by Jeremy Johnson
Habitat: homes, yards, streets, radios, hearts and minds, The Ether, sometimes galleries, sometimes museums
Lifespan: 100-1000 years, 50 year cycles, cycles of millennia, ad infinitum
Diet: clay, wood, paper, steel, wool, pigment, oral and written histories, antimatter, concepts and feelings of (post/neo-) colonizers
Black Art is the common name for a Black specimen (melanistic variant) of the many species of art. While Black Art can take the form of a material object, its classification does not depend upon its psychosocial content, or formal conventions, or even the color black. The term typically designates a non-utilitarian fragment of the universe conceptualized in a Black1 brain, and fabricated by Black hands, or performed by Black mouths and bodies.2
Some observers have posited that Black Art must concern itself with The Middle Passage, Chattel Slavery, Reconstruction (limited focus please), Jim Crow and Civil Rights, or Barack and Michelle Obama in order to be a genuine specimen of Artem africanus. There is much debate over this feature of Black Art, its content and scope being constantly expanded or curtailed depending on the whims of social dicta or in the interest of governmental productivity.
An unforeseen, and completely unintended, consequence of classification is a nearly complete dismissal and devaluation of the species. Absolutely nothing can be done about this unfortunate outcome. It has been studied and dissected. We have created infallible computer models to determine the most efficient and accurate methods for this specific taxonomic project. We have run simulation after simulation, and have found it best if Artem africanus be allotted only this corner of the art world, and speak only to issues directly related to The GhettoTM or The StruggleTM or The Man©. Because what else could Populus africanus3 want to make the focus of art? Love? Joy? Birds, trees, insects, astronomy, universal humanity? Aesthetics? Surely not.
If an object is found that raises questions about the sanctity of capitalism, the primacy of Western philosophy, the binaries of gender or any other subject not detailed in the Black Codes of Conduct, the specific epithet africanus must be withdrawn immediately until further review by committee. The entire canon might be upturned, and the other categories (e.g. Asian, Chicano, Feminist) rendered useless if we allow any restructuring or rethinking of the current paradigm.
How would we then recognize Artem normalem4 in the field? How would we ascertain their corresponding market and cultural worth? In order to understand Artem normalem we must differentiate between the various species and subspecies, keeping detailed records of every type.
Keep the talk in the barbershop. Keep the poets on the corner. Keep the frogs in the bayou. Keep the trill in the Tre.
1 Negroid is now archaic. Archaic is not necessarily racist, but… 2 Blackface is racist and should be archaic, but…
3 Black people
4 Regular Art