In September I had the opportunity to take part in a series of touring performances with Electronic Voice Phenomena. (EVP) Traveling Edinburgh, Liverpool and London.
The performance piece I presented was a live narration taken from Charles Dickens 1842 travel writing ‘American Notes’. The section I recite from in this book is Dickens description of the dancer Master Juba performance. (Master Juba is regarded by some as the first black performer in the United States and the inventor of tap dancing) Dickens description of seeing Master Juba perform in New York helped him reach wide fame and international popularity.
The live reading was merged with a projected, edited segment from Andrew Stones 1942 film ‘Stormy Weather’ with its all star black cast. (During a conflicting era in Hollywood in having Black lead roles) Including Leana Horne, Cab Callowey, Bill Robinson, Nicholas Brothers. Focusing on the famous dance performance by the Nicholas Brothers, the narrated text was read in time in fitting in pace with movie.
I arrived at this piece whilst researching work for another project and came to read ‘American Notes’. At around the same time that I was also researching The Nicolas Brothers. Initially merging the text with just the dance sequence, and later realizing there were more matches within this particular section of the book and the film.
The natural fit of the two materials raise questions of Charles Dickens and Andrew Stones as commentators rather than change makers and the relation this has within today’s politics.
Having a gap of one hundred years between the two works, both artists put at the centre of celebration an African American culture that they are not apart of, adopting the position of immobile cultural viewers. Avoiding a self -critical look at there own conventional perceptions. In light of the current focus on the United States, I feel that a self-critical question is one worth asking.
To give an idea of how this was presented live, I have dubbed the section I use from the movie with a pre-recorded reading from American Notes.
Hope you enjoy!
Last month at The Showroom in London, both myself and Kodwo Eshun had the pleasure of being joined in conversation with Louis Chude-Sokei, around his most recent book 'The Sound of Culture (Diaspora and Black Technopoetics)' to discuss the mutual implication of posthumanism, Postcoloniality, Afrofutrism and Cybertheory.
As a great admirer of Louis's work it was an honour to have him in person, continuing from our Skype discussion earlier in April 2016 at Cubitt.