The outline of ayo damali‘s rent-a-negro project is designed close to the idea of ‘artistic service projects’* (‘Dienstleistungskunst‘) which became a bit infamous through overuse and limited concepts. But her project hits a specific nerve when people still can’t decide wether it is meant ironical or serious and go for renting a negro:
|It was thus that, two years ago, the now 33-year-old Ayo launched the website Rent-a-Negro.com, offering “state-of-the-arts” services that provide customers with a “creative, articulate, friendly, attractive, and pleasing African-American person” on a pay-per-service basis.|
|In white-dominated American culture, Ayo suggests, white people, knowingly or not, tend to “rent” black people — to informally yet routinely expect black people to educate them on black culture and to stand as a symbol of diversity. Ayo’s website simply commodifies this service, making it a product like any other. (link)|
* best description I could find for that terminology was in texts by Andrea Fraser, one of the artists to work in the 1990s with service ideas through her museum’s gallery talks.