African American Religion, African American Christians, KOLUMN Magazine, Kolumn

A Black American Artist Explores Her Refusal of Christianity

A BLACK AMERICAN ARTIST EXPLORES HER REFUSAL OF CHRISTIANITY

BY   Seph Rodney
PUB   Hyper Allergic

“Direct Downward Cut at the Head; Overhand Knife Thrust”; “and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped”; “To them God has appeared as a Negro”; “syntactical slips and breaks” — these are a sample of the bits of text affixed to the walls in Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s On Refusal, one of three concurrent exhibitions at A.I.R. Gallery.


As the phrases might suggest, On Refusal is a difficult show. The gallery space is starkly divided between the chromatic camps of black and white. This is a hint about the kind of world we are entering: it’s circumscribed by the Christian faith, whose system is essentially Manichaean, a dualistic cosmology of a fallen, evil world of matter doomed until a transcendent spiritual truth rescues it. But the system doesn’t work. The attempts Christianity has made to corral this artist’s feelings, thinking, and responses within the confines of a sin-and-redemption narrative are cracking and splintering all over the gallery walls.


Through immersive text-based installations, large-scale public text pieces, publications, sound projects, and discursive programming, my work engages with both figurative and literal language to explore how we narrate the connections between the past, present, and future.

In my interdisciplinary and research ­intensive practice, I consider ideas of selective legibility and opaqueness as a political strategy; the tension between narrative contingencies and narrative resolutions; as well as black traditions of covert literacies and self-publishing.


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