The acclaimed mixed-media creator on colonialism, women warriors, and the consumerism that pays her bills.
By Benjy Hansen-Bundy on Sat. October 12, 2013 3:00 AM PDT
“The power for me is to keep the story of the female in the center, to keep discussing and talking about women as protagonists,” Wangechi MutuÂ saidÂ in a video introduction toÂ A Fantastic Journey, her recent exhibition at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art. For the casual art fancier who happens upon it, as I did this summer, the exhibition was like embedding in Mutu’s mind: Black globes of crumpled plastic hang on strings suspended from the ceiling, a looping video of the artist devouring cake flickers on the floor, and triumphant warrior women occupy magnificent collage landscapes on the walls.
Mutu, a Brooklyn transplant via Nairobi, deploys mixed media to grapple with themes of consumerism and colonization, of gender and raceâ€”and war. Her large, lush collages draw from images familiar to us, such as magazine photos of bare flesh and car engines, which she transforms into works that are mysterious, beautiful, and somewhat terrifying. Her animated short,Â The End of eating Everything, done in collaboration with the singerÂ Santigold, depicts a colossal machine/beast/planet feeding on black birds while floating in a vast industrial dead space. In anÂ interviewÂ discussing the piece, Santigold praised Mutu for her “explosive renewal” of artistic expression at a time when vapid materialism dominates the popular culture.
This Tuesday, October 23rd, The Green Lantern Press â€” a slow-media, art press I started in 2005 â€” has a book release party at the powerHouse Arena in Dumbo, New York. There, Anne Elizabeth Moore will read from the GLP’s latest book,Â Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present.Â Hip Hop ApsaraÂ is Â a collection of essays and photos that examine Cambodia’s emerging middle class, with a particular emphasis on ways in which people gather in Phnom Penh’s public space to dance. They dance together in choreographed rows all evening. It would be similar to Tai Chi or Country Western line dancing, except that these dances involve a mash up of traditional Cambodian ballet, called The Apsara, and contemporary Hip Hop. The older folks dance earlier and their moves tend toward the traditional side. As the dusk turns into night, dance moves become ever more contemporary and the old folksâ€”mostly survivors of genocide, mass killings, or poverty-enforced starvationâ€” are replaced by younger generations. Its functions as both excercise and entertainment, and represents a significant turn in Cambodian life. After all,Â it wasn’t too long ago that people were hungry and had to conserve as much energy as possible. On the 23rd, from 7-9pm Anne will be reading along with a colorful cast of characters including the hatefully talented Mike Taylor, acclaimed novelist and cardigan-curator Elizabeth Crane, ‘funny’ Joe Garden, and internationally renowned cat-spotter Elizabeth White. It’s going to be an exciting night with lush projections of the Cambodian night life, stories about rock, ghosts, and social change. The powerHouse Arena is located at 37 Main Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201.Go here for more info.
And, last but not least,Â hereÂ is the playlist, as promised, and read more about Anne’s book inÂ an essay she posted on Largehearted boy’s website.Â (what created the original impetus for the mixtape). The audio clip featured at the top of this post was recorded live at Quimby’s, when collaborative duo The Speers played a music set for Moore’s book. Additionally, Moore will be reading at Bluestockings in Manhattan on the 24th of October.
About the Author:
Anne Elizabeth MooreÂ is a Fulbright scholar, a UN Press Fellow, theÂ TruthoutÂ columnist behindÂ Ladydrawers: Gender and Comics in the US, and the author of several award-winning books.Â Cambodian Grrrl: Self-Publishing in Phnom PenhÂ (Cantankerous Titles, 2011) received a best travel book award from the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation in 2012.Â Hey Kidz, Buy This BookÂ (Soft Skull, 2004) madeÂ Yes! Magazine‘s list of “Media That Set Us Free,” and Reclaim the Media’s 2004 Media and Democracy Summer Reading List. The first Best American Comics made bothÂ Entertainment Weekly‘s “Must List” andÂ Publishers Weekly‘s Bestsellers List.Â Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of IntegrityÂ (The New Press, 2007) made Reclaim the Media’s 2007 Media and Democracy Summer Reading list and was named a Best Book of the Year byÂ Mother Jones. Moore herself was recently called “one of the sharpest thinkers and cultural critics bouncing around the globe today” byÂ Razorcake.
About the participants:
Joe GardenÂ is a grown-ass 42-year old man incapable of making basic decisions without input from strangers on social networks. In the past, he was features editor atÂ The OnionÂ (where he created the characters Jim Anchower and Jackie Harvey), co-wrote two episodes of the award-winning cartoonWord Girl, co-wrote three novelty books (The New Vampire’s Handbook,Â The Devious Book For Cats,and The Dangerous Book For Dogs. Great gifts! Check ’em out!), and appeared in the critically acclaimed filmÂ Big Fan. He currently working on a new website for Adult Swim.
Elizabeth White‘s work includes photography, video, installation, and social practices. Her work has recently been exhibited in the Artisterium International Contemporary Art Exhibition in Tbilisi, “No Soul For Sale” at the Tate Modern in London, “A Map is not the Territory” at FiveMyles Gallery in Brooklyn, and “Surveil” at the Center for Endless Progress in Berlin. Her work has also been shown in New York, Dublin, and Leipzig as well as Japan and New Zealand. White was awarded a project grant from CECArtsLink in 2011 and has been honored with an Aaron Siskind Fellowship and the support of the Hattie Strong Foundation. She has been featured on ArtInfo.com and her interview with Dina Kantor was published byÂ The Girl Project. White holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York, and a BA from Vassar College. Based in Brooklyn, she teaches digital art and culture courses at the College of Staten Island (CUNY) and Ramapo College, and has been a visiting faculty member at Bennington College in Vermont.
Elizabeth CraneÂ is the author of three collections of short stories, most recentlyÂ You Must Be This Happy to Enter. She is a recipient of the Chicago Public Library 21st Centu