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my sun is black as the glowing sea by night, 2022

Digital photographic collages on PVC, single-channel video, sample-based soundtrack, vinyl lettering, gusto gold paint 

Curation and creative direction by Justin Smith, founder/curator of Afrovisualism

 

“My Sun Is Black as the Glowing Sea by Night” is an immersive image-based installation that boasts a blaring bass-heavy soundtrack influenced by world-building science-fiction films, Marvel comics, children's books, and Griot storytelling. “My Sun is Black as the Glowing Sea by Night” tells the story of Yahya, a little boy who gets lost and wanders into a museum, where he encounters a rip in the space-time continuum. Yahya walks into the portal and is transported into the bodies of alternate versions of himself.

The narrative of "My Sun is Black as the Glowing Sea by Night" centers around a young boy named Yahya who becomes lost and wanders into a museum. Once inside, Yahya unexpectedly falls into a portal, a tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum. His first sight within the museum is an exhibition featuring a peculiar combination of police, bears, and dinosaurs. This moment acts as a cinematic departure from the expected, similar to a canted angle in film, where someone observing Yahya's journey would discern a subtle disturbance. The camera metaphorically tilts and advances to unveil the anomaly, akin to a glitch in the matrix.

What I appreciate about Yahya's character is his youthful innocence, possibly rendering him unable to immediately recognize that something is off. Instead, he embraces this unconventional reality as a possible circumstance of the world.

 

Yahya is a composite character, embodying aspects of myself, Danny from Syd Hoff's children's book "Danny and the Dinosaur," and Peter from Ezra Jack Keats' "The Snowy Day." These children's books are deeply ingrained in my childhood; I repeatedly read and rediscovered them as an adult, revealing an entirely new perspective.

 

"My Sun is Black as the Glowing Sea by Night" delves into themes of extinction and restorative justice. It contemplates the notion of holding accountable those involved in genocide by metaphorically holding up a mirror and fostering a dialogue about how we can collectively forge a better future. This conceptual exploration draws inspiration from the original story of a children's book by Syd Hoff, "Danny and the Dinosaur," where specific groups of people are displayed alongside animals in the museum, perpetuating their otherness and reducing them to objecthood and animalistic qualities. In a deliberate reimagining, I sought to invert the concept of extinction, introducing the presence of police into this dialogue on extinction—a timely reflection of our current discourse surrounding the abolition of the police.

Through this artistic lens, the piece challenges societal norms and prompts viewers to reflect on the intersections of the past and present. It invites contemplation on how these narratives can contribute to a more inclusive and just future. "My Sun is Black as the Glowing Sea by Night" is a thought-provoking art installation that addresses contemporary issues and acts as a visual catalyst for dialogue and reflection on the complexities of societal transformation.


"Yahya and the Freedom Suit" explores the theme of self-discovery through an older, wiser, and physically distinct version of oneself. Throughout the series, Yahya consistently gazes upward, a deliberate choice rooted in my fascination with the interplay between body language and circumstance. Contrary to a simplistic interpretation that associates Yahya's upward gaze solely with his small stature, it serves as a nuanced expression. Yahya could be looking up due to mood or circumstances, such as kyphosis—a spinal curvature causing a hunched posture. The constant upward gaze signifies a connection with the sun, a symbol of discovery.

Looking up, to me, suggests a lack of fixation within one's immediate realm or line of sight. It challenges the notion of vanity and encourages the observer to transcend their immediate surroundings. The act of looking upward symbolizes a shift away from being the sole pilot of one's destiny, allowing space for external guidance. This theme is embodied by the black mass character named Aiyah, a time stream jumper who aids Yahya in his journey. The name Aiyah, an inversion of Yahya's name, was developed with the assistance of Szu-han, who also contributed voice acting and narration to the film titled "19th ACT," playing in the gallery.

Aiyah serves as a freedom suit, emancipating himself from the constraints of space and time, enabling unrestricted movement. The term "freedom suit" is a nod to the dashiki, popularized during the Black Power movement. The founder of New Breed, the clothing designer associated with the dashiki, referred to it as a "freedom suit." This term not only reflects the empowering connection to Africa but also emphasizes the physical freedom provided by the garment's unrestrictive, free-flowing design. Similarly, Aiyah, the black mass character, embodies the liberating qualities of the dashiki, traversing space and time freely.

In essence, "Yahya and the Freedom Suit" intertwines themes of upward exploration, external guidance, and the emancipatory nature of the dashiki, offering a multi-dimensional narrative that transcends physical and temporal boundaries. The characters, particularly Yahya and Aiyah, symbolize a journey of self-discovery and empowerment, inviting viewers to contemplate the interconnectedness of identity, guidance, and freedom.

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