The previous year, only a few events had brought me out and about to see a show, a performance, or lecture. When asked to write a brief exhibition-year-review my mind went blank – what had I seen? Despite my love of the performative live event, what first came to mind was a virtual lecture within the Syracuse Symposium series “Conventions”, entitled Ordinary Notes: On the (Un)Making of Black Meanings by Christina Sharpe.
While virtual, there was a heightened sense of framing to Sharpe’s presentation leading to a zen-like scenario, a considered placement for every object, as well as each of her gently yet precisely worded statements. A de-archiving, a recounting of narration for the sake of knowing through re-telling as unmaking thereby re-making modes of being through recognition and acknowledgement. A work that is, as Sharpe describes her technique of confronting an unfinished history, a wake work. It was a gathering in which all attendees, rendered invisible by Zoom webinar settings, were part of the haunting of “tracking of phenomena that disproportionately and devastatingly affect Black peoples any and everywhere” (Sharpe, 2016: 13). My listening was deeply immersive, and affected, despite the flat screen picture, as I learnt to make place for the unlearning of established meaning. The passion this work had elicited became obvious in the instant and nearly never-ending roll-out of ‘thank you!’ in the chat-window by names both familiar and unfamiliar when presenter Kevin A. Brown wisely ended without discussion. A session of a performative narrative which had re-assigned mattering of life and love for those who are deprived. Despite being unknown to each other the sense of mending in the written expressions of acclaim inspired an experience of connection, much like any amazing live performance, lecture, or other event.
The event was part of Conventions: The (Un)Making of Black Meanings, a series of events that explore meaning through the prisms of visual, aural, physical, textual, and digital expressions. The accompanying No Words Project website by Kevin Adonis Brown can be found here: No Words Project.
PS: This short blurb was originally written in the last days of the year for a friend who asked me for the one event I had visited in 2021 that stuck with me.