The No Words videos, presented here as in the Exhibition, with the same two-screen configuration set against a white wall, are designed to be in conversation with each other. As a visual presentation of the written work, they are, among other things, an internal exchange made public, a dialogue between the author and his audience: what is said, and what has typically gone unsaid. A visualized representation of Blackness.
There are calls.
There are responses.
Our tradition demands both.
On one screen, the conventional “body” of the essay is presented as a performance: a reading of the written text by Kevin Adonis Browne that is simultaneously embodied and disembodied. On the other screen, selected “notes” emerge not as auxiliaries, but as integral elements of the essay. As prominent as the body, they do more than interrupt, but exist in their own right. They soothe and confess, they tremble and thrash, they make space and hold space and share space. “They are,” adds installation editor Dawn Cumberbatch, “a place to linger, rest, and reflect before you return, or before you continue on your way.” But, in offering this place, they also ask where we come from and are going to, where we might want to be.
More broadly considered, the videos are also a response to another, more infamous video. A more brutal one. In this more urgent sense, the videos are a response to the violence performed on other bodies–George Floyd’s body, Breonna Taylor’s body, Joel Jacobs’s body, Andrea Bharatt’s body, Shannon Banfield’s body–and on countless “othered” bodies. And not just the bodies of the killed, but bodies that look so much like mine, and so much like yours. Bodies that insist life when daring to breathe is a radical act.
Human bodies. Black lives.
“I think I might have sobbed, but I can’t be sure. How does one sob when one can’t breathe? I don’t know. But, by the time I wrote the essay,” Browne shares, “I was ready to break the silence I’d been forced into. I believe it is my attempt to feel it–to express it–that makes me human. Not just ready. Desperate. It had to happen.”