Bird and Lava

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.  

Bird and Lava

A project by Torkwase Dyson

Wexner Center for the Arts Visual Artist Residency Award 2020


In this project Bird and Lave, 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 expression  that regards these histories as necessary throughways to navigating the systems. This work/shape/form has become a mediation for me at this moment of solitude where I can simply honor deep freedom. 

I'm drawing now because I need to. The animations come out of this momentum, this need. 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.  It's 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.  

This project is an expression a question.  

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 exist in the Hypershape.  A geometric abstraction culled from black histories  and responsive to our ecosystem now and in our future. 



Schematic drawings for Bird and Lava: Gallery D

Hyper Shape Studies 2020  (Drawing for Sculpture)


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 human 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.



1. As a starting point I'm looking at the relationship between the Capitalocene, Anthropocene and Plantationocene. As an organizational tool I'll think of the Atlantic Ocean as a geography that indelibly ties these discussions together. I’ll use these three points of geographic study and pull from them overlapping and ongoing systems that have produced our current climate crises and environmental conditions. I’ll use what I discover from this research to inspire drawings, sculptures and animations that think about spectral architectures, black indeterminacy and movement.


2. In blackness, the specter always looms, and this  is a moment to revisit hauntological questions in the work of Dionne Brand, Jacques Derrida, and Toni Morrison, in relation to what we know about violence, climate changes and perception.


3. ?? 

Tondo Surface_touch now