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Why My Experience of the Excellent Black Imagination Exhibit Might Be Different From Yours

by Charles Mudede • Jan 12, 2018 at 3:51 pm

Everyone should find time this weekend to experience Black Imagination: The States of Matter, an exhibit at Core Gallery curated by Natasha Marin (an artist who made national news in 2016 with the reparations website), Imani Sims (poet), Amber Flame (writer/educator), and Rachael Ferguson (musician). I experienced Black Imagination last night and found it to be very relaxing. But I think that's because I'm black, and so the black voices and music in the dark maze of the exhibit did not challenge my auditory and tactile senses, but soothed them. This may not be the case for a white person, because a large part of the ideology that, from day one, structured my senses (how I see, feel, and hear things) had the goal of coding a person who viewed me as dangerous, inferior, from a shithole, and even non-human.


So, my choice was either to reject this ideology or to hate myself. This was not a hard choice to make. But if the ideology glorified the color of your skin, and negated those who did not look like you, rejecting it is no simple or easy matter. This is why the experience of Black Imagination might actually be jarring or disorienting if you are white.

But here is what you have to keep in mind while going through the dark spaces of Black Imagination, which ends the week after next (January 27). The US is visually white but sonically black. We have for the eyes, the face of Marilyn Monroe, but for the ears, the voice of Billie Holiday. And so it is in sound that American blackness has its greatest and most immediate power. Black Imagination exploits this power effectively.

"The eye (in general) superficial, the ear profound and inventive. A locomotive's whistle imprints in us a whole railroad station," wrote the 20th century French director Robert Bresson in one of the many notes published in the New York Review of Books' Notes On Cinematography. Black Imagination, which involves voices from people who are often never seen in this city, imprints on us a whole other mode of American existence.

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