NEKITA THOMAS

Operating between art and design, my work confronts the ways in which consumer culture manufactures a one-dimensional perspective of Blackness that overshadows its true richness and multidimensionality. Influenced by the unbalanced socio-cultural temperament of American inner city life post 1970’s, I am most intrigued by the symbiotic relationship between hyper commercial societies and Blackness. Respectively, my work engages conversations about identity, femininity, representation and authenticity, popular culture, consumer-capitalism, visual literacy, otherness, healing and social justice. Working across mediums, my practice incorporates installation, documentary, workshops, textile design, graphic design, and product design. As social practice, my work aims to stimulate and foster the critical dialogue needed for authentic and progressive perspectives of Black culture to surface.

Cultural Gym #1: Blk Pu$$, 2014

In my most recent work, a series of installations entitled Cultural Gyms, I remix retail vernacular to create resistance strategies that counter the stereotypical images of Blackness found in consumer retail. Utilizing a combination of product design, graphic design, video, performance Cultural Gyms appropriates the idea and structure of pop-up retail to rethink retail as a revitalization strategy for Black culture. The gyms offer re-appropriated versions of visuals and products from consumer culture, especially those that reinforce damaging perspectives of Blackness. In Cultural Gym #1: Black Pu$$ (2014), I appropriated the very popular and powerful Jordan Jumpman logo and transformed it into a Black female Jumpwoman Logo (2014). Jumpwoman represents a perspective of Black femininity that is contrary to stereotypes. Here Black femininity is represented as powerful, industrious, and ceremonious not hyper-sexualized, welfare dependent, and angry. This image was applied to t-shirts that were shop dropped into retail stores and used to influence the overall design of the cultural gym. Both gestures helped circulate an enlivened, broadened, and truer perspective of Black femininity.

In an interactive installation entitled, Static Connections (2014), I explored the link between computer-mediated communication and identity building to highlight identity as a social construction. More figurative in form, this installation was comprised of two iMac computers positioned adjacent but opposite one another that were connected via a live Skype session. Located on both screens were the login page of facebook.com and a video of vine compilations of ghetto fights and ridiculous reenactments of everyday life, which were curated by WorldStarHipHop.com. This allowed users to observe both electronically and physically, the receiver and producer of the content being shared, while also giving the user a choice whether or not to share the information. This coupled with the alarming sound of frequency being created by the two computers close juxtaposition, created an overall experience aimed at awakening the audience to the actuality of media sharing, and the role that they play in constructing identities.

Collectively, by utilizing cross-cultural dialogue, public engagement, and visual literacy as revitalization and social development tools, my work aims to address the dominant & ill-fitting perception of Blackness being marketed in America. I do this in hopes of not only celebrating and achieving social justice for Blackness but also other marginalized, misrepresented and disempowered cultures as well.

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