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Kiser and Woodberry exhibit text applies to slave history
Afrofuturistic text at Portal
Published Saturday, August 24, 2019 10:39 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Portal hosts an exhibit created by Jason Woodberry and Marcus Kiser.

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Jason Woodberry and Marcus Kiser did more than create interactive Afrofuturistic text.

The latest layer in “Intergalactic Soul” is a response to history wiped away by the transatlantic slave trade. “Project LHAXX” opened at Ackland Art Museum at UNC Chapel Hill (101 S. Columbia St. Chapel Hill) earlier this month and runs through June 28. A prototype of the text opened at Portal (114 South Tryon St.) last month. Exhibits rotate every three months.  They connected to Portal through ArtPop Street Gallery Executive Director Wendy Hickey, with whom they have worked on several projects, and Woodberry is an ArtPop alumnus.

“Brian Heffron, who is one of the owners said, ‘look man, do whatever you want,’” Woodberry said. “I can’t tell you if I’ve ever heard that before. Someone to give you a space, and tell an artist, ‘do what you want,’ that shocked me. It was an awesome opportunity to introduce the text.”

Said Kiser: “Jason created this Afrofuturistic text. We used Portal to prototype this project. We had this idea of using this Afrofuturistic text, and then applying this augmented reality-using technology. The text almost looks like abstract art. The augmented reality part plays out the narrative, once you scan the text with your mobile device.”

Said Portal’s General Manager, Jamie Johnson: “We took local Charlotte artists and kind of let them go crazy in a room. Now it’s an interactive, immersive, fun place to just kind of explore. Jason and Marcus did an Afrofuturistic hieroglyphic language on the wall. When you open up your app and you point it at the red diamond, it pulls up the audio-video, which is a description of what the hieroglyphics say.”

Woodberry has been experimenting with the text for the last three years. Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) inspired the name of the project. Lacks visited Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951, seeking treatment for cervical cancer. Her cells were studied, without her knowledge, helping produce the polio vaccination.
“Her cell reproduction makes her clinically immortal,” Woodberry said. “That is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever heard in my life, and her cells being used to develop vaccines, but her family was never compensated.”

Woodberry’s initial inspiration struck in Paris while enjoying crepes with a friend. The crepe-stand owner asked Woodberry where he was from.
“I told her America, and she said, ‘but where are you from?’” Woodberry said. “I told her, ‘I don’t know.’”

That interaction led him to research his family history.

“The transatlantic slave trade has pretty much erased all of that history,” Woodberry said. “That inspired the entire idea of creating a text, because the one thing I realized was that as African Americans, we don’t have a native language.”

Woodberry hopes that the connection between the text and Lacks will encourage people to learn more about her story. He also wants people to understand the concept of a connection between the text and her cells.

“The way that her cells reproduce and mutate, the text does that as well,” Woodberry said. “One symbol may mean one thing in 2019, may mean absolutely nothing 40 years from now, or it may mean something totally different.”

For more information about Portal: https://www.portalclt.com/#aboutsection

For more information about “Project LHAXX”: https://ackland.org/exhibition/project-lhaxx/


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