Speech/Acts Installation - The Brad Johnson Tape, X - On Subjugation + Essex + Audre

The artist and filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden is attracted to troubled and fractured archives. Her installation within Speech/Acts consists of two films that explores the relationship between the poets Brad Johnson (d.2011 ) and Essex Hemphill (d.1995 ), both of whom died because of the AIDS epidemic.

In her series Brad Johnson Tapes, X - On Subjugation, 2017, McClodden recites Johnson’s “rage poem,” “On Subjugation” (1988), the finale in a series of ten videos documenting McClodden reading Johnson’s texts while performing acts of BDSM on herself in her studio. 

Brad Johnson Tapes, X - On Subjugation, is placed in conversation with Essex Hemphill by way of Essex + Audre, 2015, part of the multimedia project Affixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex, which first appeared on the ICA’s website in 2015 for A Day With(out) Art. Essex + Audre uses a scene from Marlon Riggs’ seminal essay film Tongues Untied 1989, in which Hemphill sits gazing away from the camera while withstanding homopho - bic slurs and phrases until looking at the viewer, almost haunting the screen, and defiantly looking at the viewer to recite an excerpt from Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984). Like Johnson’s On Subjugation, Lorde’s words, as recited by Hemphill, seethe with rage and desire: “I know the anger lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit. It is easier to be furious than to be yearning. Easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness by admitting that we are worth wanting each other.”



Institute of Contemporary Art will present Speech/Acts, a group exhibition featuring new and recent works by artists Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Steffani Jemison, Tony Lewis, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Martine Syms.

On view from September 13 through December 23, 2017, Speech/Acts explores experimental black poetry and how the social and cultural constructs of language have shaped black American experiences. The exhibition will also feature prose and poetry by Morgan Parker and Simone White, as well as a satellite outpost for The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII), founded by poet Claudia Rankine. The immersive and interactive environment of Speech/Actswill invite participation and response, challenge how social realities are manipulated and formed, and illuminate the slippages between speech and noise.

Speech/Acts is organized by Assistant Curator Meg Onli. A fully illustrated catalogue co-published with Futurepoem will accompany the exhibition, featuring reprints of seminal texts by Fred Moten and Harryette Mullen, newly commissioned poetry by Morgan Parker and Simone White, and an essay from the curator.

Installation Images: Constance Mensh


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