Note: I have been thinking about the challenges black women
autobiographers face when it comes to disclosure. I am particularly
interested in the way their narratives are often heavily structured
by silences or denials. I am inspired by the ways in which two artists,
Faith Ringgold and Audre Lorde, seem to respond to these challenges
by adding to their life stories rather than subtracting from them.
Ringgold, for example, paints not just her life story, but also
the life of an artist of her mother’s generation who has the
power to move through the world in ways denied to her mother because
of racism and sexism. Lorde tells not just the sides of her story
about which many people would be silent, but also the many times
and ways she has been asked to be silent.
In my recent work, I'm interrogating propriety
and my own investments in ladyhood and other bourgeois behavior.
I am exploring ways of documenting my life through what I like to
call ‘open speech’, which is a direct, effusive, complete
way of telling that I find contradictory to my normal speech. I
am trying to get at a way of telling which says: “This is
what I want to say” and: “I do not want to say this”
at the same time. With “keeping up appearances, a hypertextimonial”
I am investigating the power of using forms which often signify
lack of power by using them in concert with one another. I have
bombarded the viewer with disappearing hypertext as a way to work
back into the smallness I might model in my day-to-day life.
up appearances, a hypertextimonial
BIO: Mendi Lewis Obadike writes for
audio, the web, the stage, and the page. Many of her works explore
raced and gendered notions of savvy and propriety. Her new media
projects have been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the
Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale Cabaret, Spelman College
Museum of Art, and the Rhizome Artbase. Mendi’s recent writing
has been published or is forthcoming in Nocturne(s), Obsidian,
Fence, Indiana Review, Blood and Bone: An
Anthology of Black Southern Writing, and Sound Unbound:
Writings on Contemporary Multi-Media and Music Culture. Her
online projects can be accessed at http://www.blacknetart.com.
A native of California, Mendi grew up in Tennessee and lives in
Connecticut, where she is finishing her dissertation on theories
of sound and the representation of black character(s).