BLACK ART SALE
The black body in the west has always been the subject of violence, scrutiny and consumption. Black bodies carry complex and contradictory sets of signifiers that have always fed into the fantasies and nightmares of the white gaze. The development of capitalist enterprise in the United States necessitated the sale and consumption of black people, a process that both led to the literal birth of a nation and also the deaths of so many individuals and communities. First as slaves, then later as the faces of brand-name goods and still yet as pop cultural products, black bodies have long existed as signifiers of value while simultaneously occupying spaces of social dispossession.
This performance attempted to literalize this contradictory condition of “blackness” through an ambiguous yet suggestive form. Using an approach to unsanctioned street vending common to Chicago, I attached “black art objects” to a pole and stood stationary in public places. The objects, made from polyurethane foam, panty hose and spray paint, resemble sausages, phalluses, shit or other aspects of human anatomy. The performance is activated upon the approach and engagement of passers-by. If one happened to ask what I was doing, I would reply “selling black art.” These objects were offered for purchase for $100 each. By giving form to the often-contested notion of blackness through the blatant sale of art objects claiming to embody blackness itself, I wanted to invite a questioning of the ontology of blackness as a marker of identity and as a consumer product. By occupying realms of commodification and public display, this performance was intended to implicate an indiscriminate public within the construction of racial meaning and artistic production.