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Katie Cercone
Brooklyn, NY
Neighborhood: Bushwick

ARTIST STATEMENT: Through the phantasmagoric veil of my own distorted magnitude I’ve developed what I affectionately term a derelict cosmogony of the spiritualism of hip hop via the embodied freedom encompassed in its interdynamic gestures of power, symbolism, triple metaphor, dance and song as metalanguage. Paired with my work as a yoga instructor and interest in Contemporary Goddess Archetypes, my work explores Hip Hop in all its incantations as a dynamic form of esotericism or neo-Jungian cultural dreaming in which the authors, coauthors and fans of the genre use powerful symbols and lingering sounds that engage body, mind and group soul.

Historically avant-garde practice has entailed an interculturalism of appropriation that always relies on white hegemony as its veritable backbone. As bell hooks notes, our sociocultural moment is one in which white consumers utilize black vernacular popular culture to disrupt bourgeois values and happily ‘eat the other. My work hinges on hooks’ moment as the abysmal residue of capitalist commodity fetishism, an illusive, psychosexual chimera.

My creative approach is geared toward hybrid genres, research based creative inquiry and the ‘aesthetics of resistance’ that occurs at the moment when the subaltern speaks in the visual. I’m committed to ethical feminist pedagogy that initiates networks of exchange between contemporary practice and theory. Through Hip Hop Feminism I’ve found a perfect synthesis of my interest in Embodied/Hip Hop Feminism, my work as a Yoga Instructor, interest in Contemporary Goddess Archetypes and the Black radical tradition. Yoga and Hip Hop are both fundamentally about Earth the Sky awareness. Your ass is in what you sing (Fred Moten, In the Break) recalls the fundamental importance of the lower triangle of the chakras – root, sex and solar plexus – a tripartite of energetic centers that roots us to the earth so that we can be a transmitter for spiritual vibrations of the upper folds (music of the spheres, cosmic elders, Gods and Goddesses). Without embodied anatomy – the nasty bits and all – the opening of the third eyes is useless and frenzied.

Hip Hop Feminists move beyond a simple critique of misogyny in Rap and embrace the vitality of race, gender, class, urbanism and youth culture as a critical matrix we can use to make sense of the world and change power relations (Michael Jeffries, The Name and Game of Hip Hop Feminism). Claiming a kaleidoscopic worldwide following across affiliations of race, age, nationality and class, Hip Hop is a vital source of popular pedagogy linking political, economic and social justice to cultural crossover.

I take for granted that Hip Hop is ancestor worship of an incipient warrior culture within a given white patriarchal capitalist milieu that disrespects women out of fear and awe. To be a spiritual warrior is to see reality clearly, be fearless and act from one’s heart - which has ten times the electromagnetic field of one’s brains waves. Julia Kristeva identifies Freud as the first to foreground “the love relationship…as a model of optimum psychic functioning”…the renewal and rebirth of psychic space, an “open system to another.”

This work recalls the early 90s transfunctionalization of Hip Hop that saw corporate America aggressively coopt and market the culture to white adolescents of my generation through randomly applying its signs and codes to items like snack foods, Barbie Dolls and breakfast cereal. My work is about being white. Female. Suburban. It’s about the titillation and alarm I experience digesting the ‘oral history’ of rap, one which contextualizes and reveals American institutionalized racism’s spectacles of violence and pleasure perpetrated under rubrics of paternalism and property.

I think particularly when we dissect the misogyny carrying the sail of commercial rap, there’s a thin line between reverence and fear harkening back to matriarchal periods when women’s swelling bellies and breasts were so worshipped and revered for their procreative powers some men literally castrated themselves in an effort to bleed and be closer to the Goddess (not yet understanding the role they played in the creation of life).

Leonard Shlain in his book The Alphabet and the Goddess, contends that archetypal images of the Goddess appeal to the non-verbal right brain, which is responsible for the comprehension of the language of cries, gestures, touching and body stance we see in Hip Hop. His theory is that the shift from matriarchal to patriarchal authority within Western society corresponded to the introduction of written language and the subsequent cultural shift from right brain to left brain dominated thinking and comprehension. Shlain’s point is that modern advancements in technology particularly the mass mediated nature of global internet culture are leading toward a shift in gendered power relationships cross-culturally.

Grind 4 Da Shine is a 2nd chakra flow in which I pose female hip hop stars as Contemporary Goddess archetypes. Aping choreography taken from Ciara’s music video Ride, I call attention to the choreography’s near exact replication of the yogic asana known as Goddess, a hip opener deeply connected to creativity. I also conflate the foundational ‘Downward Dog’ or ‘Adho Mukha Svasana’ with the popular vernacular dance form pioneered by Louisiana native Big Freedia called Sissy Nobby or Sissy Bounce.

Womb on My Thuggle explores the ‘slippage’ that occurs during the spectacular encounter of two lovers in the break of mass mediated/Pop pedagogy around race, class and gender. A contemporary remake of the ancient Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris, W.O.M.T. features Goddess Isis, played by an Illuminati inducted Minnie Mouse that watches Basketball Wives, paddling through the Nile scavenging the 14 dismembered body parts of her lover Osiris so that she may bring back to life his seven spirit souls.

Treemonisha Drank Up (Kakey Long Tongue Redux) takes its name from ragtime composer Scott Joplin’s early modern folk opera Treemonisha, one of the first Black operas to receive widespread crossover recognition. Characterized by its Modernist rejection of African myth and ritual in favor of Enlightenment style individual determinism, Treemonisha’s poetic armature was the polarization of education and light against superstition and darkness played out in the title character receiving schooling in a white woman’s home. As a foil to its namesake, Treemonisha Drank Up is a yoga hip hop feminist fusion about a white female - educated to the point of neuroses and nervous disorders - balancing out her third chakra as she absorbs the intuitive archetypes, metaphors and ritual of African cultural memory preserved in Hip Hop music. The third chakra, or ‘Golden Sun’ at the navel is the antenna of intuition.

This work is incantatory, embodied ‘Hip Hop Feminism’ – the glittering alchemy that occurs at the moment when the subaltern speaks in the visual, when the symbol is transgressed and provides an explosive gateway into the infinite.


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