The 1968 Joe L. Carter Detroit blues song “Please Mr. Foreman” has in it the lines that inspired the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in the American automobile industry: “I don’t mind working, I do mind dying.” Back then, the lines referred to the danger of working on the assembly line—with accidents and long shifts at the Chrysler and General Motors factories. But those lines still resonate when one watches Anna Witt’s latest film, Unboxing the Future (2019), only this time dying means becoming redundant, being replaced by a machine.
Jailed in 1962 for publishing forbidden material in his first novel, Sur un cheval (1960), French heavyweight Pierre Guyotat was also known for his Dionysian joie de vivre and artistic scandals.1 One of the great avant-garde visionaries of the twentieth century, Guyotat agitated the conventional novel with his signature linguistic materiality, blasphemy of syntax, and dismemberment of sex. His plaintive drawings slid down a vertical chute to a dystopic never-never land. He was the Lost Boy of self-exoneration, a degenerate tu-whit-tu-whoo. His stilt-walk over ethics, humanity, obscenity, and God sabotaged political prohibition, and, ultimately, even himself.
Christine Sun Kim’s works attend to sound beyond the threshold of the listening ear and emphasize the potential for a critique of identity as not essential but relational, of language as contextual and dynamic, and of time as multiple and disjointed.
The layer over this tumultuous monochrome pulls things together, measures the previous level’s dynamism and tension. Containing again, like a structuring embrace, the final line straps on like a harness: channels power and settles.
To situate oneself within Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s installations is to recognize what new languages we share. Formally trained in both poetry and visual art, the artist prioritizes our contemporary fluency of montage, sensorial distraction, and the particular lifespan of memes. While his expansive videos, performances, poems, and photographs are densely layered with images, sounds, and text, his intentions do not rely on in-jokes or exclusionary references. Rather, the works speak to the ceaseless endeavor of locating oneself in the sprawling cultural world built around us, a frame of enforced sentiment and constructed humor. Huffman’s work exposes the limits of self-identification and representation, instead finding potency in the transitional spaces of his visual, aural, and linguistic materials, where meaning is constantly recalibrated.