Speech is my hammer bang the world into shape now let it fall – HUH! -Mos Def, “Hip Hop” (1999)
Visiting the vivid Nu Age Hustle exhibition at Momenta Art resembles internet browsing with a visceral twist to it. Like the frenetic and associative space of the internet, the fragmented, colorful and eclectic videos, installations and drawings in this group show vary widely in tone, subject matter and media.
In one corner, Tobaron Waxman’s rigorous and provocative installation Lechem Oni / Prusa, which means “the bread of poverty” in Hebrew, includes a pile of 400 glycerin and goat’s milk bars. Made in a durational performance, each soap bar encases a piece of handmade Matzah baked by the artist in a Chassidic Matzah factory. Assembled in piles, the soap bars conjure images from concentration camps, with strong allusions to Jewish bodies, aiming to convey the artist’s notion that the Holocaust is hijacked as a means to bias opinion in Israeli politics.
Close by, but with a lighter tone and less controversial cultural reference, Greem Jellyfish’s Korean-based, rhythmic vocals immerse the visitor while she performs a truly relaxing hand massage, generously submerging visitors’ hands in a lotion she has especially concocted for her grandmother, or so goes her narrative.
Jacolby Satterwhite‘s 12:39 minute imaginative video and 3-D animation, “Country Ball”, also references the artist’s family. He combines his mother’s schematic drawings of outdoor activities with footage from a family Mother’s Day Cookout, to create a personal mythology articulated with queer and Afrofuturistic aesthetics. Inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’ Garden of Earthly Delights, the artist conveys a futuristic landscape where the politics of the body are neutral.
Despite this wide range, to various degrees all the artists in Nu Age Hustle are scavengers of popular culture, aiming to immerse the visitor in rhythmically experiential environments. Drawing from elements of New Age, hip hop, e-commerce, fashion, politics and autobiography, they explore in a variety of media the rituals, spiritual awareness, embodiment and commodification that make up our daily lives. “ I really love all of these artists’ work and feel connected to them on a creative, ethical, political and spiritual level,” says Katie Cercone, artist/curator/provocateur, who, in addition to curating shows such as Nu Age Hustle, is also a performative video sculptor, founding member of the queer transnational feminist collective Go! Push Pops, teacher and writer. She wanted the show to reflect the syncretism of the spiritual and the political in art, such as indigenous tradition, crew, chosen family, black radical tradition, folklore, with a special emphasis on feminism. “It ain’t just Divine Feminine,” she says, “it’s raw, phat and trance-inducing.”
When asked how she chooses the artists for her shows she asserts that she is unabashedly drawn to artists that relate to “whatever mystic-feminist-hip hop-transnational-esoteric-post-colonial-empathic-pansexual-crunk-love-vibe-queercore tip” she is on. For example, Sanford Biggers’ iconic break dancing mat collaborative project, Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva II, 2000, was a real inspiration for her, while Elisa Garcia de la Huerta’s colorful textile work made Cercone’s “heart sing.”
Likewise she feels closely connected to Saya Woolfalk’s notion of a semi-religious commitment to No Place, represented here by “Hide from a North American Emphatic,” a mixed media wall piece which is part of her intriguing long term project, “The Institute of Empathy.”
Cercone put Vaginal Davis in the show after reading why the latter had sexualized Black Panther freedom fighter Angela Davis’ name in the first issue of the new feminist rag Girls Against God.
Finally, she was fascinated by the way that spiritual and political dimensions of fashion are manifested in Lainie Love Dalby’s wearable sculptures; they “flaunt the architecture of the soul,” says Cercone. Indeed, stepping into Dalby’s circle at the opening, returning her direct gaze under those oddly fantastic eyelashes, and getting her blessing resulted in a moving experience for many visitors.
Cercone sees the show as hustling towards a “different kind of abundance economy in which artists reign as consciousness shifters, or as the lyrics go, “we wanna make it rain on deez hoez like never before.’” With a New Age strike she believes that “we are shifting into an Aquarian ‘golden age’ of community, joy, trust, collectivity and God in Me.” She wants artists to support each other and make genuine change,”we all raise our vibrations together, “she asserts. Let’s say Amen to that.
Nu Age Hustle opened last Friday and is on view at Momenta Art through December 1, 2013.