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NLE Curatorial Lab


January 10 – 31, 2015

THE WAY OUT IS THROUGH January 10 – 31, 2015


The Way Out Is Through is a multidisciplinary exhibition that addresses the shifting landscape of urban environments. Through video, interactive media, installation, performance, and sculpture by participating artists—Peggy Buth, Raquel Cepeda, Free Breakfast Program, Paloma McGregor, Akeema-Zane, Nicko Nogués, Kyla Marshell, Mark Salvatus, and Phan V.,—the exhibition asks what is the relationship between home and communities in flux. The works explore narratives of belonging, public space, and nostalgia—challenging what it means to belong to a community and our connection to shared memories of a neighborhood. In the exhibition title, “the way out is through” is a reflection of our relationship between the transient nature of the urban city and how we respond to tensions between our home interiors, exteriors of public space, and the act of letting go.

RAT IAL EMENT The exhibition brings together works by artists living in cities around the world, ranging from an interactive piece by Phan V. that deals with the transitory aspects of life amid seemingly more permanent surroundings, to Free Breakfast Program’s interventionist breakfast for dinner event that “brings the outside in” and Nicko Nogués’ Thank You, Harlem; a thank you phone line number where people call to leave a voice message to express their gratitude. Non-participatory works include Peggy Buth’s examination of the destruction of social housing projects in the U.S., France and Great Britain and an animated commentary on globalization, commerce and cultural exchange by Mark Salvatus. Also featured in the exhibition is a dance installation by Paloma McGregor/Angela’s Pulse. Curated by: Leticia Gutierrez, Ladi’Sasha Jones, Kirstin Kapustik, Zena Koo, John Kenneth Paranada, Maurizzio Hector Pineda


RAQUEL CEPEDA Author, Filmmaker & Journalist

Vignette: Puerto Plata: 1995 Young lords play maroon tactic games in massive sugar cane fields their little bronze bodies never yield to the sun massive sugar cane fields tell stories of genocide of tribal attacks Taíno tracks path the way back home to modest shacks half-built houses dated back to the Spanish man’s abandonment gave progress a “time-out” Dirt roads glazed with gravel make it hard to walk without boots but young lords possess a thick sole so most walk around barefoot And soul deep given by experience and memory soothing beaches made private for little white kids and their makers they play by day and dance by night and I think to myself all the while: What the fuck are they dancing to? Young lords grow into small time hustlers riding peoples around in mopeds for money the lucky ones get to work in resorts in silver ports where our ancestors were enslaved in the name of Isabella and Ferdinand or resort to violence Germans now pimp and simper the coast with colonialism in their veins And keeping Young lords alive is the only way to maintain the system slavery by another name

I saw Europeans on the boardwalk with locals they called “Chocolate Friends” I saw big fat women spill out of their bathing suits gawking at the court jesters in speedos sizes too small saw them steal away together at night so NOBODY would notice I did. Over breakfast, I saw them stare at us while we ate angry at my defiance saw men white men mingle with the generations that made me and these scores of fatherless children in Cabarete ethnically incorrect some seasons saw me rush to the shores to veil my body with the sun not lifting a finger in servitude Young lords grow old but their spirits are possessed so they sip on mamajuana and puff on cigars like religion unfazed by scars obtained in those massive sugar cane field and all those hotels lining the silver port still their bodies will never yield and that, in a way, made me proud.

A Poetry Reading in Harlem entered the room amongst my brothers and sisters beautiful faces different shades of black and brown races those faces hint traces of hare when I enter the place guess my hair is too straight But I’M black as black as my master permitted from Spain the man was acquitted of the crimes he committed on my ancestors on my tatarabuela but people give muela when I enter the place like I was a disgrace to my race and welcome me with shade to make me seem darker más oscura, que locura nunca puede ser I saw “Free the Land” sister to the woman at the door She said, “Yeah, five dollars” like she was my pimp and I was her whore funny her complexion was exactly the same but she sported fashionable dreadlocks Host is “deep”eyes glaring staring in confusion disillusioned if he thinks Black is that monotonous afta the show, though pseudo-revolutionary- Peter-Pan Africans cluster and talk about black unity at the door before sippin’ on some Heineken.

His Panic I’m a panic to His existence so he calls me a Hispanic


Writer, Multimedia Artist & Researcher

There’s a Monopoly on Change Mom said her boss let her go. Told her that she could enjoy her vacation more now since it’d be longer. The brokerage firm folded. Dad turned down that job with the MTA since he’d see a third of his income lost to taxes. Figured he was better off taking the gamble and having seven hundred dollars in his pocket even if it only meant he could work three days a week and not five. At least he’d have some time to rest his back from all the lifting of boxes. Although, these days ain’t been much resting getting done. Folks been moving like pack rats he said, ‘specially those college students. And the moving rates done dropped as a result of seeing less families packing into these apartments. And those houses, they been renting those to them students too. And them rich folks been using those moving companies and not no independent hustlers with business cards from 1997. So money’s been tight. Cross the tunnel ain’t been much different. Mom said Aunt Kathleen started renting out the guestroom, the basement and the attic too. She said since her divorce she been short on money for mortgage and spends her evenings sitting around counting the days ‘til she got laid off and counting her blessings too. She said she can’t help but see it coming since so far they let go of three nurses in just one week. So she was just biding her time. She done gave up her BMW and the IRS been garnishing her checks. Thank God she sought to take the NCLEX exam to become an RN. But ain’t but few of those job openings. More and more hospitals been closing, and nursing homes too. It’s like the affordable health care act done intensified the loss of Medicaid reimbursements to the spike in rising costs of supplies and services. All them buildings getting replaced by condominiums. Could you imagine, having a former burn or intensive care unit for a bedroom? One time Aunt Stacyann, Dad and Cousin Kendra sat in the front gallery limin’ (as they say) after the sun went down and Aunt Stacyann, who they call Toots, saw a bat and went on about the so called Soucouyant she saw fly across the sky on an evening. “If allyuh see the soucoyant. It come to suck waz he name blood. He playing he want to teef people money. He go see fireball coming for he arse again tonight. Allyuh feel is joke ah making. People does say they doh believe but I believe and I does see.” And I thought she was talking crazy then. But it seems crazy people just don’t make no case out of proving you wrong. Spirits really do seem to linger outside their physical form. They even linger in objects. All the things we seem to touch and hold and keep and hoard, they all have fingerprints and dust, and stories and memory. And some living things are spirits who make it their business to interact with humans they got history with, somehow or another. Mom said I got me an old soul, I look at pictures of my great aunt and hear old stories of my grandfather and I can’t help but wonder if I got their spirits running through my blood. And I wonder, whose spirit they had running through theirs and how spirits are so all knowing to just inhabit new bodily territory like that. And what about those spirits that got hold of the wrong bodies if there is even such a thing? I mean, its kind of like these white folks running ‘round here trying to catch wind of this body, except it ain’t just one person’s body. It’s bodies of people, families, homes, and lands. Trying to snatch whatever little life or spec of hope folks ‘round these parts got left. Ain’t no trauma like seeing one your kind lead

