LaMont Hamilton

 

 Over the next few months, I will be traversing Alaska and the North Pacific conducting research on the Anthropocene. The project is yet to be defined but the idea is chase poet Ed Roberson’s prompt (title) To See the Earth Before the End of the World. What is the Earth saying to us? Are we listening? What are the poetics of the shift in era we find ourselves in? How small are we in the grand scheme? These are but a few of many questions on my mind. I hope to share more later…

video by Sienna Shields

 

 
 

 J.W, R.H, H.D, E.R, NHP (whispering of the self to the self) is a layered installation that combines the light touch of 100 ostrich feathers, the chiming of 1200 bells and the ethereal sound of three vocal artists (Anaïs Maviel, Wesley Chavis and Yaw Agyeman) to creates an immersive and meditative space. This installation emphasizes feeling and sound rather that the tradition visual centricity of sculpture. To quote curator Gee Wesley, the attempt is to “question how synesthetic experience can enable moments of collective being and move sculpture away from an ableist supremacy of the visual to a bodily experience of feeling.”

The initials in the title belong to five of the many poets who have informed my practice. JW is for Jay Wright, RH Robert Hayden, HD Henry Dumas, ER Ed Roberson, NHP Norman H Pritchard. This is work is a portrait of their influence on me and an example of my commitment to the working principle of Transrealistic Poetics which I’ve adopted for my practice.

“Whispering of the self to the self” is a line from my journal and encompasses what I hoped to achieve with this work. In the this flux world the act of meditation is a radical act. This work hopes to provide that space for those who need it.

The most important quality of this work is the sound. The vocal piece is the result of another type of collective meditation. Created individually, each artist responded to a score composed of lines from the aforementioned poets and an Anthony Braxton style notation to prompt exploration. The results were composed by me into the 25 minute track as one V. Le remarked “it’s reminiscent of Marion Brown’s Afternoon of a Georgia Faun”. The clusters of 1200 bells of varying tones gives a tactile-acoustic element that furthers the meditation and combine, if the visitor gives themselves to the experience, can create a truly transcendental space.

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On a Stairway Beneath the Eyes a Star Ascended is a four stanza poem written in braille installed at the Drawing Center in New York during the Open Session 12 exhibition. Unlike how braille is traditionally encountered, this work is much larger, measuring roughly 8ft across and 5ft in height with the braille cells + dots approximately 1 1/2in. It is also constructed from foam paper (which the dots were cut out of by hand, by me). The line breaks on the wall variegate touch creating an encounter, an environment for the poem as it becomes deciphered. The disorientation of the installation creates a meditation regardless if the poem is read line by line or not. In this way, a palindrome effect is created and words are encountered leaving one to keep reading for context. This, of course, is from the perspective of someone blind or visually impaired (or sighted but able to read braille with eyes closed). The idea is a meditation, a stillness. I hope the text translates this. Below is both the view of the braille installation and the text form of the poem.

The imagistic title “stairway beneath the eyes, a stairway a star ascended” comes from Nathaniel Mackey who used the phrase in his essay Sight-Specific, Sound Specific referring to an interpretative slip while Robert Duncan (“As a star in the stare under the closed lids” Duncan). 

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Performance work

 
 

Evil Nigger (Pt. 1-4): A collaboration w/ Jeremy toussaint Baptise; for julius eastman

Art can tell the truth history cannot. Art has the capacity to tap into a deepness that drowns the most eloquent of words in the throat. But truth? Truth is always subjective just like art. A blur. And sometimes a personality comes along that is a living blur, a shadow at night without the presence of street lamps. A silhouette that appears and disappears depending on the mood of the moon. Julius Eastman is a shadow. A shadow insofar as the silhouette is that of a ghost. I've been haunted by Eastman. Jeremy (Toussaint Baptise- my collaborator) has been haunted as well. During a sleepless 24hr performance at JACK in Brooklyn we invited Eastman (his spirit)  in and with a gust of wind that smelled of outdoors he took up residence. His presence possessed us and we created a conversational piece with his ghost- Evil Nigger. Since his screams by way of his music wakes us at night and we listen, making sense of the pitch and tone. 

