SHAKING THE MUSEUM by Jenny Schlenzka
JS: In anticipation of the series, we talked a lot with Ralph Lemon about the Atrium as the big empty white cube at the heart of the temple of modern art and his idea of infiltrating it with what he calls “blackness.” He never explicitly said so, but I always understood that as a political act in itself. Did it feel like that to you?
KB: It wasn’t initially important for me, when I was first developing the work, but bringing it here it was so blatant and obvious to me that [laughs] – I thought “alright, so I have to deal with that.”
JS: Deal with what?
KB: With the fact that the intention of putting me here was to draw some type of attention to this idea of “blackness” and where it exists inside of art, inside of culture, how we sort of define it, how it moves, how it shapes and how it can change, and also how people respond to it. Even though it’s not so much about—ha! This is tough—it’s not so much about race as much as about a kind of, as Ralph said, “a kind of acting out” or maybe a sort of…
JS: A sort of aesthetics?
KB: Aesthetics, yeah, and it became very apparent: there is a lot of friction. I’m playing alterations of rap music that are very aggressive, and very violent at MoMA, which is—especially in the Atrium—a very sterilized environment. The first time we actually came to this space to look at it, one of the first things Ralph said was “this is your audience.” I paused, I looked around, and very few people were speaking English, and there were very few black people walking around.