Students of the African Diaspora at the New School) would present (and in some ways also define) this narrative. They actually had a few days worth of events lined up, but unfortunately I was only able to attend one day. In a main lobby area, they had some visual art displayed, a live painter, and even a few vendors selling their wares. I thought that this was a very nice touch in that it created a gathering space for people attending the event to relax in between the presentations. I attended one of the panels, entitled “Screaming into the Void: A Conversation on Presence and Erasure in Black Contemporary Writing” moderated by Gabrielle Octavia Butler with panelists Muna Mire, Safia Elhillo, Zeba Blay and Derica Shields. I had originally wanted to attend something about visual art, but I was more than happy to have ended up here. Myself being a writer of an older generation with a background based in print publishing, I found it fascinating to listen to these women discuss the climate of (professional) contemporary writing for primarily internet-based outlets, with its various plusses and minuses.Here is a link to the whole lineup of events:

Last but not least, on May 7th, I attended the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair at Pioneer Works in Red Hook. No offense to anyone who lives in Red Hook… but holy crap. Besides the fact that Red Hook is a far-removed area of Brooklyn, add to the equation that the MTA has been ruining all of our lives with constant (evil) weekend track-work and in the end (from Queens), it took me well over two hours to reach Pioneer Works. I digress! I thought the 1-54 fair was very nicely organized in a bright, not-too-big space, not to mention the lovely back yard with concessions. I must admit that I was expecting more of the galleries represented to have been located in Africa (I believe about five out of 17 were), however, most of them were based in Europe, and some in NYC. In any case, I saw some lovely work by African artists; a few of my personal favorite works were by Aida Muluneh, Beatrice Wanjiku and Omar Victor Diop. I regret that I was not able to make it to any of the Forum panel discussions that were offered. Maybe next year. The 1-54 fair takes place annually in London and in NYC:

Oh and one last thing, after the fair on May 7th, I stopped in to MoCADA in Fort Greene for the opening reception for, Being Here… in Memory, a multifaceted exhibit featuring visual art installation, video and live dance performance curated by Marjani Forté-Saunders. Unfortunately, I arrived too late (again, the MTA’s fault!) to actually see the performance, but I was able to see the art installations, videos and say hello to my favorite couple, the Illustrious Blacks (Manchild and Monstah Black) who were hosting/DJing the party, so it wasn’t all for naught. “Being here… in Memory” runs through July 10th:

(To see more art and photos taken at these events, check out my Instagram: @Whippedhoney)

Me, Ify Chiejina, Shervone Neckles and Molaundo Jones at QCA for LAB event.

Sharing Perspectives: Reporting the impact of art internationally at NYFA

Afrofuturism Conference 2016 #BLACKISVIRAL panel Screaming into the Void: A Conversation on Presence and Erasure in Black Contemporary Writing” moderated by Gabrielle Octavia Butler with panelists Muna Mire, Safia Elhillo, Zeba Blay and Derica Shields.

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair

“Being Here… in Memory” opening at MoCADA

“Being Here… in Memory” opening at MoCADA

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