Dream in the Rhythm
Read Grace Wales Bonner’s introduction to the book that accompanies the exhibition Artist’s Choice: Grace Wales Bonner—Spirit Movers.
Grace Wales Bonner
Nov 13, 2023
I am driven by the photographs in this collection to think about immaterial gestures, to consider impressions of black style and of expression that reverberates. To think about the giving of life to material and the transformational qualities of spirit movement. Here, gestures are the alchemical transformation of matter, the invention of style through embodiment—the soloist breathing life into his instrument.
And some moments of observation lead to quietude, a stillness in a symphony. A refrain reveals to me the intimacy of understanding the deepest human emotions encased within a gesture. Something held in the crease on a sleeve and the smartness of a black spine against a wall in the shade.
Lee Friedlander. Miles Davis. 1969
In my mind I cannot separate the photographs in this volume from lyrical narrators, orators who light pathways of imaginative and sonic potential. Images shine through the words of Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Robin Coste Lewis, Ishmael Reed, Greg Tate, Jean Toomer, Quincy Troupe, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. The harmony of the visual and the lyrical resound within black radical tradition.
The song of the words allows us to see more and dream deeper. Even as those words describe the impossibility of translating sonic experience, they inscribe the natural world, the cosmos, stars, musicality, freedom.
I have glimpsed the transcendence of resting among the song of their words. It is this journey into opening up something universal that has been the guiding principle of this research project, allowing me to see what it would be impossible to see through my own eyes: a togetherness in expansion.
Pope.L. Thunderbird Immolation a.k.a. Meditation Square Piece. 1978
I am transfixed by this moment of suspension and participation within collective expression—the moment when we begin to “dream in the rhythm,” as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o puts it in his novel The Rivers Between. The rite of finding freedom in the eternal collective.
Beyond the immaculate individual expression, I hear an enthralling symphony. It is a call to leap into this wider consciousness. To constellate here is to be part of something complete and yet unfolding in the moment.
More magnificent than seeing is to dream in the rhythm.
Want to read more? Pick up a copy of Dream in the Rhythm: Visions of Sound and Spirit in the MoMA Collection.
Artist’s Choice: Grace Wales Bonner—Spirit Movers is on view at MoMA November 18, 2023–April 7, 2024.
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