Today’s episode is with conceptual and multimedia installation artist, Kenseth Armstead. Born and raised in Washington DC, Kenseth found his artistic path in high school at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, later receiving his Bachelors of Fine Arts from the Corcoran College of Art & Design and his Masters in Integrated Digital Media from the Tandon School of Engineering at NYU. With a career spanning over three decades, his provocative works centralize history, American culture, and the complex narratives embedded in ethnicity. His multimedia public art installations are deliberately in dialogue with the communities in which they reside. Nestled in his large scale, at-times architectural works, are themes around the black imagination, social justice, abolition, redemption, freedom and change. He was also recently named to the Public Design Commission in New York City.
Although Kenseth is known for his independent installations, he actually started his career in collaborative work with X-PRZ, an art band which included his mentor Tony Cokes, along with artists Doug Anderson and Mark Pierson. This avant garde group was dedicated to using music, video, and other ephemera to critique culture and existing social norms, especially as it pertained to art world notions of individual genius and critical theory. Kenseth’s most recent public artwork, Boulevard of African Monarchs, connects the hub of African excellence in America,(Harlem, USA) to the royal court of the Kassena people of Tiebele, Burkina Faso. It’s on display until August of 2021 at the intersection 116th Street & Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd in Harlem.
Kenseth is a prodigious scholar and we cover a LOT of ground. In this episode we discuss his 30/30/30 formula for consistent artistic production, the link between Chistianity and social media, the role time plays in criticism, and what community engagement in art really looks like. Kenseth’s portfolio is extensive, immersive and influential. His work has infiltrated the streets of New York for decades with projects and installations that focus on creating images and cultural activities that aim to close the gulf of space and time between African and African-American identity, communication and social ritual. Recorded remotely and safely, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Kenseth Armstead to the IBI Podcast.
Here are some highlights:
On his 30/30/30 formula: “I’ve had this rule about 30-30-30 so roughly I’m splitting my time 30 percent production, 30 percent marketing, and it’s like you realize like the 30% when you’re making work is not separate from the 30% when you’re marketing the work or the 30% when you’re doing administrative work these are not separate concepts they are all apart of this flow.”
On Media: “If you took in all media and you watched television for 24 hours and you didn’t have a way to be critical about it, you would commit suicide because you don’t have the car that they are trying to sell you, you don’t have the house, you don’t have the money. And if you had the money you would never have enough, you’re not tall enough, you’re not short enough, you’re not this, you’re not that, it’s all about what you’re not!”
On community engagement: “When you’re the youngest of 8 you don’t even ever get your own fresh pair of underwear, everything is a hammy down. So I’ve always been in a group in a sense so that’s natural to me, but actually naturally I’m an introvert, naturally alone, and reading. But then in order to cope with life, you build an extrovert persona and they’re pure sort of narcissists who really feed on community and so Bill Clinton would be a pure narcissist who feeds on crowds. Obama would be someone like myself who’s an introvert but can be an extrovert and so there is a cost. In the piece I did in Central Park, I think I talked to 600 people directly in one day but then after that, I don’t want to talk to people for days because it’s a lot, it’s a lot of energy and I don’t feed on it in that way but I love the energy and I love that it’s worth any sacrifice to have an art world that has more people in it and have people in it that are more understanding and more open, art changes people.”
On his 30/30/30 formula ------------------------------13:45
Kenseth's Instagram: @kenseth.armstead
Kenseth's Website: kensetharmstead.com
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