Theaster Gates's The Black Charismatic
IHME Project 2017
Talks and screenings programme: April 7–8
Gloria Cultural Arena, Pieni Roobertinkatu 12, Helsinki, Finland
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Every year, the IHME Contemporary Art Festival produces a commissioned work of art in urban public space, with the aim of engaging with diverse audiences. The Festival’s ninth edition brings to Helsinki a body of works, The Black Charismatic, by the Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates. Gates’s new project for IHME will present one of the cornerstones of his collective artistic production: The Black Monks of Mississippi, an experimental sound ensemble who explores the possibilities of black music and spiritual sound power.
The Black Charismatic is a journey of exploration into the power of the voice, and into the potential of improvisation. The title of the project refers to the common thread running through Gates’s work, namely the history and present of black people, and the way that black culture has changed the world. “Charismatic is the gift of the black people: the power that comes from the animation of the body, from being with others and yet focusing on the internal, the meditative and the durational,” Gates says.
As part of the IHME Project the festival is screening the world premiere of a film about The Black Monks of Mississippi on Wednesday, April 5. The project also includes a concert by the group on Thursday, April 6. The film screening and concert will be augmented by a video installation created for the Festival, on view at Helsinki’s hidden architectural gem, the Finnish Salvation Army Temple, on April 6–29.
The experience of this specially commissioned work will be reinforced by an extensive programme of talks and films on April 7–8. Under discussion at the two-day event, constructed around themes raised by the commissioned work, will be the meaning of art and cultural appropriation. Can useless art be useful, and vice versa? When is art cultural interaction, and when is it stealing?
The Festival’s guest speakers include former Director of Tate Modern and current Director of Berlin’s Volksbühne Chris Dercon, who will talk about the significance of art in an increasingly digitized global world. The founder of Prospect New Orleans and curator of the last La Cuenca Biennial, Dan Cameron, and the expert on African-American photography and Professor at New York University Deborah Willis will also contribute to the discussions.
The IHME Artist Theaster Gates is also one of the Festival’s speakers. In conversation with the Director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven Charles Esche, Gates will discuss the relationship between an art market that focuses on the production of art objects and artforms that are based on living presence.
The Festival’s film programme has been inspired by Theaster Gates’s multi-faceted production. Film critic Olaf Möller has curated two series of films, on the themes of Japan and discarded materials. The materials for Gates’s works are often found or recycled, while Japan has been an important source of inspiration for him in his work as a potter. Both series are being screened on the Festival weekend.