you into a tunnel of no return, selling Change for time. Selling votes in exchange for folks’ memory of the Black Star Line and William O’Neal, Jim Jones and the Atlanta Murders, no telling how much of a conspiracy any of it was. Little do these folk moving in know, you can’t make much of anything out of such hollow ground. You can’t be turning no underground railroads into condominiums without catching breath of Lucifer himself and I sure as hell bet ain’t no one coming with their gris-gris, batta, salts nor stoop ladder to hang their glass bottles on strings from trees. Between Adam Clayton and Fredrick Douglass Boulevard, near Little Africa, Ma Luv used to sell t-shirts that said “Harlem Not For Sale.” I remember walking past her table one day and seeing a double-decker tour bus of white people taking pictures while the guide motioned the crowd to star gaze at the Apollo. I thought to stick my middle finger out but before I could think twice it started to rain. Ma Luv and I turned from them, looked at each other and got out a good cackle as the folk on the top deck scurried for coverage and tucked away their cameras. I left her as she packed her burgundy van and directed her eldest grandson to hurry and put these shirts in the container in the back boy! I made an about-face and headed back toward Adam Clayton, past the state office building, examining those new Harriet Tubman Condos on ‘32nd right before the Chicken and Waffle spot that don’t ever open the time they say they do. I cut through St. Nick Projects noting the new benches they lined the entrance with and made a right at the intersection on Edgecombe following the trail of white folk exiting the train station. Strivers Row ain’t never looked more silver spoon-ed! I walked back toward St. Nick Ave. and past the Harlem School of the Arts where I learned how to plié, water color paint and play the drums. Then on toward Sugar Hill only to find the doors of St. Nick’s Pub closed. I stood in front of the door for a while until a man walked by telling me that the owner done lost his liquor permit but they was gonna open as soon as they renewed it again. But St. Nick’s Pub ain’t never re-opened. Something bout the new tenants, one of which was a lawyer from downtown, started complaining about the smell of weed drifting from the backyard. Promised if it didn’t stop he’d make sure the doors remained closed. And just like that, they done came and turned good ole’ living niggas into ghosts.


Long Seeds So here we are: too far to turn back, too broke to hail a cab, too far from wherever it is we’re going—& late, like always, but for real this time late. The baby already born late. I now pronounce you man & wife late. The plane took off & you don’t get a second chance late. Make you crazy & run the whole way late. Make you crazy & get off the train ’cause anything is faster than your own fear. You leave the old man wearing the parti-colored joker’s hat, the black man rubbing the stubble on his face, all loud, & Matthew, twenty-eight, just looking for something to eat, a quarter, a nickel, anything, in three bounds across the platform.

Tell us, should we try & stay? Or should we run away? Or would it be better just to let things be? —from “Home” from The Wiz

what about a bird? they get to see so many things. the 6 am over the Chesapeake Bay. the sun sliding up a city window & the little boy inside. the woman & her grandbaby, biking the ribbony cape. the grace of any grass in plain, bend into leaning. sometimes i think of the telephone pole, holding its lifelong note. its world built on the same woman passing by, her baby, turned to boy, garbles turned to words, legs turned to walking, to choice: sometimes i think about the long seeds of my life & needing to watch them grow.

Only to arrive back from whence we came. Same train smoking the same song, same clock tocking the same minutes we all got. & here they all come, same jokers from before, same crazy hat, same 5 o’clock shadow, same Matthew, twenty-eight, asking if you could spare anything, anything at all. & where was it you were trying to go? Just think: you could have stayed in this same spot & gotten there the same time. In a moment, she opens the door, smiling, & it’s not too late, not yet.

Credits The NLE Curatorial Lab 2014 is generously supported by the Dedalus Foundation and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. This literary art-book is curated by Ladi’Sasha Jones and designed by Adrienne Gaither. Premiering for the first time is poetry by Raquel Cepeda from 1995 (all rights reserved by artist) and commissioned writings by Akeema-Zane and Kyla Marshell for the No Longer Empty Curatorial Lab exhibition, The Way Out Is Through.

Image Credits: Cover image, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8d28569 Raquel Cepeda’s image, Rob Northway Akeema-Zane’s image, King Texas Kyla’s Marshell’s image, Rae Maxwell





The NLE Curatorial Lab 2014 is generously supported by the Dedalus Foundation and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

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