Friday, November 23, 2007

Dirrrty Harriet Tubman / I'm A Slave 4 U mentioned in The Washington Post!

I got a mention in The Washington Post for Dirrrty Harriet Tubman / I'm A Slave 4 U!

*Click > Here to check it out.

Michael Paul Britto's part of the "Black Panther Rank And File" Exhibition.



This major traveling exhibition, with an accompanying Baltimore-specific oral history project and resource room, as well as a full slate of public events, offers rare insights into one of the 20th century’s most controversial and influential organizations. Black Panther Rank and File was organized by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, curated by Claude Simard, curator at Jack Shainman Gallery, and René de Guzman, director of visual arts at Yerba Buena.


Black Panther Rank and File coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the Oakland founding of the Black Panther Party, in October 1966. This exhibition starts with the Panthers as a point of departure but also extends its scope to include a broad range of related ideas, themes and perspectives. Documentary material specific to the Panthers is presented in dialogue with a large body of experimental work by contemporary artists from the United States and Africa. These artists’ range of artistic approaches and subject matter provide conceptual and historical underpinnings that offer expansive new insights into the Panther legacy. The show also brings political matters into a fine arts setting to posit a role for the arts that includes, among other things, its engagement with political activism and social change.

Huey P. Newton first formed the Panthers around the idea of defending the Black community against police brutality. Over the course of its existence, the Party became a potent symbol of militancy and self-determination, growing into a revolutionary organization with alliances around the world. Its attraction was not only due to its idealism and charismatic leadership but also to the significant contributions and sacrifices of its rank and file members. The Panthers possessed an uncanny ability to seize the public imagination with dramatic acts of resistance and showed an equal commitment to directly provide for the public good. Their groundbreaking community assistance work was often lost in an understanding of the Panthers as merely an armed resistance group. Services such as free breakfast programs and neighborhood health clinics eventually became a model for government sponsored aid. The Panthers tried to radically change the American political system but also transformed Black discontent into electoral power, running candidates for public office and being instrumental in electing progressive politicians. While the Party came into being to address the specific needs of Black communities, it did not subscribe to the separatist tendencies of Cultural Nationalism. Among the Panthers’ strengths was their ability to seek common cause and create alliances with a diverse range of organizations and peoples who shared similar political and economic agendas.

A full appreciation for the Panthers, however, must include the controversies surrounding them. As with other militant movements, the question arises whether the use of arms as a means to create a more civil society is ultimately an insurmountable and self-defeating contradiction. In addition, questions linger about the equitable role of women within the Party. To the Panthers’ credit, women rose to high positions in the organization with Kathleen Cleaver, Erica Huggins and Elaine Brown among others providing important leadership throughout the Party’s history. The issue of gender equality stems from the Party’s challenges to fully implement the high standard of egalitarianism they espoused. The Panthers were more advanced than most, yet were not immune to the struggles of incorporating feminist enlightenment into day-to-day practice and attitudes, a reality that continues to plague society to this day. Despite the Panthers’ complex history, their legacy is as compelling as ever. Perhaps the recent interest in the Party grows out of today’s increasingly upsetting political climate. The current state of pervasive global conflict appears to have no end in sight, and the perceived inability of existing political systems to reflect the will of the people have heightened the stakes and inspired, in some, the desire for clear purpose and radical change that the image of the Panthers represents.

This exhibition delves into political realities to highlight how the arts can be a medium to shape society. Key to this idea is the inspirational figure of Emory Douglas, the former Panther Minister of Culture, whose artworks illustrated the Black Panther newspapers, and translated the Panthers’ liberating ideals into visual expression. Douglas states, “We must begin as artists to project, in our art of survival, that survival involves more than just the gun alone… It is our duty as servants of the people to advocate for the needs and desires of the oppressed community through our images of awareness …” While art and politics are separate pursuits, it is worthwhile to consider an expanded value for the arts that includes direct engagement with political matters. Unfortunately, this role is too often put in opposition to other crucial artistic functions such as providing a forum for advancing free expression and cultural innovation. Black Panther Rank and File does not intend to provide a pat response to this open question about the relationship of the arts with activism. This project simply hopes to demonstrate how cultural production and political work have had and continue to have a rich partnership with the interests of freedom and social progress.

