Mendi + Keith Obadike: Utopias
A 19th century Halloween party captured by photographer and Weeksville resident Alexander Moore.
Weeksville Heritage Center partners with acclaimed artists and musicians Mendi + Keith Obadike for a new commission -- a suite of artists’ works entitled Utopias.
Mendi + Keith are serving as the first artists in residence at Weeksville Heritage Center. The artists are known for making site-specific projects that use sound and music to address history. The upcoming exhibition Mendi + Keith Obadike: Utopias explores the role of African-American cities and towns in the long journey to freedom. Between 1830 and 1970 African-Americans created many independent communities across the United States. These thriving places, including the historic Weeksville, Brooklyn (est. 1830), served as a haven for its citizens as well as an incubator for Black artists, scientists, educators, and entrepreneurs. For this project the Obadikes traveled across the country recording ambient sounds from Black towns. They used these recordings to create installations using fragments of African-American songs that express this desire for a utopian city.
Mendi + Keith Obadike make art, music, and literature. They have exhibited and performed at The New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art. Their projects include a series of large-scale, public sound art works: Blues Speaker (for James Baldwin) at The New School, Free/Phase at the Chicago Cultural Center & Rebuild Foundation, Sonic Migration at Scribe Video Center & Tindley Temple, Philadelphia and Compass Song, an app for Times Square (commissioned by Times Square Arts). They have released recordings on Bridge Records and books with Lotus Press and 1913 Press. Their recent museum exhibitions include the group shows Electronic Superhighway (2016-1966) at The Whitechapel Gallery in London, I Was Raised on The Internet at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the upcoming PROGRAMMED at The Whitney Museum of American Art. They were invited by the Netgain Partnership (Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla Foundation and Open Society Foundations) to perform their work “Numbers Station” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Their other honors include a Rockefeller New Media Arts Fellowship, Pick Laudati Award for Digital Art, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award.
Keith received a BA in Art from North Carolina Central University and an MFA in Sound Design from Yale University. He is a professor in the College of Arts and Communication at William Paterson University and serves a digital media editor at Obsidian. Mendi received a BA in English from Spelman College and a PhD in Literature from Duke University. She has been a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University and a poetry editor at Fence Magazine. She is currently an associate professor in the Writing Department and the Department of Humanities and Media Studies and she directs the Graduate Program in Media Studies at Pratt Institute