Complex Movements Honor Decentralized Networks and Resilience


Complex Movements on stage

“How do we build movements where there are many leaders?” wonders Carlos Garcia in a recent interview. That’s just one question at the heart of Beware of the Dandelions by the Detroit-based collective Complex Movements. The Creative Capital-supported project is a traveling, video installation pod which is activated through community and audience engagement, hip hop and science fiction narrative that mutates depending on where it’s performed. The collaboration started out of a conversation that stemmed from dissatisfaction that live hip hop was limited to the usual on-stage performance. The group—made up of Invincible/ill Weaver, Waajeed, Wes Taylor and Carlos Garcia—decided to explore social injustice they experience in Detroit and critical theory they were reading about through a multi-disciplinary project. Beware of the Dandelions has traveled to Seattle and Dallas, among other cities, but it premieres Oct 6-31 at Talking Dolls, as part of a “homecoming” to their native Detroit. An album by the same name is also available for sale. To get a better idea of what the project as a whole is, we caught up with the group.

Alex Teplitzky: Beware of the Dandelions places audience members in the middle of a science fictional dystopia. You’re from Detroit, a city I have read a lot about but have only visited quickly. To outsiders, the connection between reality and science fiction doesn’t seem far off. Is that a misguided judgment on my part?

Complex Movements: Many of the story elements of the science fiction parable Beware of the Dandelions are based on recent stranger-than-fiction events in our city and state, such as mass land grabs by billionaires speculating hundreds of acres of land under the guise of apple orchards (and tree farms), water being shutoff and poisoned, state of the art surveillance systems run by corporate moguls, and life extension seeking cryogenics facilities to name a few.

One of our project’s inspirations, (Detroit philosopher and activist) Grace Lee Boggs used to say “Detroit is what the country has to look forward to” partly because many of racist/colonial capitalism’s practices were piloted here, and subsequently, many of the community led strategies to address the crises created by those practices were also ingeniously created and innovated here.

Detroit is also a science fiction mecca including techno legends Underground Resistance and Drexciya, authors like adrienne maree brown and Saladin AhmedIngrid Lafleur’s Afrotopia project, and beyond.

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Tahir Hemphill’s Database of Hip Hop Lyrics A Teaching Tool

Artist Tahir Hemphill is a creative technologist inspired by hip hop music. A few years ago, he created a database of lyrics from over 50,000 hip hop songs dating from 1979 to present. Using this database–a Creative Capital supported project called the Hip Hop Wordcount–Tahir formed curricula for high school students to learn how to work with data and complete their own independent studies. Beginning this month, Tahir will use his experience teaching students to teach a number of educators to implement his digital learning program across New York City.

The database will also be used in a series of collaborations between himself and “creatives, technologists and cultural critics.” These projects, united as a series called Actual Fact, will pair data visualization with critical scholarship of hop data and society.


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.

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