Collection 1970s–Present

Still from *Af-Fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex, Movement I: Essex + Audre*. 2015. Courtesy the artist

Tiona Nekkia McClodden. Af-Fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex, Movement I: Essex + Audre. 2015 243

Video: color, sound; 2:17 min. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired through the generosity of Peter and Jill Kraus, 2020

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: My name is Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and I'm a filmmaker and artist. This work is called Af·fixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex, Movement One: Essex and Audre.

Essex Hemphill was a prolific poet and writer and one of the brightest stars of the Black gay literary scene from like ‘80s, ‘90s up until his death. Audre Lorde, the feminist [laughs] writer, just an icon all around.

Essex Hemphill derived a stance as a feminist coming from being in conversation with Audre. And that particular text that he speaks in the video is actually from Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde's text, where she's talking about rage. So, you're looking at this Black gay man, and he's speaking the language of this feminist Black lesbian, and they're both dealing with the same thing, which is a particular rage that's tied to their gender and race, sexuality.

From 2014 onward, I was in a wave of a lot of people dying who were elders, queer elders. And I started to go in the archive to look at Black gay men, who were producing work at the height of the AIDS epidemic because those artists were facing death. I wanted to look at that moment and learn how to deal with anger, how to deal with the fear of death, how to deal with difficult things that I felt like a lot of my peers and younger people definitely did not wanna deal with.

I don't wanna be ignorant. I need to know what did exist. I always go looking for it. I go and talk to someone who was the lover. I go and talk to someone who's the mom. Because when you're dealing with the archive of Black queer subjects, you're dealing with something that is inherently almost dangerous because of how that archive has always been handled, and how it's aided oftentimes in what people refer to as a dual death. Someone dies and then people get rid of their things purposely to erase them again.

It became very specific in this search for Black, gay posthumous mentors. I felt like I wanted to take care of them artistically. That's pretty much what it was about. I had to find people who could be a mentor for me, even though I missed them, like literally missed them.

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