L’s GA Performances and Responses
Performances and Responses to L’s GA
Kao Ra Zen, new commissioned response to L’s GA
FATE of the UNION ADDRESS
FATE of the UNION ADDRESS will be a multimedia medley of sound pieces, video vignettes and live spoken word/performance art. Initially, I am researching and selecting source materials from Martirano’s L’s GA and the Gettysburg Address. I am imagine my response to be a sit-tragicom (“situational tragicomedy”), possibly based off a love triangle between the characters of the Politiko, the Nurse, and a Rebel. The Nurse will be a computer program with female robotic voice, while I would act out the roles of the Politiko and the Rebel. Source materials—Martirano and Lincoln—will be combined with beats, audio samples, video, found footage, and instrumental takes from my Hip-Hop album entitled ‘TIME of the SIGNS’. I would like to weave together with the media material gathered for the L’s GA response and create new sound and video pieces that represent a kind of continuity between my past and present work along with the new work created for “FATE of the UNION”. The overall multimedia experience will represent my past and present work, and explore ideas of liberty, resistance, prophecy, end times, patriotism, police brutality, and race while it follows a loose narrative played out by the characters of the Politiko, the Nurse, and the Rebel.
Kao Ra Zen, born Kenya Fulton, hails from Chicago, Illinois. Much of Kao’s art practice involves creative writing, spoken word, music, video directing, and performance art, though he has also been involved in projects involving drawing, painting, acting, modeling, and dance. He has curated events and performed at many prominent venues throughout Chicago including Symphony Center, Links Hall, Dank Haus (German American Cultural Center), Subterranean, Alhambra Palace, and Elastic Arts. He has performed and exhibited artwork in Germany, performed at an Open Mic in Guatemala, and helped to install solar panels in El Salvador. In February 2020, Kao released his first official music video, “Morning in America”, a controversial work that would twice be removed from YouTube. Kao would direct the debut music video, “Killing in the Name of Love” for longtime friend and creative collaborator, Dodo Mafioso, first released in April 2020. Following the murder of George Floyd, Kao teamed up with another Chicago Hip-Hop stalwart, Ness The God, to release the single and music video, “I’m Tired”, on the 4th of July, 2020. He is currently recording material for his solo debut album, ‘TIME of the SIGNS’, for indie Hip-Hop label, Culture Power 45; and working on music with his performance art/music troupe, The Ungovernables, for an EP tentatively titled: “SUMMER of LOVE”. [photo by Javier Enriquez]
A.J. McClenon, new commission for a response to L’s GA
In thinking about the 87 years that Lincoln speaks of I began to think of time travel and going back to 1776 and then to 1689 but also going forward from 1863 to 1950 and 2037. With 1863 as a center point sounds would explore histories such as the development of the hydrogen bomb (1950), the victories of the Wabanaki people (1689), the coal miner’s strike, Walt Disney’s release of Cinderella (1950), Freedom newspaper publications (1950), text from “The Counter Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States.”
As I move into 2037, I will consider sounds of the future with regard to actions of abolishment and questioning whether modern forms of US slavery—such as the prison industrial complex—can be abolished in a system that depends on free labor. I will also explore the cyclical pattern of land theft and genocide, looking back at the mass genocide of Indigenous people and the continuation of land theft through gentrification.
Sounds will be articulated with the use of live acoustic and electronically distorted harmonica sounds, historical footage & readings from newspaper clippings, prison work songs (sung live or pulled from older recordings), interviews and music sounds of the future.
Born and raised in “DC proper,” A.J. McClenon studied art and creative writing at the University of Maryland and The New School prior to receiving a Master of Fine Arts from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2014. Alongside artistic experiences, A.J. is passionate about teaching and community collaborations with that goal that all the memories and histories that are said to have “too many Black people,” are told and retold again. As a means to uphold these stories A.J. creates performances, installations, objects, sounds, visuals, and writings. These creations often revolve around an interest in water and aquatic life, escapism, Blackness, science, grief, US history, and the global future. A.J. is deeply invested in leveling the hierarchies of truth and using personal narrative to speak on political and cultural amnesia and their absurdities.
Kameron Locke, response to L’s GA
L’s GA 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.
Kameron Locke (he/him) is a classical singer and research-based artist who expresses what he defines as the “facets of Blackness” through music, performance, and study.
Locke navigates cultural, community, and academic spaces as a social justice-centered creative, artistic leader, producer, educator, and musicologist. From within these spaces, he reflects on representation and inclusion, and how to engage and solve challenges that bring equality to continuously evolving communities.
Born and raised in Chicago, he recently emigrated to Berlin after a fulfilling stint in London.
NON:op’s 2017 Production of L’s GA
with Sam Porretta as the Gas-Masked Politico