“Mmmm oh yeah lord! Mmmm well err brother Tony - do you know about consciousness? Well consciousness is accepting the fact that your Black –right? and from that revelation everything is cool. Now individualism is a white mans desire or something like that (well you dig what I’m saying you know what I’m saying?) Co-operation is a black mans need and when you know your Black then - you think black and you will black…”
Been laid up for the past few weeks, which has ultimately left me in quite lethargic state. I’ve had some very tedious tasks to do which keeps guilt from snapping at my heels - but critical thinking? Not much of that… I knuckled down this week to looking at a text someone suggested after seeing my collages The Body in pieces: Fragments as a metaphor for modernity byLinda Nochlin. The book examines the articulation of modernity in art, mainly concentrating on 18th and 19th century painting; Starting with a lamentation of the loss of antiquity (the monument in pieces) - to artists like Monet and Degas among others, focusing on their use of cropping and aligning fluid impressionist brushwork with philosophy from the likes of Marx.
The notion of sacrifice is central to the story of St Maurice and this book covered this subject with references to the French Revolution and even Van Gogh’s fated ear incident. But what really caught my attention was her reference to Baudelaire citing fluidity and vapourousness as distinctive characteristics of modernity. Yes this is obvious and has been reiterated many times over the decades since. But it got me thinking about my work, and the question that keeps popping into my head from time to time. Is it possible to talk about the Black or the ‘Black experience’ in relation to something other than the post colonial? Some years back I came across a debate where Stuart Hall asked the very question who modernism belongs to? And although the ‘Post’ of colonialism must in someway be linked to the to rise of modernism, the convention has always been to talk about these things quite separately – is this just a case of geography?
But Blackness as a thing (its hypostatisation - a new word I came across recently) is an invention of the occident, and one which itself has become very fluid – certainly it harder to tie it down then it was in the 60’s n 70’s. I have felt uneasy at times focusing on the thing in its vagueness. But it has (in a way) been my strategy to consider Black past its Post-Colonialness.
I think about the renewal of feminism in recent years, in a way that I think has a more global perspective. From this view one can regard it more functionally, which releases it from its ossified typecast. Although Feminism never died, it has been given some revitalisation as a project, and fresh application in new contexts. I wonder if Black will continue to be useful or if it is already outlived its usefulness? In that sense it brings me back to my earlier work.
Now because I came from a sculpture background I’m always comparing things to form, to the object. The re-appropriation of what might be considered at some point as outmoded, through nostalgic appreciation in the spirit of conservation or some kind remodelling or adaptation.
I’ve been kinda stumped, as my drawings, which offered an optimistic scientific newness felt rather trapped and isolated. They just existed but didn’t live; and some how I haven’t worked out the evolution. This is why I turned to an earlier Black invention, if not a modern one. Focusing on the objects depicting my saint, would allow a view through the lens of an archivist, coupled with insight I have gained as a maker. Having done this he appears as a mass of material – a shifting form, which keeps the story moving on…