JAZSALYN, Design and Technology ’21, Curates XR and New Media Exhibition at Kellen Gallery
“black beyond is unbounded. It is left open and undone. It seeks to convene and alchemize a new being of blackness through the assembly of art as community practice and community activations.”
This is part of the “black beyond” mission statement, a new media research group comprised of black and femme artists founded by JAZSALYN, Design and Technology ‘21, where artists and activists come together to speculate alternate realities for blackness.
Recently, the group debuted their first in-person exhibition at The New School’s Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, _assembly, alchemy, ascension [a^3], which officially runs from February 7 – March 18, 2022.
Curated by JAZSALYN, Shameekia Shantel Johnson, and Yvonne Mpwo, the exhibition convenes the work of artists Harmony Holiday, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Lamb, Zainab Aliyu, Jamal Ademola, Anastasia Warren, Fields Harrington, JAZSALYN, Jazmine Hayes, Asia Stewart, ed-en, Xavier Scott Marshall and Willy Ndatira under a shared interest in considering blackness outside of a white imaginary.
“_a^3 is a critical analysis of black critical metatheories,” explains JAZSALYN, who is also a faculty member in the DT program. “It maps and dissolves the falsified structures of modernity, and imagines new realities for black and indigenous life through an exploration of (afro) pessimism, nowism, afro vs afrifuturism, and black womanism.”
JAZSALYN initially conceived of the exhibition during her first semester in the Design and Technology program alongside artist Neta Bomani. The following year JAZSALYN extended the show to a digital platform where it took the form of an XR experience titled “_origins.” The show was inspired by JAZSALYN’s experiences with erasure in the digital art scene, and was meant to serve as an ode to black femmes, women, gender non-conforming individuals, and beyond.
“In a^3, new media, sculpture, performance, and conceptual works alchemize a new being of blackness through the assembly of art as community practice and community activations,” shares JAZSALYN. “All thirteen artists radically seek and defiantly manifest a collective vision of Black futurity made possible only through disruption; an ascendant reality. In addition to featured artists, black beyond’s XR experience _origins serves as a prelude to a^3, which is installed as a physical portal in the gallery space.”
The exhibition also reflects the importance of collaboration, an integral part of the Parsons mission and curriculum. For JAZSALYN, curating the exhibit allowed her to work with fellow artists who create at the intersection of art, race, and technology, but who don’t have access to the spaces and resources necessary to fully develop and realize their work. Many of her collaborators for the exhibit are Parsons alumni, current students, and other faculty members and professors.
“_a^3 is about creating a community for black art cultural workers and community organizers both inside and outside of institutions,” she said. “It’s about reallocating institutional resources. Disrupting, decolonizing and re-indigenizing social structures, creative practice and beyond.”
Referring to the title, the show has three different parts, which allows for viewers to engage on multiple levels. According to JAZSALYN, “Assembly regards to collective synergy and response to exhibitors and their work. This opens a portal to alchemy, which refers to community building. The unlearning and learning through public lectures and workshops. While ascension channels sound and performance as technology to transcend and preserve the spirit.”
The curators are hopeful that audiences will go deeper than just visiting the exhibition, and participate in the extended programs of the multidimensional activations in order to begin building community.
JAZSALYN cites her time in the DT program as influential in both her personal art practice, and in her work with black beyond. As a faculty member in the same program, she has discovered how integral her professional practice is to her role as an educator, as the work she does outside the classroom regularly influences the way she interacts with students.
“Organizing workshops and public lecture series through black beyond has influenced the way I view teacher and student dynamics,” she explains. “I strive to create a more collaborative classroom environment as a faculty member. Teaching is now an extension of the work I do.”
This includes JAZSALYN’s course from Fall 2021, which she co-taught with writer, sound artist, and Make Techno Black Again member DeForrest Brown Jr., that explored the history of techno origins and black experimental music via 3D sound environments in New York City. The class also hosted workshops and guest lecture series with Flying Lotus, Jlin, Jace Clayton and Abelton. Guest lectures during the course were open to the public, which created the opportunity for students to expand their perspectives and develop more equitable methods of sharing information.
With the exhibition in full swing, JAZSALYN is looking towards the future. She is currently an Extended Realities cohort member with NEW INC at the New Museum, and plans to teach at Parsons next fall.
To keep up with JAZSALYN and all things black beyond, make sure to follow on Instagram and Twitter. If you’d like to help support the work of black beyond, consider donating to the platform. By doing so, black beyond can fund future programming and exhibitions for its ecosystem.