In conversation with Khaleb Brooks- Sunanda Mesquita for WE DEY

“Rememory: Ritual Blackness and Beyond” by Khaleb Brooks
14th of June – 30th of June 2018

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We are excited to welcome Khaleb Brooks for a two weeks art residency & solo exhibition at WE DEY x SPACE.

Khaleb Brooks is a multi- media artist whose work is founded on research of ancestral knowledge and oral histories. Through painting, sculpture and photography Khaleb explores the role of memory in disrupting ideologies that maintain time as linear and fixed. By reviving ancestral cosmologies, creating assemblages of fragmented identities and engaging with generational trauma he seeks to re- imagine the notions of progress embedded in colonial and capitalist histories. The solo exhibition “Rememory: Ritual Blackness and Beyond” deals with thoughts and concepts of blackness as ritual and spaces of non- being as well as attempts to transcend these spaces.

FINISSAGE:
30th of June 6pm -10pm
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How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you or your art works yet?

I am a collector of found objects and forgotten information. Rusted metal and dry rotted wood, homemade zines, colonial maps, footage of laughter in the Andes, hand drums, rusted lunch boxes, Tibetan prayer flags, other people’s trash and outdated encyclopedias. They are not always straightforward or clear representations, but are stories. They are memories mapping histories, geographies and identities. They complicate time. This is what drives me. I have learned to listen a bit harder. To piece together not just what is said but to include cracked skin on tired hands and the glow of candles at midnight. I am determined to (re)document moments that have layers slowly peeling away, encompassing a variety of worlds yet to be seen. I am determined to not just capture them, but to let them speak for themselves.

I’m a black, transgender, AFAB, punk kid from the southside of Chicago. I’m an artist that doesn’t see my work as seperate from my politics. In Baldwin’s words, “The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.” My work is an attempt at an honest understanding of myself with hopes of contributing to a greater understanding of who we all are.

How would you position yourself in the art world? Do you feel any connection to current or past people or movements (also outside the art world)?

I’m an outsider when it comes to the art world. Which on one hand is a perk as I don’t have to aspire to be included in a canon that wasn’t meant for me in the first place. On the other hand the institutional support, or lack thereof, directly affects my ability to make work. I’m at a stalemate really, having to grapple with a market I’m not interested in just for my work to be undervalued. When it comes to movements, I’m most inspired by liberatory struggles, the Black Panthers, Zapatistas and Afrofuturism. And when it comes to people, writers such as Toni Morrison, Baldwin, Achille Mbembe, Fred Moten, Sadiyah Hartman and Yrsa Daley- Ward continue to affect my feelings about the world and my place in it. Artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Sun Mu, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Ren Hang, Njideka Akunyili Crosby are my current inspirations and have laid the groundwork for any future success I may have.

 

Haunted by Self-care

Can you tell us more about the series you are going to exhibit at WE DEY x space and what interests you in showing your works in this specific context of WE DEY x SPACE in Vienna?

The works I’m exhibiting all have an underlying thread of ritual processes. They are ultimately concerned with blackness as ritual, spaces of non- being and attempting to transcend that space. Works from the Summoning Spirits series will be featured as well as a painting of writer and presenter Emma Dabiri and writer/ model Yrsa Daley- Ward. The painting of Emma Dabiri speaks to the complexities of black hair, as I attempt to exemplify both it’s beauty and political implications through a collage of materials. Hair, our attitudes toward it and the processes in which we attempt to tame it, let it free, style it, run from it and embrace it greatly influenced the piece. The work of Yrsa Daley- Ward, emerging storyteller and actress, is a recognition of how personal narratives in themselves can be a platform. How can the rituals that keep us alive, thriving and whole affect the lives of others? How do memories, collective memory, secrets and the seemingly mundane transform us? These are the questions writers like Yrsa are answering in their work, this is what I want to capture. The term ‘rememory’ in the title of the show is a direct reference Toni Morrison’s use of the word in her novel Beloved.

