Anne Lesley Selcer: "I recall being threatened and responding simply with my name"

Radical Art Theory Nights

Anne Lesley Selcer: "I recall being threatened and responding simply with my name"

On the video work of Ronaldo Wilson

May 24, 2016
7:00 – 8:30 PM
Southern Exposure
Limited to 15 participants, RSVP here

The performance and video work of poet, artist and scholar Ronaldo Wilson calls up a complex theory of the self. Constantly composed, composing and constituted, the self seems a shifting skein or ego. Dance, drag, music and masks interpolate the formal tension of poem-as-such. A body in space moves through the multiple fields of value, activated by the fact of a viewer's gaze. The figure antagonizes, seduces, survives and conquers the social field. The face is often masked, an ornament and a threat. “I love poetry for allowing the tools with which one can capture, create and perform such an experience for the reader that tests the shifting limits of trauma by mapping out the power arrangements in such an encounter between human beings,” Ronaldo tells an interviewer.

As he was writing Poems of the Black Object he was looking at collages by artist Ellen Gallagher. “By whiting out the eyes, cutting out the hair, adding googly eyes or Plasticine dots,” says critic Ken Johnson, “[Ellen] mounts a kind of antic resistance to the more or less covert racism that fueled the market for products like wig and skin lighteners.” Antic resistance characterizes the overlays of image, text and found music that surround the dancing body in Wilson’s work, a body which always issues a complicated and seductive social challenge. The material history of human objectification is inextricable from the history of the Atlantic slave trade. Beauty was never the same (or perhaps began) when one human's physical attributes were evaluated by another human's line of vision: the other side of Kant is fungibility.

Following a short presentation on Ronaldo Wilson’s video work, Anne Lesley Selcer will facilitate a seminar discussion on the work.

Required Reading/Viewing:

  • Three video works by Ronaldo Wilson: Pink, Grey, Brown
  • An excerpt from Fred Moten’s lecture Black Kant (please begin at 5:44, end at 47:32)

Additional Reading/Viewing:

Anne Lesley Selcer is an art writer and a poet in the expanded field, and a 2016 Art Writing Fellow at Southern Exposure. Her collection from A Book of Poems on Beauty was chosen for the Gazing Grain publication award in 2014. Her poems have most recently appeared in Fence, Open House, and Armed Cell, and are forthcoming in The Chicago Review. She has been associated with the Nonsite Collective in San Francisco and curated the Chroma Reading Series in Vancouver. She has been an artist-in-residence at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland and a fellow at Mildred’s Lane in Pennsylvania.

Radical Art Theory Nights are conversations about art theory, art history, or research-based art practices that reflect on narratives of the historically marginalized. Visiting writers, curators, and artists contend with both current and canonized concerns, critically engage with texts, and lead open community discussions.

Radical Art Theory Nights are facilitated and organized by C.A. Greenlee in partnership with Southern Exposure’s Artists in Education program.