Mendi + Keith Obadike – 2022 Cornell Biennial


Harmonies + Difference Tones

Sculpture + Sound/Light Projection

  • Sep 16 + 17 at 9PM
  • South Lawn at Johnson Museum of Art
  • Fall 2022
  • Mallin Sculpture Court

Harmonies is approximately 30 feet wide and 10 inches tall and rendered in a polished steel at the Johnson Museum’s Mallin Sculpture Court. The piece quietly plays a dense harmonic sound of a wind harp. Over time the sounds move from brief moments of dissonance to a resolute, but rich consonance. This language is pulled from 19th century scholar Anna Julia Cooper in her 1892 book A Voice from the South. The phrase comes from an argument for normalizing the higher education of women in which she calls forth a new time, using the metaphor of new harmonics as a marker of new politics. Harmonies invites the listener to contemplate the future while looking to the horizon.

Harmonies is paired with the 28 minute music and video work Difference Tones. This music and video work is a meditation on the idea of a new thing being produced by an acoustic or conceptual friction between two sounds or ideas. This theme is explored through myths, poems, music, and slowly shifting visual abstractions created using handmade animation techniques.

Mendi + Keith Obadike make music, art and literature. Their early works include The Sour Thunder, an Internet opera (Bridge Records), Crosstalk: American Speech Music (Bridge Records), Black.Net.Art Actions, a suite of new media (internet art)  works (published in re:skin on M.I.T Press), Big House / Disclosure, a 200-hour public sound installation (Northwestern University), Phonotype, a book & CD of media artworks, and a poetry collection, Armor and Flesh (Lotus Press). They have contributed sounds/music to projects by wide range of artists including loops for neo-soul singer D’Angelo’s first album and a score for playwright Anna Deavere Smith at the Lincoln Center Institute. They were invited to develop their first “opera-masquerade” by writer Toni Morrison at her Princeton Atelier. Their recent projects include a series of large-scale sound art works: American Cypher at Bucknell University and The Studio Museum in Harlem, Blues Speaker (for James Baldwin) at The New School in New York, Free/Phase at the Chicago Cultural Center, Sonic Migration at Scribe Video Center and Tindley Temple in Philadelphia, and Fit (the Battle Of Jericho) at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Their other honors include a Rockefeller New Media Arts Fellowship, Pick Laudati Award for Digital Art, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Biennial Award. Their intermedia work has been commissioned by The NY African Film Festival and Electronic Arts Intermix, The Yale Cabaret, Whitechapel Art Gallery (London), and The Whitney Museum of Art, among other institutions. Their music has been featured on New York and Chicago public radio, as well as on Juniradio (104.5) in Berlin.  They are currently exhibiting in the group show I Was Raised On The Internet at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and developing new work as artists in residence at the Weeksville Heritage Society in Brooklyn, NY.

Keith Obadike received a BA in Art from North Carolina Central University and an MFA in Sound Design from Yale University. He is a professor in the College of Arts and Communication at William Paterson University and serves a digital media editor at Obsidian.

Mendi Obadike received a BA in English from Spelman College and a PhD in Literature from Duke University. After working as a Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University, she became a poetry editor at Fence Magazine and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Media Studies at Pratt Institute. Mendi and Keith also serve as art advisors to the Times Square Alliance and The Vera List Center for Art and Politics.

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