Setting the Record Straight
Setting the Record Straight deals with legacies of artist Julius Eastman (1940–1990), the queer African-American avant-garde composer, pianist, vocalist and conductor, and Amy Ashwood Garvey (1897–1969), political activists. Their pioneering and important work has been revived in the new artworks by The Otolith Group, The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017), and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa in Carrying Yours and Standing Between You (2018). We welcome Annie Fletcher to this panel, a curator from the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, who is preparing a large solo exhibition of The Otolith Group in May 2019. The talks will be moderated by Emily Pethick.
From the late 1960s until his death in 1990 at the age of 49, Julius Eastman, the queer African-American avant-garde composer, pianist, vocalist and conductor, wrote and performed compositions whose ecstatic militant minimalism initiated a black radical aesthetic that revolutionised the East Coast’s new music scene of the 1970s and 1980s. No recordings of Eastman’s compositions were released during his lifetime. In January 1980, Julius Eastman was invited by the Music Department at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois to present his compositions Crazy Nigger (1978), Evil Nigger (1979) and Gay Guerrilla (1979).
A number of African-American students and one faculty member objected to the titles of Eastman’s compositions. The titles were redacted from the concert programme. Before the concert on 16 January 1980, Eastman delivered a public statement that responded to these objections. The speeches delivered by two speakers in The Otolith Group’s video, The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017) – on display as the installation at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam during the festival – are based on each performer’s adapted transcription of Eastman’s Northwestern statement. This talk by The Otolith Group – Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun – who will be joined by Annie Fletcher, will focus on the importance of this Afrofuturist artist and expand on ideas in making the film.
In May 2019, the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, will present the first large scale solo exhibition of The Otolith Group. The exhibition is curated by Annie Fletcher.
During her talk, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa will be reflecting on the similarities and differences between the contexts and research processes that led her to produce the 2015 video Promised Lands and Carrying Yours and Standing Between You, a research/installation recently created for the exhibition Women on Aeroplanes at the Showroom Gallery in London. The opportunity to view these works so close together (Promised Lands was shown at both the Berlin Biennale and the London Film Festival last year) and to observe responses to them has given rise to a new set of questions for the artist about her artistic/research practice that have implications for how she wants her work to develop and what her ‘position’ is (or might be).