Kao Ra Zen, FATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
FATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS is a spoken word and musical multimedia happening. Utilizing a piecemeal combination of poetry, song, audio samples, and video projection, Kao weaves through time and space to examine the past, present, and possible futures of the United States of America and the world at large. FATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS features set components created in collaboration with artist Penelope Thrasher and details histories of colonization, slavery, police brutality, war, and the ever-prevalent socio-economic disparities between Black and white Americans. This Hip-Hop-centric prophetic protest party with a touch of sci-fi flavor rebels against the powers that be to create a brave new world order.
• • •
A J McClenon, All the Pretty Little Horses
All the Pretty Little Horses is a visual and sonic conversation about the expansion of oppression in the guise of a free state founded on free and inhumane labor and mass genocide. From the liminal and empty spaces of freedom that Black soldiers moved within while being classified as contraband to the estimated 1.2 million horses and mules that died during the U.S. Civil War, this work questions the hierarchical structures of humanness throughout the foundations of the western world within and beyond our own species. Who becomes less human in the fortification of expendable life?
• • •
Ja Nelle Davenport-Pleasure, The Score
The Score is an immersive interactive piece that takes you on a journey of one African American woman’s thoughts of living in the tumultuous times of Lincoln’s era. Facing the speech that was supposed to be free for all but left her and her people imprisoned mind body and spirit. You will walk beside me as we begin to shine a light on and settle the score that has left so many of us in the dark.
• • •
Willie “Prince Roc” Round, Politico in the 2023 production of L’sGA
For this new 2023 production of L’sGA, Willie “Prince Roc” Round reflects on his life as a Black American Artist and growing up in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Willie plays some of the same characters that appear in the original production, adding some of his own to the mix. This production, similar to Martirano’s original, reflects the times. Rather than protesting and commenting on the war, Round addresses police violence against Black bodies.
• • •
Kameron Locke, Response to L’sGA
Kameron Locke (he/him) was one of L’sGA’s original commissioned artists. At the time he had just finished a degree in vocal performance at Chicago’s Roosevelt University and emigrated to Berlin. A classical singer and research-based artist, Locke expresses what he defines as the “facets of Blackness” through music, performance, and study. Currently, he is living and performing in Spain.
The following video is his commissioned response to L’sGA : Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It will be incorporated into the three performances in Bloomington, Urbana, and Chicago.
Response to L’sGA (2020)
L’sGA was conceptualized at a time when the words of Abraham Lincoln were but a squandered hope. It was important that I connect my art with activism for my approach to Salvatore Martirano’s enigmatic depiction of Lincoln’s unrealized words. I endeavored to visually and audibly express my and my community’s reality, and juxtapose this with a Malcolm X interview. I considered our present circumstances, a man stunted at a prepubescent development was elected and has remained chief leader amid constant controversy, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, bullying, and lies, and Black lives continue to be grossly and institutionally disregarded. I wanted to display the stunted progression of my country, this sweet land of Liberty. I used imagery I recorded throughout Berlin, Germany, images that I felt displayed our truly dystopian reality.
The backdrop and my clothing represent being driven to madness as I watch the racism, violence, and oppression against my community continue to unfold. The transition from blankness to the scribblings of names and last words of Black people murdered by the US’s law enforcement, over the many, many years, represents the mushrooming madness. My covered, hidden face represents the fact that Black people, regardless of background, are often seen as a threat and approached as such; I reinterpreted the movements to depict exactly this.
Creating this video and the process was extremely cathartic – I, a Black American man, put on exhibition my constant fears, worries, anguish, confusion, and recycled feelings that I connect to my ever-present truth. I am Black and I am a Black man and in my birth country, and large segments of the world, wreathed in white supremacy, I am viewed as a “terrible thing”. While I know this to be false, do you?
Lincoln’s words continue to be squandered, but we are in the midst of a revolution. It is both televised and discreet. The people are rising. Change and hope, though elusive, will come.
NON:op’s 2017 Production of L’sGA
with Sam Porretta as the Gas-Masked Politico