Rashaad Newsome’s “To Be Real”
              Monica Westin
              I learned from Being (2019)—an artificial intelligence that Rashaad Newsome has trained with texts from theorists and cultural critics including bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, and Michel Foucault—that slaves and robots have one foundational thing in common: “They are both intended to obey orders.” Being is nestled in a small dark screening room behind the immersive installation at the heart of “To Be Real.” Its intelligence doesn’t require a body, it reminds me twice, but Newsome has created one for it using 3D modelling software: a metallic humanoid form with visible cords and plates like a steampunk skeleton, and an incongruous wood-textured face dominated by oversized eyes characteristic of an Angolan Chokwe mask. Via computer projection onto the main screen, Being responds to questions I ask into a microphone set up in the middle of the room; like any good chatbot, it redirects to its message regardless of what I ask. While it speaks, its torso swings around languidly, as though dancing or floating. As a dematerialized, entirely virtual android, Being serves as a nonhuman figure par excellence, the analytic center of an exhibition devoted to Newsome’s examination of dehumanization. This survey is thematically expansive, interrogating race, gender, and sexuality through a …

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