“What happens when we proceed as if we know this, antiBlackness, to be the ground on which we stand, the ground from which we to attempt to speak, for instance, an “I” or a “we” who know, an “I” or a “we” who care?"
—Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
Imagine Otherwise expresses the boundlessness and fierceness of Black imagination and love despite ongoing antiBlack violence as it thinks with Christina Sharpe’s groundbreaking book In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Featuring artists Shikeith, Imani Dennison, Amber N. Ford, and Antwoine Washington, this multimedia exhibition spotlights Black pathways to self-determination and collective liberation through photographic, sculptural, mixed media, and video-based installations. This careful navigation, or “wake work,” to use Sharpe’s term, operates beyond representational politics as it interrogates spatial and temporal tensions of disenfranchisement, resistance, memory, visibility, loss, and (re)invention across Black cultures.
Shikeith explores how Black queer re-making is a sacred space and practice in his two-part installation, still waters run deep / fall in your ways (2021). Using poetry, historical narratives, ambient recordings of children's rhymes, shades of blue, dance, and organic elements such as water, Shikeith maps Black men's negotiations of intimacy and routes toward freedom beyond architectural and societal constraints.
Imani Dennison’s NO MAS- Irreversible Entanglements (2020), filmed on location in Johannesburg, South Africa, offers a dream-like meditation. In only eight minutes, vibrant imagery coupled with the fluid, yet energetic, free jazz and poetry of the Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC-based group Irreversible Entanglements presents an intoxicating, otherworldly Afro-futurist vision of Black people escaping all terrestrial confinements.
Amber N. Ford’s detailed photographic attention to relationships of subjects and infinite patterning zooms in and out through Strands, Tracks & Naps (2021). Reminiscent of a display of coiffures in a hair salon, lush color portraits, small studies, and collage superimposed on a dense close-up of passion twists express the vast geography of Black ways of being.
Antwoine Washington employs domestic furnishings and murals as visual storytelling in And Yeah, About that Seat at the Table (2021). Sited at the Museum of Creative Human Art (MOCHA), the organization he co-founded, the artist’s multimedia installation highlights how that proverbial access point to power is illusory for most Black people, while also honoring a long history of Black self-making.
Organized by La Tanya S. Autry, Gund Curator in Residence, moCa Cleveland’s first on-staff Black curator creating exhibitions in its 52-year history, Imagine Otherwise is unlike any other curatorial project funded by the institution. As a manifestation of “wake work,” this city-wide initiative is sited at moCa Cleveland (Shikeith), ThirdSpace Action Lab in Glenville (Imani Dennison and Amber N. Ford), and Museum of Creative Human Art in Lakewood (Antwoine Washington). Autry envisions possibilities beyond moCa Cleveland’s consistent antiBlack practices by partnering with these Black-led and centered organizations that regularly care for Black residents and others while challenged with far smaller budgets than many area white-led and centered arts institutions. Offered during another heightened time of national racial crisis, Imagine Otherwise is a limited, yet hopefully, significant prodding for an authentic, community-led institutional reckoning of moCa Cleveland and a soulful salute to the city’s Black dwellers who persist by always imagining otherwise.
About the artists
Shikeith (b. 1989 in Philadelphia, PA) lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. He received a BA from The Pennsylvania State University (2010) and an MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art (2018). His expansive practice investigates the experiences of black men within and around concepts of psychic space, the blues, and black queer fugitivity. He has shared his work nationally and internationally through recent exhibitions and screenings that include The Language Must Not Sweat, Locust Projects, Miami, FL; Notes Towards Becoming A Spill, Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta, GA; Shikeith: This was his body/His body finally his, MAK Gallery, London, UK; Go Tell It: Civil Rights Photography, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; A Drop of Sun Under The Earth, MOCA LA, Los Angeles, CA; Labor Relations, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Poland; and Black Intimacy: An Evening With Shikeith, MoMA, New York, NY. Recent awards include the Painters & Sculptors Grant from The Joan Mitchell Foundation (2019), Art Matters Foundation Grant (2020), Leslie Lohman Museum Artist Fellowship (2020-2021).
Imani Dennison is a Multi-Hyphenate Creative, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Imani graduated from Howard University in Washington, DC where she studied Political Science and Photography. Upon completing her degree at Howard, she went on to earn a certificate in Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa. Imani has been working as a Cinematographer based in Brooklyn New York where she has lensed short films, documentaries, branded campaigns and music videos. Imani's work explores themes of surrealism, Blackness, and Fantasy. Imani also works as a Photographer and has created bodies of portraiture and documentary work exploring global Blackness.
Amber N. Ford is an artist based in Cleveland, OH. She received her BFA in Photography from the Cleveland Institute of Art (2016). Interested in race, and identity, she is best known for her work in portraiture, which she considers a “collaborative engagement between photographer and sitter.” Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Kent State University, Transformer Station, SPACES Gallery, The Morgan Conservatory, The Cleveland Print Room, Zygote Press, Waterloo Arts and in outdoor public space on the Capitol Theatre Building located at the corner of Detroit and West 65th. Recent awards include Gordon Square Arts District Artist-In-Residence (2019) and the Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award (2017).Antwoine Washington, originally from Pontiac, MI, lives and works in Cleveland, OH. With his wife Carlise Washington, he has two children, Grayson and Luca. He earned his BA in Studio Art from Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, LA. His studies of black history and art at Southern inspired Washington to continue the legacy of Harlem Renaissance artists such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, and Jacob Lawrence. Following a stroke he suffered in 2018, Washington found healing in his art. He has exhibited widely at the Cleveland Print Room, Worthington Yards, The Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Rooms to Let and Artist Archives of the Western Reserve. His public art commission with Land Studios includes his 154 years mural located in Cleveland Public Square. In 2020, Washington co-founded Museum of Creative Human Art, a non-profit organization centered on teaching art.