BALDWIN’S NIGGER RELOADED II
BARBY ASANTE / SORRYYOUFEELUNCOMFORTABLE
“Baldwin’s Nigger RELOADED II” begins with Horace Ove’s 1969 film Baldwin’s Nigger, which records a dialogue with James Baldwin and Dick Gregory at the West Indian Student Centre in London in 1968. Baldwin’s polemic covers timely topics such as the legacy of slavery, Black Power versus integration, the political conditions that led to race riots, religion, American Imperialism, and the Vietnam War. The dialogue following his speech opens into an experience of the British post-colonial experience of the world and being black in it. A provocative question is posed asking Baldwin where he thinks the black man will be in 50 years time. Baldwin’s answer is optimistic speaking of a black state of mind, a sense of pride that will emerge that would bring forth a new kind of identity.
“Baldwin’s Nigger RELOADED II” reflects on this question posed in our times nearly 50 years from the original speech. It seems in our times that the things happening in the world are not dissimilar to many of the things spoken about in that conversation in 1968. The work of Baldwin, in particular his presently much quoted essay “The Fire Next Time,” seems somewhat prophetic and appropriate to consider where we are socially and politically in this moment in time. This continuing dialogue is performed through a ritual of transcribing, rewriting, and re-performing Baldwin’s provocation in different places and at different times in our global and local writing of our human stories. With each new iteration there is an invitation to people to re-script the text, bringing their ideas, experiences and views to the table. Each new script is collected and archived as a record of the different conversational responses and explore many contemporary conditions such as global terrorism, Islamophobia, the refugee and migrant “crisis,” police brutality, racism and anti blackness, mistrust of our political leaders, economically driven global power structures, wars, white supremacy, identity, gender, sexuality, and the role of the archive in developing alternative narratives of politics, society, and culture.
“Baldwin’s Nigger RELOADED II” has been performed at Nottingham Contemporary, October Gallery, London, Tate Liverpool, and Eastside projects, Birmingham. In 2016 it will be performed as part of the Intersections programme at Art Rotterdam with Framer Framed and A Language to Dwell: James Baldwin, Paris, and International Visions, American University Paris.
The piece originated at Iniva in 2014 and produced by Teresa Cisneros, Agency for Agency.