I’m sometimes really surprised that people want to read my work as activist. I make artworks, objects, in an approximately conventional way, even if they are mostly videos. I’m always trying to drag big geopolitical or historical narratives into the realm of direct individual experience, and I even go so far as to find that kind of funny, that weird combination of scales: funny and also a bit painful. For example, The Neck puts together my bad childhood drawings where I didn’t understand how to draw a neck between the head and the body, and my dad’s black radical politics that he had at one time, some of which was great but sometimes we would go to political meetings and be told, “The man is the head of the household and the woman is the neck.” Jaki Liebezeit During A Power Cut Circa 1970 fuses the economic changes in the organization of capital that happened in the 1970s and a child listening to her parents’ records. The child is partly me and partly someone else—I wasn’t born yet in the 1970s, but someone I was in love with at the time was. I don’t see how any official politics can be any more important than the intensity of listening to music. Maybe, more than anything else, the videos are about rhythm. I fantasize that one day I will just make music.
What I’m saying is, my work is a kind of refusal of politics, as much as an affirmation of politics. But I want to take those things seriously. I’m not sneering at any of it. I ended up reading the neck as the idea of mediation, the impossibility of mediations between the image and the self, between a racial identity and the self, partly because maybe we don’t even know what’s really there, in the place of the self. I don’t think this follows the logic of activism at all. Those kinds of links are so insubstantial, they are almost arbitrary, something to do with memory, maybe, and I think they can only really happen in art or in a joke.
An artwork might change something I guess because of how it is received or how people carry the memory of it. When we’re talking about art changing anything, we’re talking about art changing a person, and what that person might do in response to this encounter with a work. There are definitely artworks that have changed me and not all of them were even works that I particularly liked.
Read More | “Artist Profile: Hannah Black”| Jesse Darling | Rhizome