PS1, My First Time

Be African American. Be Very African American.

This Sunday I ventured with Viv So to PS1, one of the multiple former public schools that have been transformed into art spaces, this one owned by MoMA. It was a fruitful visit; warm enough to enjoy the outdoor spaces, New-Yorkers lounging and milling about and time seemed to have slowed, the way it tends to in art spaces.

A naked man, some powder, and an unsolicited French Kiss

Lucky me, the African American Performance Artist Clifford Owens was performing live as a part of his exhibit, Anthology.

Through photography, audio, video and live performance, Anthology explores sexuality, space and identity.  The body of work was visceral and kinetic, and Owens himself was fearless.

In one live performance Owens searchingly roams the center of a white room, with audience scaling the walls as he challenges each attendee, inviting them (daring them) to a touch, an embrace, or a kiss.

Black and White

In another performance Owens, naked in the center of a white room remains motionless in strength as audience members reposition his body and move him about a space demarcated by a black rectangle.

I couldn’t help thinking about my own level of comfort with intimacy and confrontation. Living in NY so far has been all about negotiating crowds and I come into impersonal contact with so many people. But I am really bad at keeping my head down and giving the world dead eye. I can’t help responding when something outrageous happens and interacting with my surroundings. (The man who mooned us the 6 the other day… was I REALLY the only one who saw that? #realtalk)

Then there is the whole, “I like to do stuff on stage in front of lots of people” thing…. so in a small way I am willing to cross boundaries? In a small way I am an exhibitionist? And in a large way I want my work to express black issues? I therefore identified strongly with Owens’ work.

Tell Me What to Do With Myself

But the amount of bravery on display in Anthology is almost shocking. Hopefully Owens will inspire me to be more daring with my work and expressive with my body. Being new in town never ceases to be exhilarating, shocking, and frustrating so I am sure I’ll have a lot to share.


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