Jahmal B Golden is a NYC-based trans-femme POC artist who is constantly finding new ways of conveying their intersectional existence through their creative abstractions. Their dominant medium is poetry, though after participating in an interdisciplinary performance/installation curated by New York artist Yulan Grant at MoMa Ps1, they began experimenting with performance as a mode of testing out concepts they’d investigated in their written work. They spend most of their time pondering the pendulum that swings between ‘nature’ and ‘grace’ – measuring the predictable force that propels them back and forth in daily meditations. Golden’s recent exhibitions include New Museum, Current Projects Gallery (Florida) and ArtSpace Mexico. I luckily had the opportunity to chat with them here about their obsessions and dreams for the future.
“I am sifting through my memories and altering the physics of the spaces and bodies I’ve once occupied.”
Can you tell us about your background and evolution as an artist?
I’ve been a writer since I could pick up a pen. My mother is a writer, teacher, and actor from upstate New York. My father is from Trinidad, and he still lives there. I get my spiritual awareness and respect for things unseen from him, mainly. In my work, I’m oftentimes rewriting my history and documenting things I believe to be true. More recently, I’ve been taking concepts from my written work and using my body to expand on these ideas. I also create objects to perform with and document them — which is what I contributed to the RAGGA show at The New Museum this year.
Speaking of the RAGGA NYC exhibition, what was that experience like for you?
Neon Christina (aka Christopher Udemezue) asked me to perform for the opening of his show Top-A-Toppa, 2015 at Stream Gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I had known of him and his work with House of Ladosha for some time, so I was thrilled to be considered for such a poignant show. We’ve stayed connected ever since. Christina is one of those people who cares so much for community — always hosting a dinner, sending you a link, dancing with you at the club. One day he photographed me for an archive he was creating of Afro-Caribbean artists living in New York. Soon after, he was sharing his residency at the New Museum with me and a host of other talented artists. Sometimes, I gag at the thought that I was in a group show with Tau Lewis, Renee Stout and Christina — this was a monument for me, my work and my community, and I have Christina to thank.
That’s amazing! What projects are you working on now?
Currently, I’ve been working on some new performance material and a lot of new confessional poetry. I just finished a choreopoem with a group of people and I incorporated a series of soundscapes, movement, and 15 pounds of honey — I’m certain I ate five pounds of it that evening. It’s a piece inspired by a poem I wrote for my new collection called Honey Child which has a lot to do with my childhood obsession with honey and bees and my fears of the day that the honey runs out and bees disappear. I really want to tour this piece, so I’m fishing it around to interested spaces around the world. I’m getting back into sculpture and looking for new things to crystalize and ways to crystalize them. I work a lot with borax, wood, and fibers and definitely want to expand into making larger installations with these materials. I also want to work a lot more in video moving forward. Frankly, I’m all over the place between performance art, poetry, curation — it’s super schizophrenic, but I like it that way. Honestly, I’m really blessed to be in the seat that I’m in and I’m looking to give as much of myself to the world as possible without become watered down, tokenized, and/or fetishized.
In addition to this childhood obsession with honey and bees, are there particular themes you explore in your work?
The collection I’m working on right now is about family and home — concepts that are constantly changing shape and color in my mind. The centerpiece of my work from the RAGGA show, Memoir, 2017 is a poem of the same title that will be included in that book and it speaks to my dedication to retelling my story from a lot of different angles. I am sifting through my memories and altering the physics of the spaces and bodies I’ve once occupied. I think about Maya Angelou’s words and how she says we must be “bold enough to reinvent ourselves daily.” I’m always working towards such boldness in my poetry and, now, I want to apply this dedication to performance. This goes hand in hand with my practice of “self excavation” — I ask myself often, “if you were to reach inside for an artifact that proves that you exist, what would you extract?” That was the mediation for creating the images for RAGGA and a lot of my other work as well. I’m obsessed with indexicality, that’s why there are so many different “I”‘s and “here”‘s in my written work. I stray away from overtly political or gendered concepts in my practice — I find that nuance is underrated nowadays. I prefer not to be easily pigeonholed (though it seems unavoidable in this climate) so I tend to be very vague and let the work speak for itself.
What are your goals for the near future?
I’d like to tour my pieces SWEET DEITIES: CONSUMPTION AS POSSESSION and withlove, Cristobal abroad. I am currently manifesting a show in Norway. I don’t know why Oslo is on my mind so much but between Norway and Austria, I’ve got my heart set on success overseas. I want to release my next book of poetry by next Spring and I hope it’s even more successful than my most recent collection, Yves, Ide, Solstice. I look forward to continuous collaborations with my extraordinary friends/family, including Sam McKenna who has helped me realize so much of my potential and continues to advocate for me and my work. Furthermore, I look forward to realizing my own potential and surprising myself. There’s a grand and lambent energy propelling me forward — I’m just hoping to keep funneling the magic to the ground.