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Please Speak Audibly and Clearly,
Video, TRT 04:34
In her subtitled sound piece “Please Speak Audibly and Clearly,” American artist Tia-Simone Gardner plays with the visual, sonorous, and textual by inviting viewers to read and to watch an audio recording. “Please Speak Audibly and Clearly” draws from archival material Gardner collected during research on actress Butterfly McQueen who, in this piece, performs for an American radio program that was broadcast overseas to entertain black soldiers fighting in the second World War. The artist asks: under what circumstances do we question the past? What differences exist between ideas of this “past” and “history”? What space for remembrance exists that doesn’t give way to lamentation? And how does the artist mediate between diverse bodies of knowledge? (1) These are crucial questions for artistic practice and ones that gain urgency when working against archives structured by racism or imperialism.
Perhaps one answer to Gardner’s already lies in the work itself. If “modernity’s most extreme modes of symbolic and physical violence […] have taken the black female body as a primary locus” (2), “Please Speak Audibly and Clearly” responds by forcing the viewer to re-imagine the work – and stakes – of looking at, listening to, and remembering the past. For, in a video that charts the tenuous intersection of America’s racial segregation and sexism, the public and private spaces of war, and erotic desire, it is not Butterfly McQueen’s image that we see but rather her voice that we hear, read, and watch.
(1) Tia-Simone Gardner email communication with Abdellah Karroum, April 2011.
(2) Huey Copeland, “In the Wake of the Negress,” Modern Women: Women Artists at the Museum of Modern Art, Ed. Cornelia Butler (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010): 484.
* This R22 radio program is edited by Emma Chubb