WE DEY x space is truly the first of its kind, in my lifetime at least. A collective and gallery space that specifically shows and supports Queer poc artists!? Who would have thought! And it is no coincidence that my second solo show, and first in a gallery, would be in this type of space. WEY DEY x is a space created by Queer/ Trans POC artists for Queer/ Trans POC artists. It is a safe space where I can show my work, get feedback and develop projects with like minded individuals. As someone who falls into the emerging artist category having a show in a space like this is ideal. I can engage with my practice without having to worry about institutional racism and transphobic perceptions.

The Brilliant

What sparked your interest in reviving what has been forgotten- how do you link your art to ancestral memory and what outcomes do you imagine?

 

An interest in forgotten information was sparked by my own family. Secrets, fears, dreams and genealogies were a staple in my childhood. I’ll never forget when I learned the name Amos Taggert during a conversation with my grandmother about how she monitored my mum for schizophrenia. He was the Irishman that raped my great grandmother Rita Mae Bell when she was 13, and had my grandfather as a result. She is still alive, and has been in a mental institution since the 40s. And with that background and my grandmother’s mother who spent her life in a mental institution, she didn’t think my mother had a chance. Another example is the photograph I was show of my family on plantation steps. Or even the photograph of my third, maybe fourth great aunt, an ex slave wearing a fur coat. How’d she get that fur coat, I’d ask. Or how come this aunt is light and that ones not. And my grandmother would say, oh here’s another photo of the plantation owner (slave master), also your ancestor. The stories go on and on and got more scandalous and ridden with pain as I got older, some I can’t repeat, not yet.

Many people in the African diaspora don’t know their histories and even those that do, it’s more of an idea. These fragments, real and invented are my true medium and I’m still learning the best ways to convey their meanings. At the moment portraiture is the predominant way I attempt to make linkages between ancestral memory and art. None of us, and I speak particularly to black transgender folks, are new stand alone representations of ourselves. And through our faces and the faces of black folk in general I’m acknowledging a lost trajectory, forgotten ancestral knowledge and place our experiences within a context that isn’t just a manifestation  of colonialism or even post- colonial discourse. African cosmologies have always included us and I’d just like to tell that story.

 

As part of your residency at  WE DEY x space, we invited you to host an evening. Can you tell us more about what you have planned, who it is for and what are you imagining as a possible outcome?

I’ll be hosting two evenings in the space. One evening I’ll be screening a short documentary by long time friend and Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis, called The Son I Never Had. Afterwards Pidgeon will Skype in and we’ll have a discussion about their experiences, activism, and how art/ media affects their life and struggle for change. This is for everyone. When we discuss LGBTQ lives, we still forget the I for Intersex. I hope this creates greater understanding of that experience for everyone and help us understand what we as artists can do for our community.

I’ll also be hosting a comic book workshop where we discuss character development, storyboarding and the history of Queer and POC comics.

 

WE DEY x SPACE proudly presents

“Rememory: Ritual Blackness and Beyond” by Khaleb Brooks
14th of June – 30th of June 2018

We are excited to welcome Khaleb Brooks for a two weeks art residency & solo exhibition at WE DEY x SPACE.

Khaleb Brooks is a multi- media artist whose work is founded on research of ancestral knowledge and oral histories. Through painting, sculpture and photography Khaleb explores the role of memory in disrupting ideologies that maintain time as linear and fixed. By reviving ancestral cosmologies, creating assemblages of fragmented identities and engaging with generational trauma he seeks to re- imagine the notions of progress embedded in colonial and capitalist histories. The solo exhibition “Rememory: Ritual Blackness and Beyond” deals with thoughts and concepts of blackness as ritual and spaces of non- being as well as attemps to transcend these spaces.

