CHEEKY LaSHAE by Kenya (Robinson)
If Kenya (Robinson) has a superpower, it would be to say more in the span of a minute than most people say in an hour. Recently, her podcast collaborative art work with artist Doreen Garner, was described in the New Yorker as ranging from “intensive critique to self-help strategies to playful slander to free-association wordplay, and back again.” Kenya’s Creative Capital project, CHEEKY LaSHAE: Karaoke Universal, likewise, promises no shortage of material. Inspired by the way karaoke allows the audience to become the performer and vice versa, CHEEKY LaSHAE—Kenya’s avatar that can be embodied by a revolving cast of characters—presents Karaoke Universal as a course where the students can become the professor. In an upcoming iteration, called Privilege as Plastic Material, the six-part course will be offered at Pioneer Works starting Feb 21 to March 28.
Hillary Bonhomme and I sat down with Kenya to understand more about the project.
Alex Teplitzky: Ok, so the Privilege as Plastic Material course at Pioneer Works is coming up. What is it?
Kenya (Robinson): I knew when Barack Obama first got elected as president of the United States that part of my tears that came had to do with joy. That was like, 15%. And then 85% was shame because I didn’t think it was going to happen at all. I was like, “wait a minute. That’s dangerous because that has to do with my imagination.” That is something I can nurture. In spite of anything else that might be happening in our world, I can imagine things. And especially as an artist, you have to nurture that muscle.
Once I got into art school and started interacting with other artists, I became familiar with this term, “the plastic arts.” The plastic arts has the attributes of plastic in that it can exist in different forms, it has flexibilty, but it can be treated to be rigid, it can be reconstituted, it can do a lot of different things. So, I was like, I need something as—at least what’s been taught to us—as fundamentally oppressive as privilege, I need to think of that with a lot more flexibility and imagination: it’s got to be able to change forms. Like I say all the time, it can’t be the exclusive property of whiteness, everybody should be able to access and utilize it. If you are alive and have an opportunity to exist as a human being, that’s a huge privilege. You can create memories, you can think about the past, you can imagine the future, you can even find ways to engage in the present. But it’s all about this kind of stretching and pulling and snapping back. The only other place I felt that was when I was making objects and sculpture.