Notes on Blocks
On Practice (In Theory)
This piece came out of a new event series called “Are.na Walkthroughs” in which we ask people to take us through a particular channel, the blocks and ideas held within, and the ways those ideas may have evolved as the channel has grown and accumulated. Our second one was on April 23 over Zoom, and it featured Dodi King, Rohan Chaurasia, Cedric Payne, and Francis Tseng. Here, Dodi shares some of what she talked about while walking us through her channel theoretical practice.”
Aleksandra Waliszewska
My channel “theoretical practice” is an intimate dream space where my ideas incubate and take shape, composed of visual references and texts that I began gathering with the intention of building a foundation of research for my art practice. It serves as a guide for explorations in medium, materiality, color, composition, and subjects related to the natural world and the occult. My development of the channel is intuitive and loose, so it can be considered a stream of consciousness where similar concepts are expressed in a multitude of forms. Since leaving art school at the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been devoting lots of energy toward self-directed study. Some of the blocks are like bookmarks for lines of research that I want to delve more deeply into.
Olmec heads were sculpted from stone by ancient Mesoamericans between 1200 and 400 B.C. This photo of one partially submerged in the ground makes me think of the animism of the Earth and how the natural landscape has its own mind, personality and emotion. Superimposing the human form onto natural elements suggests this idea of consciousness existing in all things.
I’m intrigued by the surreal and sublime in figurative painting. Animals have a unique symbolism that’s interconnected with the language of the cosmic and unseen realms. The narrative in this particular piece by Aleksandra Waliszewska is so rich and driven by specific choices in color and composition that give the scene an almost indescribable quality. I like to imagine alternate realities experienced by other species to expand my perception of what it means to be human.
Betye Saar is one of my favorite artists who deal with the occult. In her use of found objects, she collaborates with her environment to create unique works that are infused with a combination of her own language, the energy of the material and its social significance or theoretical context. I’ve always been interested in creating something new from what already exists and I think this is the secret of magic. Learning more about her practice has inspired me to consider collage on a three-dimensional plane.
I discovered this work by Meleko Mokgosi when it was exhibited at Jack Shainman Gallery in 2019 and it blew my mind. Having a background in writing that has deeply influenced my artmaking, I loved the idea of combining imagery with text in this way to resemble an open book. This led me to consider installation as a powerful element for supporting the content of my own work, in the assemblage of personal mythologies.
Along these lines, the handwritten notes of Octavia Butler have reconnected me with my passion for the poetics of visual description and reminded me that words themselves are art. In my poetry, I tend to use the anatomy of the body as metaphor for otherworldly phenomena. The terms “tendril,” “flesh,” and “acid saliva” transport me to a hidden dimension that relies on the body as a conduit of its energy.
Dodi King (b. 1999, Florida, USA) is a visual artist and writer based in Brooklyn, New York.
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