This is a very short excerpt from a forthcoming project. The original audio is 15 minutes was collected on July 16, 2013 on 125th and Lenox. Pasted below is the text I wrote back when I first collected this audio on my iPhone.
Across the street were the NOI brothers handing out the Final Call papers and was told the Five Percenters were camped out down the block. The religious diversity of Harlem, of Black people in the Americas. I stopped to talk to the Israelite brothers for a bit, collected some literature, read through all the placards and stuck around for the theatrics. I do not say theatrics to be dismissive, rather, it is an assertion that street proselytizing is inherently theatrical because they are trying to invite an audience into the public space they have co-opted/reclaimed as sacred ritualized space/micro learning stations. In order to keep an audience, they must be theatrical and performative. (Also, consider the charismatic Christian movement and the tactics used to draw an audience). I had seen brothers from this chapter perform before, but wanted to see it again for myself. I am curious about several elements of this site specific religious performance art — 1) the positioning of the preachers on a platform above everyone else 2) the tag team sermon delivery style where one brother delivered the sermon while another brother stood next to him and read Bible verses on command 3) the militarization of their clothing and spatial organization around the stage/table the preachers stood on 4) the use of a microphone and the cadence of their speech 5) the language used in the placard — mainly Bible verses 6) the studded uniforms 7) the absence of women.
MAMBU BADU is a collective of cultural producers and artists who curate art-based experiences that center the process and product of black self-identified women with a focus on photo-based work.
We curate biannual shows and publications in addition to independent projects. For 2014, we will be curating a show in Washington D.C.’s Vivid Solutions Gallery as well as organizing a series of public programming to bridge the gap between the gallery and the community. In the past, MAMBU BADU collective founders have curated art experiences in spaces such as the Median (Washington, D.C.) and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Harlem, NY).
We are especially keen on collaborations that encourage community engagement, inquiry, and artistic exploration. While MB began as a collective of photographers, our vision has evolved to create space to not only create art but to interrogate art practices. We want to explore the dialectical relationship between theory and practice as well as the between contemplation and creation. We want to map the materialization of thoughts and histories.
In the section of Capital titled “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof,” Marx demonstrates that the commodity is a materialization of our social relations:
A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labor. It is as clear as noon-day that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was.
According to Marx, the commodity is comprised of two values: use value and exchange value. But there is a third, intrinsic value that stems from exchange value, and it is here that the total and unconditional interdependency between commodities is found. The commodity is the thing that always feels at home. Whereas man suffers from a folkloristic and identity-dependent conception of foreignness, acquaintance, history, tradition, and alienation, and plants and animals have difficulty acclimatizing, the commodity is a mode of being that is free of all these. It is first and foremost a presence.
“When you start to really know someone, all their physical characteristics start to disappear. You begin to dwell in their energy, recognize the scent of their skin. You see only the essence of the person, not the shell. That’s why you can’t fall in love with beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and body but not your heart. And that’s why, when you really connect with a person’s inner self, any physical imperfections disappear, become irrelevant.”—Lisa Unger (via tobia)
“When I ask to photograph someone, it is because I love the way they look and I think I make that clear. I’m paying them a tremendous compliment. What I’m saying is, I want to take you home with me and look at you for the rest of my life.”—
In order to determine this degree of history and, through that, the borderline at which the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the gravedigger of the present, we have to know precisely how great the plastic force of a person, a people, or a culture is. I mean that force of growing in a different way out of oneself, of reshaping and incorporating the past and the foreign, of healing wounds, compensating for what has been lost, rebuilding shattered forms out of one`s self. There are people who possess so little of this force that they bleed to death incurably from a single experience, a single pain, often even from a single tender injustice, as from a really small bloody scratch. On the other hand, there are people whom the wildest and most horrific accidents in life and even actions of their own wickedness injure so little that right in the middle of these experiences or shortly after they bring the issue to a reasonable state of well being with a sort of quiet conscience.
The stronger the roots which the inner nature of a person has, the more he will appropriate or forcibly take from the past. And if we imagine the most powerful and immense nature, then we would recognize there that for it there would be no frontier at all beyond which the historical sense would be able to work as an injurious overseer. Everything in the past, in its own and in the most alien, this nature would draw upon, take it into itself, and, as it were, transform into blood.
”—Friedrich Nietzsche (On the Use and Abuse of History for Life)
“I don’t write out of what I know; I write out of what I wonder. I think most artists create art in order to explore, not to give the answers. Poetry and art are not about answers to me; they are about questions.”—Lucille Clifton
peace and blessings to everyone trying to articulate and maintain better, more enlightened versions of themselves even when mediocrity and familiarity seem like seductive routes. let that flicker of longing for something better be enough light to sustain the first step. strive to make excellence a routine. it’s hard. giving up and giving in is much easier. i saw a better version of myself far off into the distance. she waved. she said “come thru”. mapping a route to her. this is a reminder for me and for you.