31 Oct Tia
Final Product/Artifact: Introduce a book project that you’ve recently completed. To deepen the experience of your work, is there anything that you would like to convey to the reader/viewer about the significance and meaning of the work which might not be readily accessible?
I AM features pressure prints of personal photographs with handset letterpress text in a stab binding. I position myself as a stand-in for African American victims of violence and police brutality to explore the phenomenon of their post-mortem criminalization. The pointed humiliation and dehumanization of black victims, their loved ones, and communities has become increasingly blatant and ludicrous. How immediately and wholly their character, appearance, lifestyle are cast in a negative light. The unspoken assumption: they must be guilty of something. Black women and girls especially are deemed suspect at the intersection of racism and misogyny.
Did you discover any new mode of making, any new skill or technique which you had not previously engaged in?
At Paper and Book Intensive, I had taken a pressure printing workshop with Barb Tetenbaum that introduced me to using the technique for detailed, tonal images. I really enjoyed the process. It gave me an immense amount of control in making and altering images that remained recognizable.
Was building this book generative for you in terms of conceptualizing future projects? Though it can stand alone, I AM is in conversation with my YOU ARE, which employs the same techniques and structure. Where I AM focuses on violence directed at black bodies, YOU ARE examines black womanhood through the lens of white womanhood. Or vice versa depending upon who the reader thinks “you” is.
Speak about potentials and possibilities—what would you do differently if you were to reproduce the project from the beginning? I want to say that I would edition I AM and YOU ARE together if I could do it all over. I learned so much in the process of printing I AM, but I needed a few months to consider the fracturing of the portraits in YOU ARE and how that related to the construct of race’s fragility particularly in terms of femininity, value and innocence.
An aspect of process documentation that is different from your white colleagues?
For me, it is very important, though mildly uncomfortable, to be in the photographic documentation of my process. I think it is really important to see black artists in the studio, with their artist, giving lectures, etc. It is too easy to have your effort and presence erased. Particularly for black artists. Obviously representation is so important. In today’s climate, it is necessary to counter the attempts to portray black people, particularly black women negatively with images of artistry and creativity. So I share photographs of myself working on I AM in the studio, not because I want to show tons of pics of me sleeping and running on fumes in the studio, but because I remember seeing images of black painters, writers, sculptors, and printmakers. Those images document a history of creativity and artistry in the black community, and allows you to recognize that the rhetoric spewed about the inability and laziness of black people is more likely projection than fact.