VIAD (Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre) and CSSJ (Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice at Brown University) present Black Sonic: Heritage as Heresy, an exhibition at FADA Gallery this 14 July.
In 2019, VIAD, in partnership with the CSSJ, embarked on a major three-part project. Titled The Imagined New, (or What Happens when History is a Catastrophe?), this long-term project offers multiple interdisciplinary platforms for critical exchange and research around African and African-Diasporic art practices as they relate to questions of history, archive and the alternative imagination(s) of radical Black tradition.
As the second volume of The Imagined New, Black Sonic: Heritage as Heresy first emerged as a four-part digital programme of original content, uploaded to The Imagined New website for uninhibited, public engagement. The digital programme responds to a central inquiry of the broader, long-term project: If the fantasy of ‘civilisation’ is sustained by imagining and reimagining relationships with the environment, memory and a set of inherent rules which imbricate whiteness with the sacred, then how does the profane (read Blackness) undertake this task of historical (re)imagination? How do those that face down the catastrophe of history rebuild in its aftermath(s)?
Central to this rebuilding is a certain conception of Heritage and Heresy. Here, heritage is not intended as a kind of singular cultural, national or continental identity but as praxis or rather, a set of praxes that operate both in relation to and against the logo-centrism of ‘civilisation.’ As an expression, Blackness challenges the stability of the sacred-profane dialectic. In so doing, heresy reveals the paradox of the orthodox and enacts the possibility of choice.
The programme’s four online instalments, or sets, (Black Phonic Substance, Radical Imagination of the Ordinary, Erased Bodies which Speak, and Perceptive Knowledges) explore sound and sonics not as content, category, or the cultural ‘by-product’ of the Black experience, but as a heritage of heretical praxis; as so many ways of being and becoming.
Referring to a systemic mainstream culture of marginalising Blackness, Black Sonic asks: If the project of history is one of silence, of the systematic erasure and disappearance of those considered peripheral to the optic fantasy and logo-centrism of ‘civilisation’ (read whiteness), then how might the sonic present a uniquely enabling modality for thinking, feeling and performing a different historical imagination?
In line with the mission of the digital programme, Black Sonic: Heritage as Heresy is reimagined in new form as an immersive exhibition at FADA Gallery. This multimedia offering includes film and sound installations, print media, photography, and classical African art; all tracing the various ways in which Black knowledge evolves across history and location through sonic production and expression.
The exhibition is an audio-visual experience that transports audiences through various Black soundings from across the African diaspora.
Featured artists: DJ Lynnée Denise, Michael McMillan, Edouard Duval-Carrié, Ihab Balla, Rhea Storr, Geri Augusto, Jessica Care Moore, Jonzi D, Axelle ‘Ebony’ Munezero, Bolegue Manuela and Nafisah Baba.
Curators: Machel Bogues – VIAD Research Associate, Melaine Ferdinand-King – CSSJ Graduate Research Fellow, Lois Anguria – VIAD Research Manager, and William Johnson – VIAD Research Associate.
The opening reception will include live performances by:
Mzanzi Youth Choir
The Mzanzi Youth Choir is widely regarded as the best show choir in South Africa. Currently in residence at UJ Arts & Culture, 18 members of the Mzanzi Youth Choir will perform an acapella-style arrangement of southern African traditional songs.
Tshepang Ramboa is an award-winning singer, songwriter, drummer, producer, and film music producer currently on tour as a member of the alternative rock band BLK JKS. In anticipation of the release of his latest EP, Lefase, Tshepang will perform selections from his discography, an assortment of alternative music inspired by Sepedi folk song and culture.
The exhibition opening will take place this 14 July 2022 at FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg Bunting Road Campus from 18:00 to 21:30.