Ariel Jackson

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What is my artwork about?

My work is a process of developing self-referential, allegorical narratives with alter-egos as main characters navigating a media landscape in resistance against media imagery and language selection to describe my reality as a woman of color in America. I explore dislocating found imagery and redefining them with multi-faceted allegorical functions and meanings to reveal the intersection of race, gender and class. I look for imagery that either expands my sense of agency or marginalizes it looking to interrelate the two in reflection of the process of media exposure and its effects in regards to marginalized people in America

Artist Statement

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and completely distorted the landscape causing my friends and family to evacuate. On the news our neighbors were cast as refugees and thieves and without my consent my sense of agency became diminished and overwritten by the media’s imagery and language selection. I felt I had little control on my reality in terms of retelling my experiences and began searching for different processes to transcend societal marginalization.

That experience began a search for methods and processes that would offer the possibility of a space where I had complete control of its structure via language and imagery selection while enabling me to explore history, present, and futuristic realities and ideas that lend to allegorical language to describe my experiences. Video collage and sculpture offer a process of immediacy and physicality for me to create a self-determined reality space. Immediacy is important in my practice because I seek to reflect how my mind analyzes the world around me. I often find myself disconcerted by the separate focus on issues of race, gender, and class. Through my work, I am able to dislocate meaning of imagery and reduce commonplace imagery attached to race, gender, and class to color and shapes with multi-faceted, allegorical functions and meanings that allows the work to reveal the intersectionality of all three.

After I moved to New York I experienced financial struggle and societal pressures related to differences between how I look and act compared to how women of color are portrayed in the media, particularly the music industry. My first alter-ego, Confuserella, began to develop out of a space of resistance towards media stereotypes of women of color. In “The Confuserella Show aka I Need A Shrink” she offers an explanatory dialogue of how she came to adopt stereotypical characteristics through societal and financial pressures. Confuserella reaches out to the viewer to seek understanding of the ways of this foreign planet as she introduces her home and family of ancient figures from South America and Africa pointing out differences and compromises she’s had to endure since her arrival.

By the time I created my second video installation piece “Here’s Hoping aka The Blues” I understood Confuserella’s function as my vessel to explore group identity, memory, cultural propriety and individualism within my personal narrative. The video and sculptural landscapes I create for her became a safe space where my personal narrative and my interdisciplinary research method could merge. My use of imagery and language allows me to expand into the past, present, and future of how I relate to the traumatic events of Hurricane Katrina prompting my personal narrative to exist beyond a comparison with media and into a space of alter reality where the effects of race, gender and class have less restrictive power to determine the truths of who, what, when, where and how.

In my research I seek imagery within media that either expands my sense of agency or marginalizes it looking to interrelate the two in reflection of the random and selective process and effects of media exposure. I seek and study shows and comedians whose language and background lightens race, gender and class topics like ‘In Living Color’, ‘The Dave Chapelle Show’and Paul Mooney all the while being direct in their delivery. I research how individuals, movements, and communities re-structure, re-interpret and re-write histories in order to forge alternate futures and take note to the historical and mystical aspects. From Sun Ra’s self referential mythic reality to Octavia Butler’s futuristic allegorical novels. I’m influenced in particular by the language and narrative of several subculture communities whose culture seeks to understand, resist and transcend sociopolitical issues and effects within and around their communities. The Five-Percent Nation use Alphabets and Mathematics to teach young men and women that they are reflections of the universe and that they are imbued with holiness. The Moors of America teach that black people were never slaves and have an extensive history of mastery and inventive intuition. The Kemetian Orthodox teaches how to re-develop a connection to the universe through holistic health by researching the lifestyle of ancient egyptians. These are only summaries to an extensive community that shape and re-shape themselves according to history and their particular perspectives on it .

In the past year the mass media has been filled with an alarming number of incidents of harassments and brutality towards African-Americans. Teenage boys and girls are labeled as dangerous men and women and treated with such force that as a woman of color I fear for my family and friends. I fear that they will not be able to go from point A to point B without being in fear for their lives, making it feel impossible to accomplish personal goals with confidence and self-esteem. In meditation over this fear I began making work in thinking about Confuserella and her quest in regards to the blues and my new alter ego “Lil Lil”a spokesperson for B.A.M. Incorporated (By Any Means Incorporated). B.A.M. is a fictional company specializing in helping you help yourself get from point A to point B by any means necessary.

In my performance at a AfroFuturism conference at The New School, Confuserella introduced herself as a Panfrikan who is on a quest to understanding the blues and it’s location in space in order to turn them off. On Panfrika, Confuserella witnessed the reds and the yellows fail to balance the blues and when the blues wouldn’t stop playing they washed nearly all of the colors from Panfrika. In hopes of rescuing the lost colors and at the same time prevent the blues from washing away anymore colors, Confuserella traveled to Plastica, a nearby planet where everything is fake. Here she studies the adventures of black panthers and how they learned about the system in order to push back against it.

My most recent video installation work “B.A.M. aka By Any Means” consists of three sculptures set in space to mimic a bedroom/living room. The video begins with Confuserella complaining about not being able to arrive at point B. Lil Lil uses his experience to explain to Confuserella how his elders taught him that the journey to point B is in the present. Lil Lil ends with showing Confuserella what he has learned while being in B.A.M. by creating shapes out of thin air as he travels through media.

Ultimately my work takes a pseudo-documentary-fictional form that continues to develop in line with my experience and observation of past and current events such as the growing number of harassment incidents and today’s political climate having striking similarities with scenes from the civil right movements (protests, beatings, equal rights, etc.). Currently I’m interested in investigating my alter ego’s position as creator/researcher of tools and processes that will combat “The Blues” which have come to represent oppression and depression induced traumas in today’s society.

 

CV

Born 1991, New Orleans LA

Lives and Works in Brooklyn, NY

Education

BFA  The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art ’13

Exhibitions

“Bronx Calling: The Second AIM Biennial”  The Bronx Museum Bronx NY June-September 2015

“Art Art Art: The Modern Woman”  RAW Space Harlem NY March 2014

“American Beauty”  Susan Inglett Gallery NY NY Dec 2013-Feb 2014

“Culture, History + Video”  Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit Detroit, MI Nov 2013

“The People’s Laundromat Theater”  The Laundromat Project:Create Change Residency Harlem NY May 2013-Sept 2013

“Benjamin Menschel Fellowship Exhibition”  The Cooper Union NY NY Jan 2013

Prizes and Awards

“The Robert Breer Film Award for Excellence in Film, Video and Animation”  The Cooper Union NY NY May 2013

“Benjamin Menschel Fellowship Award Program”  The Cooper Union NY NY 2012-2013

“Who’s Who in 2009”  New Orleans Magazine New Orleans LA 2009

“Daniel Price Award”  New Orleans Center for Creative Arts New Orleans LA 2009 Residencies and Fellowships

“BHQFU Summer Emerging Artist Residency Program”  Bruce High Quality Foundation University NY NY June – August 2015

“Artist In the Marketplace”  The Bronx Museum NY NY 2013-2014

Publications

Featured Artist. Extra Earth Analog, Pastelegram.  Print Issue #4. March 2014

Featured Artist. The Moving Image + Art “Can We Talk About This?”  Artist Talk. March 2014

Guest Post. Homey Don’t Play That, KindAesthetic.  Blog March 2014

Bibliography

‘Spectral Projections: Color, Race & Abstraction in the Moving Image’  Abstract Video: The Moving Image in Contemporary Art Sept 2015

‘ American Beauty’  New York Times Art in Review Jan 23 2014

Interview  Artvoices Magazine Issue 18 New Orleans LA Sept 2009

Video