Text by CLOT Magazine
Kevin Beasley, the renowned American artist, is presenting a new multidisciplinary and collaborative project. Beasley is known for sculpture that incorporates found materials – especially clothing – and casting materials like resin and foam. He’s also working with performance art and sound installation.
Sound has also been a central aspect of artist Kevin Beasley’s creative practice from its onset. An expansive range of sounds has been woven throughout his installations, exhibitions, and performance works in numerous ways.
His upcoming A View of a Landscape is an ambitious project that builds on all his work by pairing together an extensive 300-page book of visuals and essays (edited by Karsten Lund and Solveig Øvstebø) with a deep incursion into sonic terrain in the form of a double LP featuring sound/music contributions from Fred Moten, Laurel Halo, L’Rain, Kelsey Lu, Jason Moran, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Moor Mother, Eli Keszler, Jlin, SCRAAATCH, Ralph Lemon, Okwui Okopkwasili, and Kevin himself.
This new publication has its creative outlook with Beasley’s New York solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, A view of a landscape (2018 – 2019). The exhibition centred around his installation of a recovered cotton gin motor from Maplesville, Alabama. In operation from 1940 to 1973, this industrial motor powered the gins that separated cotton seeds from fibre.
Beasley, in turn, through the use of customized microphones, soundproofing, and audio hardware, used the cotton gin motor to generate sound as if it were a musical instrument. But it’s important to note that his installation deliberately divorced the physical motor from the noises it produced, enabling visitors to experience sight and sound as distinct elements. As an immersive experience, the work meditated on history, land, race, and labour.
The music project started with Beasley taking audio from his processing of sounds from the cotton gin motor. He then gave the musicians short snippets of his sounds; Beasley didn’t set any rules or boundaries for the musicians involved. Each artist was encouraged to use the provided sound samples in any way they could within their work.
Kevin notes: I wanted all the artists to consider the questions surrounding the sound of the motor, its history, and how one could generate a sonic experience with it. I feel lucky to have been able to tap some of the best acts in this regard, that they agreed and that they put in some rigorous work to make it happen.
The book is an expansive look at Beasley’s work in sculpture, sound, and performance, illuminating how his practice finds its grounding in his family’s land in Virginia, a place that also brings out larger American histories. Along with texts by nine writers with strong ties to the artist, the substantial book features many images that include Beasley’s work and materials from his own amassed visual archive.