Rashaad Newsome in Residence

US-based multidisciplinary artist Rashaad Newsome joined the Somerset House Studios community for a three-month international residency from June to August 2023. Rashaad focused on creating a new digital commission titled Hands Performance, which was presented on Channel, Somerset House’s curated online platform for art, ideas and the creative process, in June 2023. 

Hands Performance takes its title from the well known element of vogue fem, highlighting a dancer's ability to tell a story with their hands and showcase their musicality. Hands Performance continues Rashaad's exploration of mapping Black cultural production as a form of movement research, data storage and collective wayfinding.  

Working with a team of Black Queer ASL interpreters, various vogue fem performers, flex dancers and motion capture technologists, Newsome translates his original poetry into a movement dataset exhibiting the uniquely Black and Queer aspects of American sign language. Newsome then integrates this movement into Being the Digital Griot, a non-binary Artificial Intelligence which moves seamlessly from signing the poetry to communicating through dance forms that defy what the human body can do.  

The film combines stunning visuals from a speculative future with a highly energetic score filled with booming bass, synthetic snares, snaps, claps and glitches, resulting in a futuristic sonic experience. Hands Performance innovatively celebrates a community often forgotten, decentering ableism and privileging the deaf and hard of hearing, to make the power and morphosyntactic features embedded in Black Queer vernacular visible. 

Rashaad Newsome is an American artist working at the intersection of assemblage, technology, sculpture, video, music, and performance. Newsome's work celebrates and abstracts Black and Queer contributions to the art canon, resulting in innovative and inclusive forms of culture and media.

Commissioned by Somerset House with support from ArtCenter, Pasadena.

Supported by Outset Contemporary Art Fund

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