Queen GodIs: A Creative Dissertation on Women and Gender Non-conforming MCs
Queen GodIs’s artistic practice crosses many disciplines from performance to hip hop to art therapy. On April 9th in Brooklyn, she’ll bring many of these disciplines together for an event exploring women and gender non-conforming MCs. We asked her a few questions about her practice and the event.
Alex Teplitzky: The website describes the performance as a concert and a conversation; a coming-of-age story during an exciting and tumultuous hip hop era, but also a collection of poetry, prayers and prose exploring women and gender non-conforming MCs. How will these topics and mediums come together during the event at the gallery?
Queen Godis: The Book of Lyte is a creative dissertation. It explores women and gender non-conforming MCs (1978 – Present).
I have been researching, collecting and creating this content for over 20 years. As an artist and independent scholar, the work has both entertainment and academic value.
From MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, to Big Freedia and Iggy Azalea, the work is born as a collection of creative and expository writings that contemplate, celebrate and in some cases, challenge each muse. The more I began to write, the more imperative it became for the words to transcend the page.
In many ways, Hip Hop is a gladiator sport. Raw, enthralling, complicated, intense–it exposes the very best and the worst of society. To participate is not for the faint of heart. Many significant warriors have been sidelined. I am interested in re-envisioning The Culture with them included as central to “the main event.”
My work honors the ways in which people connect with and/or dismiss others – the ways in which we effectively learn and unlearn images and ideas. The result is a multi-sensory project, that is interactive, that engages both the lovers, ‘haters’ and uninformed, and that stretches my own sensibilities as a fan, educator and practitioner of the art.
evɘ. chapter one. – the presentation on April 9th is an introduction to The Book. Instead of just reading it, the audience is invited to get inside the story. It is ever-unfolding, and very much alive.
Alex: In your Creative Capital retreat, you brilliantly made it seem like you hacked the screen so you had control over how the screen moved. This sense of “hacking” lingers in the aesthetics of the promo video and website. It made me think about the tradition of Afro-futurism, the cultural aesthetic that uses sci-fi to critique dilemmas of people of color, and could extend to gender non-conforming issues. Is there some cultural history you’re building on, or are inspired by?
Queen: I had just delivered my Creative Capital presentation at a retreat, when a presenter came up to me and said:
“I get sci-fi, time travel and the idea of ‘the future’ in art, but I just don’t understand what this has to do with you…your story.”
Society yields a system of codes and patterns that either instigate or thwart narratives.
As a creator, in this sense, I guess I am a “hacker.” I hack the mundane to expose what’s possible. I am “hacking” limitations of time, space and consciousness to deliver this perspective.
This idea not only shows up in my work, but in the ways I perform and interact with the content. The result is sometimes colorful and magical, but always raw and real. This is what creatives do. This is what we have always done–especially those with little to no supplies, those who’ve been denied certain creative rights, or those “erased” from certain significant narratives altogether. We make and re-make things. We make things move. We make things happen, and we use whatever we have to do it.
Media is a significant part of this project and conversation. Aside from some select footage, I have produced the media myself. The process is exciting, challenging and rather new for me. What isn’t new is the urge to tell my own story by all means possible. As an artist who identifies as Woman and Black, this is urgent.
Aesthetically, aspects of the performance are reminiscent of Afro-futurism. In fact, I have used the term many times when describing the work. Over time however, I’ve had the revelation that “Afro-futurism” (which actually transcends basic sci-fi) is a relatively young term for a timeless and spirited practice. I am simply using what I have, creating what I need, and shifting that which I do not. Light, sound, tradition, revolution, nature, rhythm, prayer, passion, curiosity–these are my technologies. They are always at my disposal no matter how many resources I have or what is going on around me. Hip Hop asks the question: Whose World is This?1
My work answers the question.
Alex: The pomegranate features prominently on the website and promo material. What is the symbolism of this fruit?
Queen: Pomegranates are fascinating. They are the badasses of the fruit nation.
Gritty and striking, it’s as if they are saying:
“Look, if you want the juice, you gotta put in the work.” … OR “Peel carefully. Whether I’m bitter or sweet depends on your approach.” lol
The single image plants a million seeds. What grows from it, is up to the viewer.
Alex: Your art practice is incredibly multidisciplinary: combining music, performance, spoken word, as well as using art as a form of therapy. Can you talk about how your experience in these different venues influences your artwork, and how you manage to tie it all together?
Queen: My work is both multi and inter-disciplinary. Each discipline can stand alone, but I am most excited about what’s possible when they intermingle.
Sometimes, the writing helps drive the performance, but most often, the performance actually helps navigate, and in some cases edit the writing. Essentially, my art-forms function as “A Team” … and I love it when a plan comes together!
It’s very cool.
At all times, the work and processes are designed to be reflective and transformative. As facilitator, I extend support services to professional artists and to those who want to access performance art as a tool to enhance some area of their lives.
Multi-faceted work, is the most natural expression of who I Am – connected. thoughtful. layered.
For more information about Queen’s work, and to RSVP for her upcoming performance on April 9th RSVP click here.
1 Jones, Nasir. “The World Is Yours.” ILLMATIC. Columbia Records. 1994.