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Sonic painting on 2.1 high-fidelity KEF LSX II sound system with Bowers & Wilkins subwoofer 00:15:22:02, Red square, vinyl text

Photo transfer of Harriet Tubman, photographed by Horatio Seymour Squyer, 1885,

Photo transfer of Michael Jordan, photographed by Jacobus Rentmeester for LIFE magazine: Olympics Special Issue, 1984

African artworks and artifacts from East Carolina University’s Gray Gallery collection


Concept & Design of promotional materials by Johannes Barfield and Illustrations by Daniela Gamba


MARAUDERS, is a three-person exhibition featuring original art by Antoine Williams, Donté K. Hayes, and Johannes Barfield. Through a range of media including ceramics, audio/visual installations, wheat paste murals,and collages, Marauders explores themes of history, memory, ancestry, and futurism. Williams, Hayes, and Barfield’s processes each involve deconstructing concepts and materials from personal and cultural archives as they construct narratives related to the African Diaspora. Creating new intertwined futures as they retrieve, conjure, steal, and manifest the heirlooms they never received, their work combats deculturation and celebrates a new era of cultural reclamation.

PLOY: The original sample-based score tells the story of a group of brave individuals who set out to steal looted artifacts from a moving train and return them to the communities they belong. My childhood home is about seven or eight houses down from busy railroad tracks, so trains fascinated me. I used to jump onto freight trains and do what they call train-hopping or freighthopping. It's something that would get me into a lot of trouble. The Norfolk Southern Railway is the train I was accustomed to seeing, and I decided to use many of the sounds from that particular train intermixed with early steam engines of the 1800s. The score was influenced by Jersey club music, New York drill, trap, soul, orchestral, and big-budget science-fiction scores like Akira (1988) and Robocop (1987). I worked on the music as if I had the visuals for the story, but in reality, there were none, so I felt my way through the dark, crafting and procuring every note.

We Have All Lost Something Along Our Path: Michael Jordan was a world-class professional basketball player and six-time NBA championship winner. He is a symbol of perseverance and determination. I think about this photo taken by Jacobus Rentmeester for LIFE magazine in 1984 and how it is an artifact that encapsulates how it must feel to have everyone's attention but only to have them underestimate your abilities. For example, look at Michael Jordan's leap trajectory in this photo by Jacobus Rentmeester. Michael will need help to make this dunk with his current path. This photo is before his revolutionary Nike shoe endorsement deal that Micheal's mother, Deloris Jordan, would masterfully negotiate. The agreement that Deloris created for Michael had never been done before, and it ensured that he would get a percentage of every shoe Nike sold with his name attached to it. Michael Jordan had a "seat at the table" for success in this 1984 photo, but most people didn't think he would be more than a decent NBA player. No one knew that he would become arguably the best basketball player of all time. This piece is about the underdog and the complexities of what comes after you are no longer the underdog. Perhaps during your ascension, you lose some things like compassion and empathy for others while you gain an insatiable competitive spirit that feeds on winning. This work is also about irony, the many masks we wear, and the masks people perceive us to wear. It is a living artifact that asks many questions, but the most important to me is: what will I lose along my path?

Dividing Waters: Harriet Tubman was a hero who rescued people from forced labor camps during 1858-1860 in The United States. When we think of Harriet Tubman now we think of someone who was masterless, liberated, and gangster. What did we think of Harriet Tubman then when she was a conductor of the Underground Railroad liberating African peoples? The word "looter" is a part of the American fabric and how things started with colonialism—for example, stealing land from Indigenous peoples, kidnapping groups of people from Africa for forced labor, and stealing precious cultural artifacts from communities around the world. When a group of people are considered property, and an object for labor, and someone like Harriet Tubman comes along and steals you into freedom, then what would they call her? I have been thinking about this concept since a black artist named Janae Williams aka juh weems posted “Harriet Tubman was a looter” on their Instagram story during the uprisings of 2020. Around this time media coverage began to focus on stories about businesses being broken into by “looters” and I began to reflect on what it means to be called a “looter.” In the fall of 2020, I created and taught a course at VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) called “The Art of Looting.” The course explored concepts surrounding the implications of using appropriated imagery, loaded materials, the looting of artifacts, the repatriation/restitution of artifacts, and the role subversion can play when creating work from pre-existing media. I discovered that our perception and perspective can shift as we exercise empathy.

STEALYOURSELF: I was watching a video on YouTube of Arthur Jafa, who was talking about the artist Richard Prince and the way Richard creates work. Arthur Jafa says, “What does it mean that you have to steal yourself in order to be self-determined? So, to me, Richard Prince’s work operates in this space. It’s refusal to respect proprietary or property values, and stuff is so black.” Arthur Jafa also says in the interview that Richard Prince’s work “parallels Hip-Hop sampling.” Both statements about Richard Prince’s work parallel mine and how I feel about sampling and appropriation. The connection between my ancestors being owned and stolen back by freedom fighters like Harriet Tubman is central to the work, which is essentially about paradox and irony.

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