Collection 1970s–Present

Tiona Nekkia McClodden. The Brad Johnson Tape, X – On Subjugation. 2017 242

High-definition video (black and white, sound; 2:24 min.); projection screen with wood, hooks, chains, leather harness, rope, gold Dr. Martens boots, shirt, and dried rose petals; inkjet print with electrical tape; book, leather belt, leather jacket, urinal mat, steel, rope, sailor hat, naval quick release pin, operation specialist badge, naval jump rope, military tassels, and deer pelt; white Dr. Martens boots, leather harness, rope, dried roses, and twine; framed digital chromogenic color print with brown paper, framed photograph, cut lock, leather, and stockings; four digital chromogenic color prints with glass, rope, and bubble wrap; army hat, wolf pelt, mirror, peephole, chain mail, razor blade, urinal mounts, incense cones, stools, books, rubber mask, microphone, ball gag, naval and army medallions, and tent poles, Dimensions variable. Acquired through the generosity of Jill and Peter Kraus. © 2023 Tiona Nekkia McClodden. Courtesy of the artist

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: My name is Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and I'm an artist and a filmmaker. The work that we're looking at today is the installation The Brad Johnson Tape, X – On Subjugation.

Brad Johnson was a writer. He wrote poetry, mainly. He's not my biological ancestor, but I consider him a queer ancestor.

When I finished reading Brad's poem “On Subjugation,” it literally, like, made my head hot. I felt like I could hear my pulse in my ears. He wrote this while he was aboard a Navy ship in what is a, quite frankly, very deeply subjugating experience as a soldier and wrestling with who he knows himself to be but also who he has to be in that space.

In the installation, there are about 68 different kinds of objects. I started to collect things that he possibly would have had. Everybody talked about how tall and beautiful he was and he would wear a leather jacket, so I went and found a leather jacket that I felt that maybe he would walk around in. There's lots of roses, and rope, rubber, chain, paper. I was thinking about creating an altar in my studio is kind of where these objects started. I just would collect them and put them on the wall because I wanted to see the things that he would have.

The larger structure is made of wood and painted black. You're seeing the last of 10 scenes that all are situated on a single VHS tape. I wanted to shoot in the medium of that time, the eighties. And so there was a VHS camera facing the wooden structure that I would press record and then I would press stop.

The reason that you see me suspended by my feet is because it put me in a place of subjugation. I had to put myself in something that someone else had to let me out of. Another reason why I decided to read the poem “On Subjugation” suspended by my feet is that your blood rushes to your head. Your heart is like taking over the way that your eyes focus. Your pulse is so loud that you almost can't even hear yourself. It was all about intimacy, but also control. It was, and still is a space that's about challenging a certain kind of bodily limitation.

Let's think about submission and domination, think about that as something that people are wrestling with within a consensual dynamic of play with another in space, and trying to work out some of these ideas physically and through the body. That's really where I enter into this work and thinking about BDSM. When you look at the work, maybe it will run you away, or maybe it will bring you closer to something that you maybe don't have language for.

I think it's the biggest gift that Brad gave me when I read all his work. I was like, oh my gosh, here's someone who has language for anxiety, for tension, for rage, but also the desire for it. Most people would never talk about the desire for tension. But those are things that are explored and maybe found through play and kink and BDSM.

This is probably one of the more joyful works that I've ever done in my career. What happens at the end, when you see me finish that poem, and I drop the mic, it is like, I did it. Not only did I make it through this particular ordeal, but it actually feels so good.

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