Jahmal B Golden is a Brooklyn-based performance artist, poet, and member of Ragga NYC.
Topical Cream: You began your career as a poet but lately you have been experimenting with performance art. The first time for Yulan Grant’s PS1 “Sunday Sessions.” How did this event come together?
Jahmal B Golden: Performance and poetry fit hand in hand — I test out concepts in performance that I’ve documented in writing. More recently, my physical, performance and written works have come to be one in the same. Yulan’s curation gave me the confidence to shatter my comfort zone and bloom beyond it. She has always been a person who, not only support my work but also, foster and inspire me. That was our first collaboration. She hit me up and said, “we’re taking over PS1” — the rest is history. Since then we’ve worked on other things — honestly, I think I’m just trying to keep up with her sometimes.
What was it about the experience of working with Yulan that made want to explore performance further?
I was a guest performer/snake charmer for that project. Some of those girls are amazing, – they use the tools of spectacle to their advantage and are constantly working towards building community, and fostering cooperative economics. I was asked to make the snake comfortable and work with making her visible and safe for Rowan’s piece. I was situated amid other queer femmes to force the point that there is strength in numbers. Rowan’s piece generally read as a femme-supremacist, a larger than life spectacle to me — frankly, I’m just glad to have been included in the display.
You as an individual and artist exemplify this kind of “gender dissonance” and do not identify as strictly female, male, nor queer but, as the pronoun “they.” Does this pronoun describe a push-pull between genders identities and is that something that you reference in your work? Or instead, do you exclude your own identity from your work?
I don’t mind playing with gendered signifiers. Speaking directly to my refusal to define myself with he or she – it is, in fact, an active resistance against polarized thinking. I can happily exist as neither … whilst others bother themselves with situating me/themselves as either/or. Imagine the wasted potential – that we could be everything but we’d prefer to be one or another. In my work (as I briefly touched upon before), my characters are genderless and/or physically transition between various genders as they traverse space and time. I wouldn’t be an artist if I had to , in my practice, limit myself and my work with this specific social order or hegemony.
Your mother is from upstate New York and your father is from Trinidad. Do either of these geographical regions inspire your work?
I wrote a piece / did a performance once where I lost my passport and therefore lost my footing in space and time. All of my spatial memories fused into one broad landscape and, in short, I was afraid. I think constantly about where my parents are from and where I am from — I want not to be defined by a location of residence or former residence. In the future, when asked, I’d like to assert that I am from all over – that all of my spacial memories have actually fused together and that I am from all over.
You mentioned that you have an upcoming project with Artspace Mexico, could you tell us a little bit about this?
The ArtSpace Mexico show “MUJERES AL BORDE DE VENTA: ARTISTA Y MUSA” was in January and my close friend and sister Nico Fuentes and I recreated a performance we’d done for GoGo Graham’s last presentation in which we kneeled in salt for an hour wearing her empyrean garments. Serena Jara recorded us against a white background and we, for a little over an hour, prepared to enter a high sense of self through enduring the salt. We named the piece “Untitled (Preparing for Sainthood) 2016.”
I’ve noticed many performance artists (not that that’s how you see yourself) use their social media as an extension of their practice. Do you work this way?
Social media is just for goofs and promo. I have fun with it but it isn’t my work. It’s really cool making connections and creating a persona or aesthetic but it’s certainly not that deep unless you’re as clever and committed as K8 Hardy — she’s the boss of that.
Jahmal B Golden’s book Yves, Ide, Solstice is out now on East Village Publishing.