Black Glove: Androgynoire
This piece is about reaching through the body to initiate androgynoire, a conjured Black genderqueer identity. It is about coming into personal power, awakening Voice during a time of transformation. In Androgynoire: Black Glove, “No!” is a complete expression which functions on multiple levels. It is an emotional experience of confusion, fear, and faith. It is in resistance to an old myth about the self, “No, no!”
Androgynoire is a performance interacting with an unreal body that has yet to catch up with the transformation of the spirit and psyche. This work recognizes that there are layers of change, palimpsests of the self. All of which we hope to speak in one resounding voice, but which harbor newly examined, newly released or newly noticed selves in times of transformation.
An experience of iterative clarification, this work is about reaching beyond the rigidity of complete self-knowledge in awakenings to gendered selves. The character tests the reality, receptivity and malleability of their body even as they lean into faith “en route” to the “No!” of self-assertion. “No” and “Faith” are boundaried refrains, even as the character surrenders to the open-endedness of their layer-by-layer transformation.
This is an expository piece done in partnership with JEI (Justice & Empowerment Initiative), part of the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation. Elders of the Otodo Gbame, an indigenous community of Lagos, share the harrowing experience of being violently displaced from their land, severed from their generations-long ways of life and livelihood. The Otodo Gbame through this violence have been separated from their children, and forced to live in inhumane conditions in the slums of Lagos. Their displacement is due to aggression from a monied, ethnic royal family, the Elegushi, and the wider political and economic context of an aspirational Lagos. This Lagos yearns to command international attention and investments as the economic and cultural destination of West Africa. This Lagos disperses the indigenous poor, commandeering their land to construct sprawling developments – symbols of the city’s efforts to be seen among the international set of glittering metropoles.
‘Testimony’ is defined as ‘a formal written or spoken statement saying what you know to be true, usually in court.’ The Otodo Gbame are survivors speaking their truth in the court of human conscience, calling on international bystanders, like myself, to act.
Testimonies from the lips of the Otodo endure the process of a once- and twice- related story, morphing and changing. While this work aims to retain the potency of the testimonies, the video highlights the piecemeal nature of spoken truth pushed through the sieve of translation: collaged images, sound, and layered text, all elements which introduce distance between the original storyteller/testifier and the artist/audience. The entire work is a translation, acquiring its own poetics and thickening the film of understanding.
My mind had been consumed with the implications of current technological development which, under various guises, can be lacking humanity, sensitivity, and insight. As we engineer high-tech tools, perhaps, too, we engineer (dehumanize, weaponize) ourselves. I hoped to contain a quiet duality in the builder: engaged in manual craft work, sharing a certain understanding of tools (technology). The builder embodies humanity, from time immemorial and into a not-yet-rendered future, as fashioner and fashioned.
Sometimes, “humans don’t make good tools”, sometimes we’re “not thinking.” We are still in the age of human as capital, begun with the transatlantic slave trade, and continuing in the version of capitalism we live in today. Perhaps the global environmental and socioeconomic consequences of modern capitalism are indicative of how we aren’t “thinking” (reasoning, sensing, being wise) while making tools of people. Acknowledging the violent belief that Black feminine sexuality is something to be shaped and possessed, joyous, embodied dancers also exist in flagrant juxtaposition to the transformation of people into anthropomorphic objects (tools).
Tools and technologies need empathetic human touch to be effectively useful for non-harmful human ends. If social systems are technologies which produce tools, we proved capable of making tools of ourselves and each other on spectra of harm and agency. What kinds of tools are high-harm, high-agency and what are their purposes? Does a tool exist that is low-harm, low-agency, and what is its purpose?
This quasi-didactic flipbook masticates on the depth of our lack. A lack that persists despite the seeming value or “bountiful” prospects of humanity’s creations. I roll between teeth and gums how observable violence is fed by the less visible background of ignorant intention. Sense and sensitivity are accomplices and essential elements of any good tool/technology. Together “the crumb and the meal.”