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Bird and Lava

Bird and Lava

A project by Torkwase Dyson

Wexner Center for the Arts Visual Artist Residency Award 2020

The Wexner Center for the Arts Visual Artist Residency Award 2020 has been granted to me during a moment of

isolation and the ongoing state violence.  I'm using this

digital platform as a method of communication during this 

trying time.   The first part of this residency will live here and

contain notes and research ideas that otherwise would be shared

in person.  It is a living document.  









black hauntology 





Space is a relative material 



Dedicated to Paul R. Williams 



to be of space

to be of scale

to be of blue

to be of black

The Tower
state change,
always state change
There is no universal now, there is a subjective here.
Concrete  Abstract 
Expanded perception 
Expanded Awareness

Dark Black

the installation (WEX) 



Construction as a way of knowing who she is.  Pilot and her box.

here i am way over there inside me 
If systemic oppression is a form,  systemic liberation is as well. I look into histories where methods of liberation live. And what I see my ancestors want me to know. 
In this moment my questions are of scale, movement, perception, distance and state change.  More concretely my questions focus on built environments of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and modernism's participation in the horrors of climate change and dispossession. It is a very simple ambition, and that is to consider spatial strategies of black and indigenous people across the world as foundations of invention as we make livable worlds.


This drawing has become and object in the round. 


-Glissant's questions of opacity and transparency 

has become a mediation in architecture.   

This drawing/architecture is based on the understanding that there are multiple liberation strategies in the age of the Plantationocene.

Some quotidian and some phenomenological .




Has scale been a  friend of freedom? Robin D. G. Kelly evoked this question.



What are the spatial dependencies of these geometries, i'm calling hypershapes? Are they plantation economies? Are the liberations that inevitably come as a result of plantation economies.  Are they from the horrors of extraction? 

If Blackness is already an architectonic developed out of liquidity (ocean), can the work embody this phenomenon and offer sensation (sensoria) at the register of liberation? The infrastructure of this question, for me, exists in the hypershapes; a geometric abstraction culled from Black histories and responsive to our ecosystem now and in our future.
This text is always with me.
The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual: A Post-Date (1994)
Hortense J. Spillers
The model that I am proposing would be based on a theorization that melds various aspects of the human sciences and a mode of culture analysis for which we currently have no name, but one might think of it as a cultural demography; this new "science" would be alert to the cultural implications of movement, which is not only a primary meaning of the life-world but one of its most significant literary trope--the "symbolic geography" that would explain (1) diasporic movement, (2) internal migration, and (3) the mechanisms of fantasy and ambition that contextualize African American struggle.
In this project Bird and Lava, I've found an overall form that speaks to the history of Black spatial liberations strategies.  I've constructed a form by drawing, sketching, and modeling  these vast  geographic, architectural, and infrastructural spaces used for liberation.   I've found my way to a method and mode of  expression that regards these histories as necessary throughways to navigating the systems of self liberation. This work/shape/form has become a mediation for me at this moment of solitude where I can simply honor deep freedom.  
There is not universal now, there is a subjective here.
Expanded Abstraction 
Expanded Perception 
Expanded Awareness
I made these drawings surrounded by water and people I love.  It was a year ago on a small table with cards and gin. 
9x12 in.  Graphite and pen on paper
-all things at the register of liquidity 
-small desk animations 
I'm drawing now because I need to. Moving back and forth from my tiny apartment in Harlem to a larger space in Newburgh, New York has really opened up the idea of what's at hand. Drawing in this moment is taking me through what I have on hand in my apartment, without the infrastructure of the studio. This “at-handness” is calming in this moment of violence and isolation. The process feels monastic. 
The animations come out of this new moment of drawing, this momentum, this need, and all I can do is give way to whatever comes out. I talk about improvisation often, but here it's embedded in the making. They open up a space to imagine and move.  They are also in relation to all of the work and reading around liberation.  Listening and listening again and again to lives lived with the purpose of love and freedom.  I can listen to talks, films, books, poems, music while I'm moving materials around and I feel a collective presence even in this moment of distance. I feel a chorus in my space of solitude and I'm making because of it.   
Identity geometrist 
I’ll be using hypershapes as a basic starting point for this body of work and experimenting with new materials. Hypershape(s)—curvilinear and rectilinear shapes— started as a research topic and response to the spatial tragedies of enslaved people who hid or stowed away in architectural spaces to attain their freedom, especially Anthony Burns (hull=curve), Henry “Box” Brown (box=square) and Harriet Jacobs (garret=triangle). Each of these humans here manipulated and moved through infrastructures of state-sanctioned domination by converting enslavement into a system of self-imposed displacement, structural confinement, and clandestine geographic movement.  I’ve culled a geometric shape language from histories of Black liberation strategies to develop a system/structure/scaffolding of self-expression.