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VERNISSAGE: “”Rememory: Ritual Blackness and Beyond”
14th of June at 6pm
LINE UP tba
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EXHIBITION OPENING HOURS/OPEN STUDIO:
(the artist will be present)
Mon-Thurs 11am-4pm
Sat 4-7pm
Sun 1-4pm
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QTIBPoC COMIC WORKSHOP
DATE tba

Khaleb Brooks will host a comic book workshop where we will discuss character development, storyboarding and the history of Queer and POC comics. ♥ please register with an email to we.dey.in@gmail.com
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FILMSCREENING OPEN FOR ALL
DATE tba

Screening of short documentary by Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis, called The Son I Never Had. Afterwards Pidgeon will Skype in and we’ll have a discussion about their experiences, activism, and how art/ media affects their life and struggle for change. This is for everyone. When we discuss LGBTQ lives, we still forget the I for Intersex. I hope this creates greater understanding of that experience for everyone and help us understand what we as artists can do for our community.
*
FINISSAGE:
30th of June 4pm -10pm
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Accessibility Infos:

X SPACE is accessible via a ramp. The ramp is 76 cm wide and the slope is 9 %. For more information please contact us!
The closest wheelchair accessible toilet is @ Café Oben, Urban-Loritz-Platz. It’s a five minutes distance.

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about WE DEY x space

WE DEY x space is dedicated to amplify the art and culture production for and by Queer/Trans*/Inter/Black People/People of Color

WE DEY x space aims to center marginalised voices, perspectives, knowledges and experiences from different diasporas

WE DEY x space will host exhibitions, workshops, kitchen table talks and film screenings around the topics of decolonial art production, community, self-care, empowerment.

The Deadline is moving closer!! 1 week left to send in your submissions! We are looking forward to hear from you!

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Project Dates:

The duration of the projects can range from an evening session, a day, up to 2 weeks in 2018.

What we have to offer:

As a non-profit self-organised art space we offer our venue free of charge, we will support with online and printed publicity and logistical/technical support. We are happy to connect you to other BPoC Artists based in Vienna and to educational programmes that work in local schools. We will provide administrative and curatorial support. If you apply from outside of Vienna we can also offer a guest room in a queer housing project.

We are currently applying for travel costs & production costs, but we cannot promise any financial support yet. Feel free to contact us for more information.

Your application should include the following in one PDF file (in English or German):

  • Artist’s statement describing your practice and areas of interest (up to 250 words)
  • A minimum of 10 images of recent projects, with captions and a short description if necessary.
  • CV/Resume
  • project description including
    * a list of required equipment & technical support
    * preferred dates and links to relevant media (e.g. articles about your work, exhibitions)
    * Project goals & target groups (who is the project directed towards, is there an invitation policy, will the programme be open only to a specific group or public and why?)
  • cover sheet with name, contact address, e-mail and telephone numbers, website details if available.

Send your application to we.dey.in@gmail.com

DEADLINE: 14th of February 2018, 12pm.

more infos HERE

 

In preparation of Sophie Utikal’s solo show at WE DEY x SPACE, Sunanda Mesquita asked Sophie Utikal, a few questions about her artistic practice and what she is expecting from exhibiting in this particular space focused on BPoC arts in Vienna. Her current series “Threads of Selves” is on view from 12th -29th of October 2017 at WE DEY x SPACE, Kandlgasse 24, 1070 Vienna.

In conversation with Sophie Utikal

 

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S.M.: Thanks Sophie for taking your time! How would you choose to introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know anything about your art works yet?

 

 

S.U.: My work is about stitching together textile fragments into self portraits of the different landscapes and imageries I see within my body. I use very soft and harmonic colors but stitch everything together with black thread, this makes the borders seem very rough. Because my drawings do not care so much about the “right” proportions and are very simple, the images look childish, which I really like a lot. And still, my technique of sewing everything together by hand is such a difficult and also intense process. I think my images are about breaking binaries of simple/complex, soft/hard, beautiful/disturbing, superficial/deep.

