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Alchemy



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An evocative installation exploring African diasporic cosmologies and spiritual practices. A collaboration between two artists and brothers--Lyle Ashton Harris and Thomas Allen Harris. Engaging symbols and myths from hybrid religions such as Santeria, Condomble, Voodoo and Egyptology, the work presents an insightful and provocative anthropology by drawing upon the transformative power of African diasporic aesthetics and European avant guard cinematic representations of mythology and mysticism. These staged theatrical performances are richly evocative tableaus that draw on pagan, aboriginal and African diasporic iconography's. Moving through the past, present and future, Alchemy uses digital technologies such as light-jet lazer 5000 digital imagery and DVD format video to usher in something new. The installation features nine large photographs and three wall-sized video projections.

AFRO (is just a hair style)



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AFRO (is just a hair style): Notes on a Journey Through the African Diaspora, a three-projector installation by Thomas Allen Harris, creates a poetic exploration of people scattered around the world who are of African origin. Using material from the artist's three-month journey from Los Angeles to Brazil and West Africa, AFRO explores a circulating world of attraction - a world in which one looks for affinity within a real or imagined African community.

Each of the three projections is a window through which the viewer can see distinct scenes of African-influenced festivals taking place on three different continents. FESPACO, the first and largest Pan African film festival in the world, creates an international diasporic community every other year in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, West Africa. In Salvador da Bahia, the annual Festival of Iemanja - the West African deity who is the symbolic mother of the sea - brings together Brazilians of all races and classes. Brazil is home to the largest population of people of African origin outside the continent of Africa. At The Beach, held each July 4th weekend at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California, brings together thousands of gays and lesbians from around the world for a weekend of festivities affirming black sexuality. AFRO (is just a hair style) places viewers in the position of the traveler, leading them on the epic journey of the artist's self-discovery and, perhaps, their own.





PERFORMANCES
Blue Baby



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Based on Harris' 1996 performance of the same title, Blue Baby is an unsettling mediation on the potentially devastating impact of genetic engineering in the age of homophobic environment and racist political climate. Drawing from the possession rituals of his African and Native American ancestor, Harris creates a primal invocation to all the fetuses aborted by their parents upon discovering that these unborn are gay or lesbian (or otherwise undesirable.)

running time: 15:00
1999


Egungun



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Egungun performed at the "Modern Primitive Behavior" show at the Art Incorporated Gallery in Portland, OR, Spring of 1998. Egungun is the West African ancestor spirit that periodically visits a community from the world of the dead. Harris re-created the traditional Egungun costume using found materials from his various journeys and previous performances. Covered from head to toe, the Egungun roamed throughout the gallery interacting with audience members while a larger than life live-video projection of the figure was projected on the wall. Two of Harris assistants, dressed in worker uniforms, forced the audience to interact with one another by throwing large red balls.

running time: 17:00
1998


Encounter at Intergalactic Cafe



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In a comic twist on Maya Deren's "Divine Horsemen", Encounter at Intergalactic Cafe mixes African Spirit possession with the Indigenous American sacred clown tradition to explore the electric juncture known as the cressroads. Saint, comic demon, deity, infant and other entities emerge and literally take over the body of the artist. Three anthropologists are on hand with video camcorders to record their explosive arrival. Sparks fly as Harris gives a language defying mythopoetic rendition of the original encounters between European rationalism and the African/Native America prectise of spirit possession.

Featured Performance in the'97 Performance Art Festival in Cleveland, OH

running time: 17:00
1996




VIDEO
Heaven Earth & Hell



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Reflecting upon the figure of "Trickster" in African and Native American culture, while recounting the story of his first love, Harris creates a graceful, deeply moving lament for the loss of innocence in a world without magic.

running time: 25:19
1993


Blackbody



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During the 1992 Los Angeles uprisings, the artist wrapped himself in wire hanger over a period of four days to meditate on the body's physical and psychic interaction with the legacy of oppression characterizing the experiences of African-American communities in this country.

running time: 5:00
1992


Splash



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A fable-like tale, Splash explores the interplay between identity, fantasy and desire in pre-adolescence within the narrow construction of masculinity. The tape is an exploration of the artist's psycho-social and sexual development within a society that encourages the consumption of whiteness and heterosexuality. Unwittingly, the family becomes the agency through which sexual repression and gender conformity are carried out.

running time: 7:00
1991



Any questions or comments please e-mail Thomas Allen Harris.
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