 


 

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"Evil Nigger pt 1, 2 & 3" is a collaborative performance by LaMont Hamilton and Jeremy Toussaint-Baptise. Performed sonically by Toussaint-Baptise and bodily by Hamilton this work is a conversational piece with the work of postminimalist composer Julius Eastman. Eastman's seminal orchestral piece whose provocative title is this performances namesake, Evil Nigger, was originally composed in 1979. Deeply emotional, swelling from an internalized trauma the piece contains a stirring the performance by Hamilton and Toussaint Baptise emotes. Draped in a trance/meditation Evil Nigger pt 1, 2 & 3

flesh-and-blood canvas, wrecking convention, striking out for something unknown
— Eva Yaa Asantewaa
 
Nyugen Smith and Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson in Evil Nigger pt 4 @ Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly courtesy of IPR)

Nyugen Smith and Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson in Evil Nigger pt 4 @ Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly courtesy of IPR)

Nyugen Smith and Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson in Evil Nigger pt 4 @ Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly courtesy of IPR)

Nyugen Smith and Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson in Evil Nigger pt 4 @ Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly courtesy of IPR)

stage ephemera after Evil Nigger performance at Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly)

stage ephemera after Evil Nigger performance at Issue Project Room (photo credit: Cameron Kelly)

Evil Nigger pt 1-5 at The Kitchen, NYC Jan 2018; w/ Jeremy Toussaint Baptise, Andre Zachery, Shantelle Courvoisier Jackson & Nyugen Smith; Photo by Cameron Kelly; All Rights Reserved- the artists, ISSUE PROJECT ROOM and The Kitchen

 

Untitled (Liner Notes to Evil Nigger Performance for Julius Eastman) by LaMont Hamilton

“the reason why i use that particular word is because
it has a, what i call, basicness about it. That is to say[…]the first niggers were field niggers
and upon that is the basis of the american economic system…
That is what i call the first and great nigger, field niggers.
And what i mean by niggers is that thing which is fundamental. 
that person or thing that attains to a basicness, a fundamentalness
and assuage that thing which is…elegant.”

What does it mean to be hideously elegant?
To exhibit grace in the face of a brutal and regulative existence of a system
built precisely on the grounds or field which blood bone soil, blood bone foundation
is located in the economy of your disagreeable blackness. ‘That which is fundamental’ 
to this economy- your death as capital. 
The Nigger as an uncomfortable prefiguration of unrequited entanglement with capital. 

At the locus of this (beyond) conceptualization is, once again, 
the iconic figure of the black slave who's representation
(in the deepest depths of the darkest well flickering light on the wall,
face and eyes raised and turning to coming of the day)
is all that which is most complex about this country. 
or a complex, to put it more straight. There are facts. 
Nigger as (de) composition of damnation and saving grace. 
Despised inamorat(a)o who’s flesh must be incessantly consumed
for the basic american economic system survival.  

More boldness. 

“A nigger attains himself or herself to the ground of anything. 
thats what i mean by nigger so there are many niggers, 
there are many different kinds of niggers. 
there are, of course, 99 names of Allah but there are 52 niggers.” 

Attaining and attending to the grounds. The soil. 
Imagine a tilling and unearthing of artifacts that reveal talismans.
Mythical figures that initiate a multitude of declensions. 
(a rush of white noise) (fade)
Blood bone deep dig that, in the golden ray of remembered
forgotten memory, revealed mustard seed sized magic
that eclipses the initial forecast of simply evil, crazy and good niggers to unveil a much deeper than imagined, 52 Niggers.
(rush of astonished gasps) (white noise. temporarily off air) 
And at that, a lesser god. Blossomed.
Blooming of buried blood bone deep seeds
into radical presences.

Dawn is approaching. New Day

Dear Julius,
There is not much more to say except Thank You. And please accept this work of art as a sincere act of love and devotion.

Yours with love,

The One(s) Dedicated to Emancipation

*(Quotes are from Julius Eastman’s Introduction to his 1980 concert at Northwestern University

 

 
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Five on the black hand side/

Dapline!

 
 
The choreography is athletic, militaristic, requiring strength and precision
— Jamie Shearn Coan of the Brooklyn Rail
“rich in emotional nuance and gestural beauty”
— Brian Seibert of the New York Times
 

 

@ The Studio Museum in Harlem

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Curated by Amanda Hunt and presented in dialogue with exhibitions at the time A Constellation; Black: Material, Color, Concept and Lorraine O’Grady’s Art Is, the performance of Dapline! at the Studio Museum in Harlem is one that pulls itself apart to come back together again delivering, abstractly, traces of Black expressive culture along the way. 

In this iteration of Dapline! the entire museum was activated  Throughout the day, performances featured Yaw Agyeman and Jeremy Toussaint-Baptise activating the space sonically (acoustically and electronically respectively), Yon Tande (formally Whitney Hunter) conversational work with Lorraine O'Grady's Art Is exhibit which all  culminated in the theatre with an unique excerpt of Dapline! 

 
 

 

Five on the Black Hand Side

 

 

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