S.M.: Textile art production is embedded in many indigenous communities and communities of color- can you tell us a bit more about your work process and if/how you are referring to these herstories? What made you start to work in this medium?

S.U.: Yes, this is true, the women in my mother’s family from Colombia work with textile and produce textile images that are very simple and complex at the same time. They depict scenes from the everyday life on the countryside, farm animals, trees and houses. I was always fascinated by these images and wanted to apply their storytelling to my surroundings, my body and point of enunciation. The way the borders of my textile fragments are stitched together is a very clear reference to their works. In my case though, I chose to use a black thread to emphasize every stitch I make, instead of hiding them, which would a more common method. I want to make the process and the work visible which are necessary to create these highly complex artworks which are usually called naive art in the Colombian context.

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S.M.: Can you tell us more about the series “Threads of Selves”, which you are going to exhibit at WE DEY x space?

S.U.: It is a series of my bodies in different situations and moments I have experienced. You can see me in very powerful positions, flexing into all directions throwing knives towards my surroundings but also in more calm in melancholic moments, lying around in my bed on an island. On one image I am embracing another body, we flow into each other and thereby create a new body of fragmented bits and pieces. Right now I am working on a new piece for the exhibition which will show me in a position I learned for healing traumas. You lie on your back and lift your pelvis until it starts shaking by itself. This movement is very common also for some animals like rabbits, that after the moment of danger and shock has passed they start trembling all over their body to release the anxiety and fear. Humans usually do not do this, so the trauma might stay within their body forever. My images are my own way of storytelling and making my insides visible.

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S.M.: You are planning a workshop named “Stitching Stories” which will focus on collective textile painting making. Can you tell us who the workshop is for and what you are imagining as a possible outcome?

S.U.: The workshop with be exclusively for Black People and People of Color. And as a possible outcome I wish to manifest ourselves into a material form, while connecting what was meant to stay separate. While stitching we will talk, relax and meditate on what it feels like to inhabit our bodies and how we navigate ourselves through our everyday life. I will provide all material necessary. There will be drinks and snacks. The workshop is for free. All skills are welcome.

More details on Facebook
Please send us an email to register for the workshop: we.dey.in@gmail.com
And please be on time ♥

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S.M.: Where & how was your work presented before and what did you like about it/ what would you want to be different this time at WE DEY x space? What are your expectations?

S.U.: Until now my work was presented in informal everyday life settings of my home or of friends. I wouldn’t mind if bigger institutions would invite me to do a solo show, since i still depend on their capital (resources, prestige, networks, cash). Still, I would not expect the audience to identify with my works or be touched on an emotional level. I am sorry to say that in Vienna the big institutions are still white ones, that also attract a white audience with their own white reality. Since my images deal with my body which is outside of  the white eurocentric norms, I think the gap will be too big to feel what I feel in my works, but of course I am open for surprises and even hope that my works can create connections where there were none before.

As WE DEY is a self-organized space by black and people of color I also hope for an audience of Black and People of Color. I am the most happy when I feel understood and I really hope that this will happen with people who share some of my experiences as a Woman of Color.

S.M.: We have focused previously on the topic Self Care at WE DEY x SPACE- I would be very interested in knowing what does radical self care mean to you? Did you work before with this particular focus?

S.U.: The process of creating, feeling my body and recognizing myself in Others is what radical self care means to me. This can be writing a letter to my ass and designing free posters with a portrait of me embracing my butt and the love messages I feel for my body. This is what I did in my other work called “culo con orgullo”.  Connected to this work I also did a writing workshop, where all the participants wrote love letters to one of their body parts, then we exchanged the letters and another person answered from the perspective of the addressed body part. It was a very intense, funny and healing experience for all of us.

S.M.: Thank you Sophie Utikal I am looking forward to your Vernissage this Thursday 12th of October!

Sunanda Mesquita
Co-founder of WE DEY