I started this project to photograph my interiority – to manifest my affective consciousness through photography and performance. I’m always blue, like the word and frequency, amorphous, or polymorphous, polysemic, resonant. Precious blue, lonely blues, mournful blues. It is at once spectacular and banal, vast like the sky and small like a private emotion.
The blue that I am concerned with is best explained through sonics. Particularly in Black avant garde artists such as SZA, Frank Ocean and Moses Sumney. They take after sonic Blues exploring melancholia through sound and form. But they are only products of the Blues - a neo-, post-, alt- blues - by their ability to make music carry the weight of existence and all its dread. And that quality to make the bitter of angst sweet is blue's loveliness.
The self-portrait series, Indomitable Frequencies, follows a performance of a body/subject revealing their internal structure then breathing, moving and performing towards dissolution. Painted with lines that at once are borders, family trees, direction, purpose, labels, etc.. At their dissolution, what is found is not grey's ambivalence but blue's loveliness.
I was inspired by the idea that photography can be the creation of a subjectivity that is yet to be. It is a particular concern of afrofuturism as an aesthetic practice and genre. Kodwo Eshun elaborates this sentiment, saying: "Afrofuturism, then, is concerned with the possibilities for intervention within the dimension of the predictive, the projected, the proleptic, the envisioned, the virtual, the anticipatory and the future conditional" (Eshun 293). Digital photography became an essential tool for this inquiry because of the possibilities for transformation that digital technology allows. Through digital photography the subject is capable of finding blue where grey would be expected. This hearkens, then, to Lev Manovich's aspiration for digital photography that it points to future events and possibilities. It is past Barthes' that-has-been (in Camera Lucida) into Tina Campt's that-which-will-have-had-happen. Manovich declares: "The synthetic image simply represents the future. In other words, traditional a photograph always points to the past event, a synthetic photograph points to the future event" (Manovich 248).
The sound of Moses Sumney best describes the sonic tension the photograph emits, particularly ‘Doomed’. In the song, released with his 2017 album Aromanticism, Sumney questions the purpose of a life lived without love. Set over a low, heavy and synth-like drone, Sumney sings:
Am I Vital
If my heart is idle?
Am I Doomed?
His voice cuts the heavy drone, it is a falsetto that pushes out of the depth of the other instruments. His voice carries the words like a plea, it seemingly shrieks and shouts, reaching high like an aspiration in contrast to the pessimism that the words his sings may carry. Similarly, from the shadows one can hear, or rather feel, the low and heavy rumble. Its frequency is low, slow, debilitating. But this is cut, disrupted by the luminant grays that bounce off the sitting subject. A dissonance running between pessimism and hope. Like the struggle heard between Sumney’s falsetto climbing up the vocal register, escaping the overwhelming and seductive force of low and heavy bass. The ascent out of its own debilitating frequencies is blue's loveliness - the goal of dissolution. It is a refusal to be subsumed.
Eshun, Kodwo. “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism.” The New Centennial Review 3, no. 2 (2003): 287–302. https://doi.org/10.1353/ncr.2003.0021.
Manovich, Lev. “The Paradoxes of Digital Photography.” In Photography in America, 241–49. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Moses Sumney. “Doomed”. Streaming. Aromanticism. Jagjaguwar, 2017. https://genius.com/Moses-sumney-doomed-lyrics.