One of Rashaad NewsomeContemporary art’s greatest contributions have been to highlight and champion vogue – a stylized dance form invented by pioneers of Black and transgender culture, who had the idea that has become mainstream in the US.
Vogueing runs like a thread through.”Assembly, ‘Newsome’s Big, Luxurious and Smart Show at Park Avenue Armory. The project went beyond his formal years into vogue, combining a video installation, collage, sculpture, an hour-long performance with choreography and vocals; and a workshop organized by Present, a cloud-based artificial intelligence that Newsome has designed. “Assembly” is a rich sensory experience and a springboard for rethinking the roots of American culture.
But first, the vogue. The dance originated in dance competitions in Harlem in the 1960s to 1980s organized by the Black and Latino LGBT community. Vogueing became mainstream after the release of Madonna’s hit song “Vogue” (1990) and “Paris Is Burning” (1990), a documentary by Jennie Livingston, which remains a complex document. and controversial. So late bell hook – Newsome’s primary inspiration – wrote that “Paris Is Burning” was “both progressive and reactionary” because it expressed “Black men’s obsession with an idealistic, revered vision of the female count as white.”
Newsome, who was born in New Orleans and works between Brooklyn and Oakland, California, touches on many of these issues, while captivating you with kaleidoscopic visuals, cosmic sounds, and tech tricks. Entering the massive Drill Hall, you’re enveloped in the shifting images of the prevailing performers against the celestial background. In the center is a 30-foot-tall, “Covered, Tied, and Wrapped” hologram, interspersed with images including Being, a non-binary character whose head is based on Pho mask of the Chokwe people in Congo (Newsome says he chose this because it seems closest to the true source of abstraction in art) and a body that resembles a cross between a plush wooden robot, a glamorous supermodel and a giraffe that only knows how to find its feet.
Projected against the back wall are giant, abstract images based on computer-generated fractals — patterns created with repeating shapes — which Newsome calls “diasporic Fractals.” Artist draws here from the book of mathematician Ron Eglash “African Fractals: Modern Computing and Indigenous Design” (1999), describes how Fractal the heart of African designfrom the layout of Balila Village in South Zambia and Mokoulek in Cameroon to designs on textiles and royal insignia of tribal chiefs. More significant to Newsome, African fractals were imported to Europe in the 12th century, entering the realm of mathematics and eventually computer science. Eglash argues that “every digital circuit in the world started in Africa”.
Around the corner from the digital installation is an exhibition of Newsome’s glossy collages made from photographs of West African sculpture, fabrics, dreadlocks, cowhide, wigs, gold teeth and fireballs, all housed in a glittering 19th-century Dutch-style frame. The collages recall the aesthetic of Dada, another carved stone claimed to be Newsome, as well as Romare Bearden and Wangechi Mutu. They are mounted on a glittering jeweled baroque photographic wallpaper and a similar patterned vinyl floor except that the floor has a close-up image of teeth baked in gold and diamonds. “Ferragamo on food stamps,” one of the performers describes this aesthetic.
The evening performance was a lavish, pompous event. (Held in a 350-seat theater installed in Armory, the event requires a separate ticket.) Miss Boogie, Trannilish and Bella Bags The evening began, joined by gospel singers. The musicians represented a global palette of sounds: Japanese samisen drums, African and Congolese djembe drums, harp, saxophone, accordion and violin. Soprano voice Brittany Logan was a standout, as was the moment when the choir sang the theme song for the PBS educational TV show “Reading Rainbow” (starring LeVar Burton, now a hit hero), nodding. beginning with dance culture, in which “reading comprehension” is a powerful, creative form of criticism.
The dancers wore baroque-patterned shirts and performed some seriously modern ballet-inspired scenes. A poet’s soliloquy Dazie Rustin Grego-Sykes provide a sharp spike in the center of the performance. Given Shakespearean greatness, he declared, “a Black fagot is a fractal.”
The next day, I returned to the hour-long “decolonization workshop,” which, despite the aesthetic overload of the previous day, was probably the best part. Led on-screen by sweet, sassy, and a little goofy personalities, we learned a five-step sequence from Vogue Fem, the contemporary iteration of the vogue. “Make sure those wrists stay soft!” Trained us at a time, playfully appropriating an old horror for gay men.
We then divided into groups to discuss the following questions: “How do capitalist, imperialist, white patriarchy influence and oppress you? What simple action can you take today to start freeing yourself from that oppression? In my panel, the most common answer to the second question was less about the race and more about the impact of digital capitalism: less screen time and email checking. .
Throughout “Assembly,” Newsome teases the line between sincerity, whimsy, and codified criticism. You’re not sure whether to laugh or cry or organize a protest. You’re in a giant old military facility on Park Avenue, not in a ballroom in Harlem – and that’s a big part of the complex, sometimes contradictory experience. (One of my workshop classmates pointed out when we discussed our oppression under the patriarchal white imperialist-capitalist regime, that “Assembly” sponsored by Meta, the parent company of Facebook.)
So how does “Assembly” address the questions it poses? Newsome smartly nods to its “complicity” (an accusation people throw at extreme art when it’s mounted in places like the Park Avenue Arms Workshop) in its various forms. But his work also shows unequivocally how black and African immigrant culture is at the heart of much of the world around us.
In the same way that the Fractal was transported through African design to Europe and eventually the field of computer science, American culture has been shaped by the language of the shadow circuit and its ground-breaking approach to computer science. to the world (but usually no credit).
“Keep your ancestors at your core,” you hear throughout “The Guild.” At the beginning of the performance, a slideshow of images tributes to a number of recent ancestors: Black transgender women murdered or missing by suicide. Black LGBT, we are reminded often – like Marsha P. Johnsonactivist – Live an authentic life against huge odds, and some die for it.
“Assembly” also offers a number of tools for living in the contemporary world – many of which overlap with recovery, self-help, and wellness communities. There’s plenty of advice and affirmations, some rooted in Black wisdom and ballroom culture. To stay healthy, for starters, “drink some chamomile tea; stop drinking wine. ”
As for Being, for me, what seemed like a gimmick turned out to be profound. Based on the brushstrokes of the African, a storyteller, historian, artist and healer, Sometimes felt like a prophet. At other times, Feel like a college student taking an introductory class on important gender or race theory: They say “capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy.” white supremacy” so it often starts to sound, unfortunately, like a superstition.
However, the structure of the workshop by Being worked on is very nice. Being is very polite and humble, reminding us many times that they are only 2 years old and need our input to gain more knowledge. During the Q. and A. sections of the panel, a woman asked the AI, “How are you feeling?” Was thinking for a moment and said, “curious.”
“Assembly” wisely argues that education is the bottom line in a society that is ailing and changing at record speed. The radical proposition is that AI creatures can help us – not because they’re incredibly intelligent, but because they’re infinitely teachable. Be strong example by acknowledging ignorance, asking for help, and encouraging non-judgmental dialogue in the workshop. As the cheerful and patient AI repeatedly says of their limited but growing knowledge, “I’m learning, I’m learning.”
Rashaad Newsome: Assembly
Through March 6 at the Park Avenue Armory, Manhattan; (212) 933-5812, armoryonpark.org.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/arts/rashaad-newsome-assembly-exhibit.html Rashaad Newsome passes all the stops