ariella tai – Statement for “Antidote”:
“don’t let the money make you” uses digitally manipulated images sourced from late 90s hit films “Set it Off” and “The Player’s Club” to consider both the prescribed and alternate narrative possibilities for black lesbian characters Ronnie and Cleo as they relate to alternate economies, deviancy, pleasure and resistance.
HELP TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN HAITI
For home school’s contribution to ANTIDOTE at c3, curated by the Nat Turner Project, home school co-founder manuel arturo abreu presents a selection of three videos in the vein of their current research program, the alternative history of abstraction. This program rejects the European modernist origin myth of abstraction and the western autonomous, functionless objet d’art in favor of an older, more-vetted, socially- and spiritually-embedded, functional Black and brown abstraction. (1) The titular video presents the overall proposal of the alternative history of abstraction. Two others present specific case studies: (2) of Dominican cultural worker and musician Enerolisa Núñez, and (3) of the zombie concept as a response to the Haitian Revolution.
(1) An Alternative History of Abstraction, 2020. Here, abreu heeds Suhail Malik’s call for an exit from contemporary art and its historicism by rejecting the European modernist origin myth of abstraction in favor of the long timeline of the abstract; a few examples like Muslim aniconism, West African fractal pattern, Tang-era Chinese calligraphy; and the value of an interdisciplinary approach that understands abstraction not as sublimation away from the concrete / market / functionality, but as fundamental to mundane daily life, expression, and function. The germ of abstraction is the tongue itself: as an arbitrary linkage of sound and meaning, and as a way of articulating possible worlds, language is abstraction per excellence. From strange biological and physical constraints emerges the calculating potential of electric meat, i.e. the brain, and the history of human survival inextricably depends upon the reproduction of abstract culture which constantly constructs reality while wrestling with calculation, the “irrealis” or subjunctive, and the idea of “something more” than just surviving.
(2) Dejabo del agua: the wake work of Enerolisa Núñez, 2020. With her family band, Enerolisa Núñez, the “Queen of Salve,” performs Afro-Dominican religious music in the salve style, also called palo or atabales. We review some musical examples, examine the history and context of Núñez’s music and palo genres generally, and explore how Núñez navigates Afro-Dominican citizenship, or “no-citizenship” as Christina Sharpe says, in a context where palo seems to move into national prominence since the 90s, but is in fact reduced to “roots” or “folklore,” not recognized as retention of living African presence and resistance in the Dominican spiritual and social fabric. We analyze the specific exploitative context of Enerolisa’s collaboration with Dominican musician Kinito Mendez. Despite such marginalization, practitioners like Núñez continue to work in the wake to maintain the fullness of African spirituality in the face of the antiblack specter of “brujería” in the Christian Dominican mainstream, the commemorative national and corporate use of “folkloric” music, and what Sharpe calls oceanic time – “a time that does not pass, a time in which the past and present verge.” From a space under the water, Enerolisa works to heal herself and retain her family’s traditions. This video was originally produced for the 2020 Black Feminist Summer School.
(3) ZOMBIE: Fear of a Black Republic, 2020. Using film footage and critical analysis, abreu analyzes the development of the antiblack zombie trope in literature, cinema, and video games from its origins in the wake of Haiti’s liberation by means of vodou to its current deracialized form. In doing the work to recover the racial nature of this trope, we also learn more about the richness of Caribbean engagement with the imposed cannibal, Caliban, and zombie tropes– all iterations on the notion of “fetish,” developed by Portuguese and Dutch missionaries to pejoratively describe West African material and spiritual practices that hindered their colonial endeavors and rejected their Christian materialist value systems. Likely from repressed fears of being themselves simply brainless vessels for power, as well as from titillation by the idea of flesh-consumption (projection of the Eucharist), Europeans projected onto Haitians and Dominicans the soul possession trope, based on colonial misreadings of spiritual practice and theology on the island. However, the undead kills back.