In addition to showing how the arts can inspire awareness of critical social concerns, a large portion of the exhibition’s artworks consider the Panther legacy obliquely, putting it within the broader historical context of slavery and rebellion in this country, and African colonization by European powers that, over the course of time, led to the necessity of the Black Power Movement’s struggle. This art expands the specificity of the show to meditate upon wider issues of resistance, race and history, and addresses the complexities of Black identity. By putting historical records next to works of art, Black Panther Rank and File offers an exhibition experience that grows out of the poetic associations between the two. The exhibition therefore places the underlying themes of human liberation and dignity at the pregnant intersection where what is real and tangible meets the artistic imagination.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is indebted to Bill Jennings, director of It’s About Time, the Black Panther Party alumni organization, for inspiring the creation of this project. He has provided invaluable guidance and goodwill throughout the development of the show. In addition, Claude Simard, independent curator and co-director of Jack Shainman Gallery, must be acknowledged for his substantial contribution to organizing the majority of the contemporary artworks and for participating equally in the exhibition’s design.

No exhibition can do justice to the breadth of the Black Panther Party legacy nor highlight the full range of significant individuals and topics related to the Party… therefore…an array of public programs and…Resource Room…complement the exhibit.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm A Baadasssss!

Von Lintel Gallery is pleased to present Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Taking a cue from Melvin Van Peebles’ infamous 1971 film of the same name, this exhibition of fourteen African American artists is also a journey that examines the representation of African Americans in popular culture.

Afros, blackface, blinged-out slave ships and tinted sunglasses force viewers to reconsider not only their ideas about African American culture, but the “black artist” as well. Each artist takes a different approach—Renee Cox and Ifétayo Abdus-Salaam explore and question representation in American media, advertising and film; Lawrence Lee takes images of negative stereotypes and reclaims them; Barkley Hendricks and Mickalene Thomas choose to infuse an empowered, proud, dignified presence in their subjects while Titus Kaphar and Hank Willis Thomas address the idea of perception by recontextualizing the black figure.

Artists are Dawoud Bey, Radcliffe Bailey, Iona Rozeal Brown, Zoë Charlton, Renee Cox, Michael Paul Britto, Barkley Hendricks, Titus Kaphar, Lawrence Lee, Carrie Mae-Weems, Robert Pruitt, Ifétayo Abdus-Salam, Mickalene Thomas, and Hank Willis Thomas. Curated by Collette Blanchard, the exhibition spans over 35 years and several different mediums including photography, drawings, paintings, video and installation.

For further information or visual material, please contact Collette Blanchard at (212) 242-0599 or e-mail at

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Video interview of Michael Paul Britto by Nerina Penzhorn.

Follow the link below to check out my video interview on the Smack Mellon website:

Check out this new exhibition I'm a part of. . .

Smack Mellon Multiplex presents
Infinitu et Contini: Repeated Histories, Reinvented Resistances

Curated by Denise Carvalho

Kenn Bass, Janet Biggs, Michael Paul Britto, eteam, Jim Finn, Mariam Ghani, Shalom Gorewitz, Liz Magic Laser, Maritza Molina, Carlos Motta, Barbara Pollack, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, Matthew Suib, Jamil Yamani, and Rona Yefman.

Artists' Reception: Saturday, November 17, 5:00-8:00 pm
Exhibition Dates: November 17-December 30, 2007

Infinitu et Contini explores themes of militarism from various viewpoints and social contexts. The show's title references the book by philosopher Luc Jardie, one of the characters in Jean-Pierre Melville's film Army of Shadows. Luc Jardie is based on the French philosopher of science Jean Cavaillèr, who took part in the French Resistance within the Libération movement and was executed by the Gestapo in 1944. The film is about the French resistance against the Nazis during WWII, a resistance by a few well-informed citizens and intellectuals. Cavaillèr's passionate fight as part of the French resistance shows his belief in the importance of human engagement in the making of history.

It is clear that the excessive exposure to visual consumption has made us gradually more resistant to the mechanisms of control and manipulation. Thus its reverse is also evident: we have become increasingly programmed to behave agreeably in public, so as to not disrupt the apparent consensus of the collective. We seem to constantly traverse the fine line that separates us as individuals from the fanaticism of totalitarian groups.

