In conjunction with their exhibition American Cypher at the Studio Museum in Harlem, conceptual art duo Mendi + Keith Obadike will be doing a two hour artist talk on Sunday, June 9 from 3-5pm. This free talk will be a great opportunity to hear the husband and wife team talk about the ideas behind this project, a suite of work that reflects on the intersection of race and DNA. This installation, with eight-channel sound and video, as well as letterpress prints and a book, runs through June 30.
From the press release:
In this work, the artists reflect on the role of DNA in contemporary American culture through five stories that hinge on deciphering genetic code. These stories include the racial politics of genetic researcher James Watson, the ancestry of Oprah Winfrey, and the use of DNA in the criminal justice system, and the lineage of President Barack Obama. At the center of the project is the story of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who bore several children by President Thomas Jefferson.
What’s cool about this project is that Mendi + Keith made digital recordings of Sally Hemings’ last know possession, a small bell given to her by Thomas Jefferson’s wife, Martha, that’s on display at Jefferson’s Monticello plantation. They then mixed that sound with a score made from the Hemings and Jefferson family DNA as the basis for the musical score for the entire soundscape.