About this conversation with Nontsikelelo Mutiti & Mimi Onuoha:
Language as blueprint, diagram, instruction, provides directives for navigating specific systems. Technical writing is discipline, context, audience-specific detailing what, when, where, how. Why the proliferation of guide-books, manuals, indices, pathfinders since the Industrial Revolution? Symptomatic of epistemological, pedagogical, phenomenological, or practical concerns? Amidst a billion specialized fields of knowledge, modern life needs guidebooks.
A Brief Statement on the Artists Versuz Series by the series curators, Heather Hart & Jina Valentine:
“This summer, we were watching Jill Scott vs Erykah Badu on Verzuz, dancing, finding a recipe and cooking, each in our respective cities, and we felt a soothing of our souls. We felt broken from staying inside and embattled by the news. But this moment was a salve: these are musicians who have been, and remain seminal for us, they transport us, spark a soundtrack to memory. Seeing them empathize with us and with each other as we sheltered in place, they reached through digital space to create something together, and it felt like a moment we will log in our collective archive. They connected us, through our phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. All over the world, for one evening, they connected us. Folks in all of the places felt this love, mutual respect, and community despite all odds.
Prompted by this series, we considered the outer limits of what is considered a book, or specifically an artist book. Artist + book. Artist = book. And we determined that books contain language in many forms and invite a corporeal experience of media and speech acts. We considered the book as it is constitutive of the archive and as it is representative of the body (body of knowledge, extension of body).
From these considerations, we determined abstract themes for our four part series: Coded Language, Technical Writing, The Corpus (body as archive), Multivocality and Self-authorship. These categories have guided our conversations around and planning for this series. Our work as Black Lunch Table involves intentional convening of voices and care in orchestrating conversations amongst communities’ constituents. We imagine the pairings we’ve proposed for Toward Liberation (a.k.a. our Visual Artist Versuz) series will inspire new connective threads, fibers, tissues, language, volumes, binding connection.”
NOTE: This series will take place entirely online using Zoom, and will be recorded.
Special thanks to Stephen Bury, Deirdre Lawrence, David Solo, and everyone who contributed through Broadsides for Black Futures for their generous support of this series.
About the Speakers
Nontsikelelo Mutiti is a Zimbabwean born visual artist and educator. She is invested in elevating the work and practices of Black peoples past, present and future through a conceptual approach to design, experimental publishing and archiving practices and peer to peer collaborations. Mutiti holds a diploma in multimedia art from the Zimbabwe Institute of Digital Arts, and an MFA from the Yale School of Art, with a concentration in graphic design. Mutiti is currently Assistant Professor in Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is also artistic director for Black Chalk & Co. a platform for archiving and publishing practices that curates cultural events and fosters collaborative projects with peers located in Harare, Johannesburg, New York, Richmond and other international centres.
Mimi Ọnụọha is a Nigerian-American artist and researcher whose work highlights the social relationships and power dynamics behind data collection. Her multimedia practice uses print, code, installation and video to call attention to the ways in which those in the margins are differently abstracted, represented, and missed by sociotechnical systems.
Ọnụọha has been in residence at Eyebeam Center for Art & Technology, Studio XX, Data & Society Research Institute, Columbia University, and the Royal College of Art. Her exhibition and speaking credits include venues like La Gaitê Lyrique (France), FIBER Festival (Netherlands), Mao Jihong Arts Foundation (China), Le Centre Pompidou (France) and B4BEL4B Gallery (San Francisco). Her writing has appeared in Quartz, Nichons-nous Dans L’Internet, FiveThirtyEight, and K. Verlag. In 2014 she was selected to be in the inaugural class of Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellows, and in 2017 she was nominated as a Technical.ly Brooklyn Artist of the Year.
Ọnụọha earned her MPS from NYU Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. In 2018-19 she served as Creative-in-Residence at Olin College for Engineering. She is a Visiting Arts Professor at NYU Tisch.
OCT 14 @ 1pm: Coded language / Private language: Steffani Jemison & Jonathan Gonzalez
OCT 26 @ 1pm: Technical writing: Nontsikelelo Mutiti & Mimi Onuoha
NOV 10 @ 1pm: Body as Archive: Aimee Cox & Autumn Knight
NOV 23 @ 1pm: Collectivities + Co-authorship: The Black School & Emory Douglas
About the Curators
Heather Hart is an interdisciplinary artist exploring the power in thresholds, questioning dominant narratives and creating alternatives to them through architectures and viewer activation. Her work has received recognition and support from Anonymous Was A Woman, the Graham Foundation, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation, among others. Her work has been exhibited at Queens Museum, Storm King Art Center, Kohler Art Center, NCMA, Seattle Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum among others. Hart received her MFA from Rutgers University and BFA from Cornish College of the Arts. She is currently a Visiting Lecturer at Rutgers.
Jina Valentine’s interdisciplinary practice is informed by the intuitive strategies of American folk artists and traditional craft techniques, and interweaves histories latent within found texts, objects, narratives, and spaces. Her practice has received recognition and support from the Graham Foundation, NC Arts Council, Art Matters, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. She has exhibited at venues including The Drawing Center, The Studio Museum in Harlem, the CUE Foundation, the Elizabeth Foundation, and MCA Chicago. Jina received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon and her MFA from Stanford. She is currently an Associate Professor at SAIC in Chicago.
About Black Lunch Table
Black Lunch Table’s (BLT) primary aim is the production of discursive sites, wherein artists and local community members engage in dialogue on a variety of critical issues. BLT mobilizes a democratic rewriting of contemporary cultural history by animating discourse around and among the people living it. First staged in 2005 at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture artist residency, the project has grown by way of contributions from and collaborations with artists, digital humanities researchers, and Wikipedians. BLT currently includes two roundtable series’, an online oral history archive, and a Wikipedia initiative. Much like its creation of physical spaces that foster community and generate critical dialogue, BLT creates a digital space for art, Black studies and social justice issues.
About the Center for Book Arts
The Center for Book Arts promotes active explorations of both contemporary and traditional artistic practices related to the book as an art object. The Center seeks to facilitate communication between the book arts community and the larger spheres of contemporary visual and literary arts, while being a model organization locally, nationally, and internationally within the field. We achieve this through exhibitions, classes, public programming, literary presentations, opportunities for artists and writers, publications, and collections.