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“Active Voice”

Ulises
31 E Columbia Ave
November 12, 2016–January 22, 2017

View of “Active Voice,” 2016. From left: Hannah Black, Fall of Communism, 2014; Mark Beasley, Twelve Books & Seven Records: Re-Voice, 2016.

Ulises is a collectively run art bookstore and exhibition space—modeled after venues such as Printed Matter and Dexter Sinister in New York—whose quarterly, essayistic presentations constellate works of art, publications, and public programs around a curatorial theme. “Active Voice,” this season’s apt focus, places the politicized, pop-inflected narrations of Hannah Black’s recent videos and Steffani Jemison’s looped sound work Same Time, 2014, into dialogue. In Jemison’s recording, which is softly amplified throughout the room, an a cappella group weaves lush harmonies around the text of Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton’s Vietnam War-era speech at Boston College. The immersive aural pleasure of this work signals Newton’s desire, expressed in his closing line, “to develop a value system that will help us function together in harmony,” despite seemingly insurmountable differences between radical communities. On a monitor with headphones, Black’s video Intensive Care/Hot New Track, 2014, collages spoken fragments of stories of sexual violence, celebrity, and extradition over disembodied floating limbs.

Mark Beasley’s Twelve Books & Seven Records: Re-Voice, 2016, comprises a reading and listening list available to browse onsite, as in a reference library, and as a printed takeaway card. Its references include Judith Butler’s Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997) and Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln’s jazz LP We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite (1960). The bookshop’s shelves display a range of on-theme materials, which supplement Beasley’s concise syllabus, including Pascal Gielen’s The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism (2010) and filmmaker and performer Wu Tsang’s monograph Not in My Language (2016). Communal furniture—long, low benches and a wide central table designed by Jody Harrington—invites extended reading, active listening, and conversation, all essential in these troubled times.

Becky Huff Hunter