The show interweaves three main notions: a) the emergence of militarist rhetoric and its connection to war; b) how military ideologies are enacted and resisted by various groups and individuals; c) and how media spectacle fuses excessive consumption with nationalistic ideals. Rather than looking at allegories of war, our intention is to explore collective and personal states of mind and body that are shaped by militaristic ideologies and by their by-products, attempting to find some sort of relationship between uniformity and conformity, matter and thought, issues of time and space, as well as exposing different artistic responses and resistances to the topics of patriarchy, war, hyper-masculinity, expansionism, bondage, and violence. The sense of continuum in the legacy of Western histories seems to hide the fact that most theoretical work of the last sixty years has focused on difference through a formalist scientific scope, rather than as a human experience that allows dissidence.

These videos are statements on the detrimental effects of militarization and its by-products: violence, wars, torture, and other patriarchal deformities, attempting to point out a sense of continuum within Western histories, perpetuating megalomaniac systems of power, and the social divisions that they create.

Smack Mellon Multiplex presents
Infinitu et Contini: Repeated Histories, Reinvented Resistances


Mariam Ghani's Universal Games (2001-02) focuses on the relationship between heavy politics, the world of sports, and war, all through a language of media spectacle. Her piece addresses a whole week of a strange episode in American prime time television in October of 2000, in which the two top stories of New York network news—the Yankees-Mets World Series and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—were covered at the same time, suggesting certain similarities between the topics, the pose of the players, residents, and insurgents, and the tone of the reporters covering both stories.

Kenn Bass's video Fire Moth (2005-07) comments on the fragility of the human psyche in contrast to superhuman demands of warfare, technology, and stress. His video footage is from a U.S. Navy exercise conducted in the 1950s, with pilots training to learn to land on aircraft carriers using curved mirrors as a guidance system. The artist realized that the use of light in the footage seem to follow a similar blinking pattern reminiscent of Morse code, which related to earlier pieces used in telegraphs to control projectors, or to respond to projected images. The history of telegraphy is inherently tied to its role as a military tool for communication. Developed in the 1830s and 1840s, 15,000 miles of telegraph cable were laid purely for military purposes during the American Civil War. Another part of the piece that creates a distressful focus is the text that pops up in the middle of the screen. The text is adapted from tests at Ross Institute's Dissociative Experience Scale in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, exploring the mental and physical conditions experienced after a traumatic event.

Jim Finn shot in Hi-8 analog to sustain its amateur quality, suggesting the fragility of the human mind when shaped by an extremist collective ideology. The Shining Trench of Chairman Gonzalo, 2007, depicts one day at the Canto Grande prison in Peru, where guerrilla women from the Maoist Shining Path movement bring to life the performances of their brutal indoctrination. Filmed at the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, this fictional film mixes guerrilla poems and interviews, writings and sayings from the Shining Path's leader, Abimael Guzman, Macbeth, Marxist rhetoric, and Finn's own writing, emphasizing how extreme movements in the 21st century are in tune with their patriarchal histories and expansionist ideologies.

Not all extreme groups live in poor, marginalized conditions. In fact, extreme ideas are more powerful when their sources are invisible and their methods are articulated beyond their frontiers. Carlos Motta's Memory of a Protest, 2007, is a documentary shot during a public protest by a Chilean human rights' organization, Kamarikun, against the School of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, in late 2006. The institution has been an important asset for US foreign policy in Latin America throughout and after the Cold War. It was established in 1946 in Fort Gulig, in the Panama Canal region and relocated to Fort Bening, GA, in 1984. The school changed its name to Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001, but its methods and ideologies remain the same. Opponents of the school claim that it has trained more than 61,000 Latin American soldiers to perpetuate torture and violence and to continue fomenting a disregard for human rights.

A growth of radical nationalisms and xenophobic policies can seem as out of control as a cancer. How can fear of being "invaded" co-exist with the so-called "free" economy or with any political rhetoric of freedom? Jamil Yamani's 375 Watery Graves, (part one of three: journey), 2001, exposes the official slaughter of October 19th, 2001, at the shores of Australia, when Prime Minister John Howard, running for re-election, maneuvered his xenophobic political campaign through the media, allowing the boat called SievX (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X) to sink with 352 people, including women and children, from which only 45 survived with the help of a fishing boat.

