Sunday, May 23, 2004

Biggers' artwork coalesces cultures with hip-hop heritage

Sanford Biggers explains his cross-cultural pieces

Hip Hop Ni Sasagu (In Memory of Hip Hop)

"This is a bell from the bell ceremony on one of the videos. The show includes two videos, an installation and six sculptures. This is a Buddhist ceremonial bell usually found in household altars and used ... to pay homage to a family's ancestors in the Buddhist and Shinto traditions. I made the bells from melted down hip-hop jewelry purchased at a Japanese hip-hop store. Then I held a ceremony using some of the bells, as well as bells from the temple where the ceremony took place. The ancestor was the history of hip-hop, the kind I grew up with - not the commodity-based type of today. I made a video of making the bells and the ceremony."

Mandala of the B-Bodhisattva III (2000)

Silkscreen on rubber tile, Masonite and Formica

"I started making mandala dance floors in 1999. These were hand-carved dance floors made of colored rubber tiles - old industrial surplus tiles for hospitals and schools. I would cut them into the elaborate mandala forms and have them used as a dance floor. I would mount a camera on the ceiling to film breakdancers. As they did their action, they circled in the mandala. I did this piece for the break dancing competition 'Battle of the Boroughs' in New York in 1999." (Although this piece is not in the show, the Dayton Art Institute has purchased a mandala floor, which will be on exhibit starting June 25.)

Tunic (2003)

Bubble down jacket, feathers

"The dance floor mandala are ethnographic, spiritual objects. I've been into making contemporary power objects to use for performance or intervention. The 'Tunic' was commissioned by Princeton University. We were asked to make work based on a piece in the museum's collection. I fashioned my piece after an African tunic used for rites of passage for young boys. My version was to take a bubble jacket that you see boys wearing all over the place with the feathers inside and put the feathers on the outside for Africoid and animal reference. The feathers come from birds. I went to pet stores all over Manhattan to find natural bird feathers."

Calenda (2004)

Mirrored disco ball, found materials

"Calenda is a dance slaves used to do. It was a communication dance - to communicate ideas while the slave masters were watching and through these dances (to) relay information on the Underground Railroad, ways to escape - to follow the North Star. This is the piece commissioned by the CAC. It's an extension of the mandala dance floors. A mandala is a portal through which spirits can come down to our earthly dimension or our spirits can rise out. The piece at the museum will be made up of dance footprints. 'How to dance' steps, one, two, cha cha cha? I torqued them and made them into constellations and they look like galaxies. They will emanate from a huge disco ball that will look like a meteorite crashing through the wall of the museum. Light will bounce off the ball and will reflect the stars. The torquing of the reflection will highlight the dance patterns on the floor and walls. Breakdancing, like the Calenda, is a communication - an interaction between boys that's done instead of fighting. It subverts the dance. The disco ball is creating the North Star and constellations."

Marilyn Bauer

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