Zachary Tye Richardson is a Brooklyn based artist who is interested in physical investigations, including but not limited to: movement, voice, theatre, and fashion. Richardson explores their concepts through movement designs that are created for the viewer's personal interpretation. He is intrigued with somatic relations and how they associate with emotional connectivity. Richardson is currently a Work Up artist in residence at Gibney in lower Manhattan.
On March 15th and 16th, Richardson will be showing his piece Black Parade at the space during a shared evening performance with two other Work Up artists, Laurel Snyder and Nana Chinara.
As part of their research and preparations for the performance piece, Black Parade, Richardson traveled back to his hometown of Lakeland, FL and documented the Martin Luther King Jr. parade with the Lomo'Instant Automat. By sharing his research results, Zachary provides a unique and intimate peek behind the scenes of the making of performance art through the medium of instant photography.
Hi Zachary! Thank you for sharing your research photos taken with the Lomo'Instant Automat and taking the time to chat with us about your project. To give our readership an idea of your work in general, how would you describe your art making?
Where there is flesh, there is malleability. When there is malleability, there is endless availability. This concept is quite captivating and makes the mind wonder: How many pliant ways can I discover in this lifetime? Are there more methods to be found eternally? These inquiries are of great importance, so I continue to dig. Shovel to soil, I plow to find the root of my inner rhythm. To find this internal generating machine and discover what makes it tick, to find the score of my instrument and reveal the frequency of its tock. It is my assignment to uncover the formulas that create facility in the body’s positive space. This is not so simple but the investigation comes with virtue. These hypotheses are calculated numerically and are not chronological. The nonlinear process has unveiled the opportunity for my choreography to be organic. Therefore, the mind is accessible to its environment and body. The objective is to vacate the mind so joints are able to work inside out, the skin capable of molding around the frame, and the face adept to express the consequence of these actions.
You're going to perform the piece Black Parade at the Theatre at Gibney soon. Can you tell us a little bit more about what the project is about?
Black Parade is a proclamation of African American elation and an antagonistic view of the conventional “angry black attitude”. This work investigates the camaraderie in a neighborhood of people coming together to celebrate a legacy and show gratitude for accomplishments in their culture. As a consequence, youth dance troupes used rhythm to express the glorification of the black body. Black Parade is a response to the kinesthetic representation of public movement in the Martin Luther King Jr. parade held in Lakeland, Florida.
I traveled to my hometown of Lakeland, FL to document the parade and some of the dancers involved in these troupes. I was also curious about the hyper-masculine groups in this community and how these individuals project this with their prized possessions. I am interested in the exuberance in this particular community and the pedestrian gestures that coincide with that.
What was it like creating this piece? Can you give us a closer look at the process of creating?
Well in this work, I am using gold car rims and gold teeth. I am also painting my entire body black before I perform the piece. So most of my process consisted of looking at myself in the mirror which I usually shy away from in development. How often do we really get the opportunity to sit and look at ourselves? Not just with the reflection staring back but truly facing our inner self? Through the Gibney Work Up Residency, I was given the privilege of taking the time to discover new movement dialogues in my practice. Work Up is a residency, professional development program, and performance opportunity that supports early career artists. Emphasizing the articulation of a choreographer’s ideas in both movement and language, Work Up artists are selected through a two-tiered application process.
With Gibney being primarily dance affiliated, I had many urges to revisit my technique. For most of Black Parade, I am up on “forced arch” or on the ball of my foot. In the process, I created many walking patterns spelling out phrases while on a forced arch. There is always a sense of endurance in my practice and it relates to this work particularly because the dance troupes are out in the Florida sun for hours dancing and walking in parade formations.
You were inspired by a parade that you documented with the Lomo'Instant Automat. Can you talk a bit more about the parade and how it comes into your work?
As a child, the parade was my first real introduction to live dance performance. It was up close and personal in the fact that it was not just on a stage. It was tactile in the sense that you could feel the bass from the cars that would play the music for the troupes to dance to. You were body to body with other people in your community and shuffling with them to get the best view of the performance. There was even the possibility of sweat splashing you from a dancer’s quick head whip. All of these elements created an immersive experience and left a special impression on me. I recently went back to the parade, after not attending for years, and documented the parade with a digital camera and the Lomo'Instant Automat. The instant shots are endearing to me because they feel nostalgic. During my childhood, my mother would use these instant cameras to capture family moments. So it felt appropriate to bring this memory into my research.
The topic of race is one people often find hard to talk about. How did you overcome that?
Both sides of my family have dealt with racism in opposing ways. With me being biracial, I've confronted all sides of racism unfortunately. But the topic of racism is only hard for people that are afraid of the truth. Most of my practice is working through my own truth. Whether I am working with identity or self-expression, I am constantly uncovering the layers of myself. Everything isn’t pretty but I do not think art is supposed to be all the time. The artists I admire dig deep and the vulnerability is what I mostly appreciate more than the work itself in many cases.
How do you feel your piece fits into today's political climate and what do you hope your audience takes from it?
It’s funny you ask. The other day in rehearsal, I was researching the history of “blackface” since I am painting my body black for this work. I came across the article that had just come out about the Virginia governor Ralph Northam and the yearbook photo of him in blackface. The image gave me chills upon sight and I became emotional. For the first time in this process, I had a breakdown. This reminded me that there are so many people in power that have lived through this time and participated in the mockery of black people. Shortly after this, the Gucci sweater that simulated blackface came out. Since then there have been countless stories centered around the topic. Both stories made me realize that I usually bottle emotions up until the performance. It is like I am drafting a book when I create a new work, and publishing the book is my manifestation. To have this experience happen before the performance was refreshing and reassured me of the importance of Black Parade. My only hope is that the viewer feels an emotion and takes home a new perspective of the black body.