El Espetáculo, 2007, by Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, appropriates footage from oft-videotaped celebrity trials and daytime talk shows, choreographing celebrity gestures with those of military marches with an original 5.1 soundtrack composed of sounds from a variety of sources—the paparazzi, the fanatical fans, Oprah's audience, disasters, and the occasional musical riff—emphasizing the media's role of manipulating public awareness through the obsession with banal culture, as a strategy that creates collective numbness, and politics of war as fictional mechanisms of spectacle.

Shalom Gorewitz's "I Want You," 2007, is a video with images of the Military Recruitment Center and its surroundings at Times Square. "I want you" is Uncle Sam's pointed finger and cruel eyes, but also the cry from the glut of the radiating media escape. The result is a post-pop implosion of signs and symbols at the country's cross roads. The flux of formal colors and lights, are as violent as they are sexually indulgent.

Eteam's To Go for a Song, 2007, parodies the uniformity and conformity of the military march, its exaggerated body gestures and lack of individuality, with one of the artists portraying the cloned soldiers, as a background voice sings the children's song, "Ten Little Indians," in German. Made as an animation, the video uses absurd solutions to infer issues of erasure and cleansing.

Barbara Pollack's America's Army, 2003, is a video of the U.S. Army's interactive internet-based game targeted to teenage boys, On a split screen we follow Pollack's fifteen year-old son and his actions playing the game. These two separate screens allow us to see both the objective rules of the game, and the subjective split between playing it and being played by the game. Pollack writes: "In the course of ten minutes in real time, Max goes through basic training, enters a war zone and is killed in action."

Janet Biggs' Performance of Desire, 2007, is a nod to Busby Berkeley's lavish musicals and the US fascination of military enactment. It depicts cadets performing a silent drill, relinquishing individuality to become part of the choreography of war. Paired with ethereal images of weightless synchronized swimmers suspended in slow motion, the piece suggests new relationships between beauty and strength, as well as age, desire and power.

Rona Yefman's 2 Flags (2006), is an experimental fiction based on a street game called 2 Flags, with the goal of taking over rival territory, and stealing their flag. The film's characters are stereotypes of Israel's early nation builders, and here they are fighting a gang war between The Hoods and The Stripes. The story takes place in various areas of Tel Aviv, modern, historic, deserted – portraying the city as a war zone. Some of the dialogues and monologues are taken from famous political speeches, resulting in a sense of loss of hope and values, and having to resort to destruction and chaos.

Matthew Suib's Cocked (from the ReVisionist Cinema series), 2003, is a video produced during the peak of the international debate regarding the United States initiative to invade Iraq. It is an anti-war statement in the guise of a minimalist Western, borrowing dozens of short segments from several Cinema classics of the genre. Cocked expands and sustains what is usually a brief, tense, cinematic moment—the showdown—and implodes the quintessential American mythology of the Western by denying the characteristic redemption of its protagonists through acts of violence, and instead, here nothing is resolved.

Maritza Molina's Conquering Space, 2004, is a multi-layered piece where the artist is fighting against everything and nothing at the same time, fighting an invisible battle with the reality that surrounds her, and the impermanent reality of her own self. The artist writes, "Fueled by my own energy, I enter into all of those other energies that oppose me, and struggle to retain the space I occupy. The space that is attacking me is a palpable entity, and I resist its power to defeat me."

Liz Magic Laser's Globe (2007) plays with the dichotomies of a master/slave relationship, in which the voice of a woman (the artist herself) commands a young man to perform destructing actions on a globe. The commands and the actions in the video are full of sexual overtones, revealing the fine line between power and bondage.

Finally, Michael Paul Britto's Cool-Pose #1 (2007) deals with issues of race and stigma, commenting on how society shapes the behavior of young black men, who on their side play the role created for them as a way of responding and challenging that same society that marginalizes them. Inspired by the book by Richard Majors and Janet Mancini Billson, Cool Pose: The Dilemma of Black Manhood in America, the video compiles "collected behaviors associated with portrayal of cool, disaffected, or gangsta-hip lifestyle," as the artist states, using the shadow as a metaphor to "blackness." As a projection, the video fosters interaction with viewers, who also become part of the piece.