PRINT May 1993


Greg Tate

IN HYPOTHETICAL, 1992, LORNA SIMPSON is Miles Davis. Starring the lips of Alva Rogers, this room-size installation swings allusions to the wall of Jericho up against the wall with the L.A. rebellion. Inside the bloated race and gender politicking of this biennial, her piece proves that a serious mindfuck can seduce like a balm. Or as no less a head wrecker than Ali put it, Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Simpson is Miles Davis because she knows black can be oblique and still stomp a foot up a cracker’s ass for breakfast. Hypothetical invokes cuts like the Davis Quintet’s version of Herbie Hancock’s “Riot” on 1967’s Nefertiti. America’s on fire and Miles and the crew are in some posh studio hideaway saying, Let’s meditate on this in a succinct manner shall we? Niggas with attitude get digested quicker than oatmeal, but the metaphoric powers of what bell hooks calls the decolonized black imagination resonate, penetrate, and retaliate with scary mystery forever. Ever wondered what about the Rodney King Memorial Barbecue made L.A.’s warlords realize that they could stop practicing genocide on one another and do a 360º contemplation on the blacklove weapon? Riddle me that Bart-fans, then read Mayor Bradley’s soundbite on the verdict in Simpson’s piece before Monday. There will be a test on comprehension. C-C-C-C-YA!

Greg Tate is a staff writer for The Village Voice, New York.