The collaborative project I am developing in residency at The Village of Arts and Humanities explores communality through relational procedures grouped into two categories — open mic and ‘2512 Sessions’. ‘2512 Sessions’ is a monthly series of film screenings and artist talks dedicated to exchanging ideas and sharing experiences. Invited participants — artists, entertainers, musicians, designers, etc — give talks or presentations on or about their practice in the intimate space of my apartment (the visiting artist’s residence). The open mic series is a monthly event created with the ethos of fostering communality through music, comedy, dance and poetry while exploring the potentials for collaboration amongst its diverse participants mainly from the Fairhill Hartranft community in North Central Philadelphia.

Moments from these live events are documented in the form of video, sound and photography and set up in the studio. The studio functions as a postproduction site where our collective — comprising myself, Aaron Sawyer, Tiyanna Scott, Jacquan Fields, and Tamia Garcia (all of whom are artists based in North Philadelphia) manipulate the forms accumulated from the monthly events in physical space. Aaron is a lens-based media artist who specializes in photography and video. Jacquan, a professional, award-winning clown, offers his event management skills to the team. Tamia and Tiyanna are best friends who share a common passion in music and drawing; together they manage the open mic events, design and execute paintings in the studio. The studio becomes the environment that maps out the implicit connections between ideas, processes, procedures and locations which are or have been relevant to the project. It also becomes a temporary “exhibition” and collaboration site where members of the general public may come in and intervene in our processes either by taking down a photograph from the walls, or by actively working with us in their own capacity to develop ideas through video, photography, graphic design, etc. Our spectators potentially become collaborators. This open studio structure aligns with our strategy to democratize the making and experience of art. Furthermore, we upload the videos, audios and photos from the open mic events and provide a downloadable link for our publics to continue collaborating and remixing the content accumulated from the sessions online.

I adopted the relational strategies as a way of mitigating the effect of my foreignness to the neighborhood to build, not just interactive but, meaningful relationships upon which the progress of the project would depend and to confront some of the barriers which may impede our initial engagements. The poetry, dance, music, discursive sessions create multi-layered communication channels which open up the fields of interaction between us (the core team members) and our potential collaborators. We, the collective, and the instigators of this kind of social interaction, rely on our audiences — especially for the open mic events — to own and, to an extent, determine the content produced. We go as far as planning the event and allow the rest to happen.

The Studio…

Among the objects in the studio are 4” x 6” photographic prints of images and texts, 32” flatscreen monitor, portable music players, headphones, speakers, and found bricks collected from around North Philadelphia. One wall could loosely be described as a wall of memories. It is animated with a constellation of digital 4” x 6” photographic prints which montage the different moments produced by the relational procedures. Each photo at one and the same time constructs its own slice or fragment of the broader narrative and also functions as a memento — evidence of the ephemeral moments produced over the course of the residency. Its life is then extended by making that section of the studio interactive with the spectator/collaborator. The spectator/collaborator is free to unpin a photo from the wall and take it with them — be it a portrait of themselves, a friend’s or simply out of desire to do so. In exchange they leave a signature where the photographic object used to hang. The other walls in the studio elucidate the thought processes which went into designing two site-specific structures to activate one of the vacant lots in the neighborhood.

Read more on the project here.

See open mic trailer video here.

Read more on the project here.

List of Collaborators:

Aaron Sawyer
Jacquan Hasheen Fields
Tamia Garcia
Tiyanna Scott
Kofi Akakpo
Alliyah Allen
Jordan Guy-Mozenter
Lori Waselchuk
Grimaldi Baez
Taion Carter
Shaheed a.k.a Jigs
Marangeli Mejia Rabell
Eva Bryant
Marsten House Recording Studio
Heidi Roland
Alicia Simons
Danilo Cottman
The Urban Shamans
Mike Raw
Joi Ross
Emyne
Ahmed Mueed
Diego Romero
Agudos Clef
Jovie Jaffa
Reginald “Reggie Butta” Johnson
Ghazi “Zeek” Smith
Ricky Yanas