BEFORE THE DJ WAS SOUND, AND SHE PLAYED IT
installation by Petra Floyd
March 11-April 22, 2023
Opening reception: Saturday, March 11 6-9pm
Gallery Hours: Saturdays from 2-4PM or by appointment
“Tranquility is the natural ability to find your
own mind in the context of space and time.”
– “Tranquility” by The Last Poets
Before the DJ Was Sound, and She Played It, is a constellation of three interdisciplinary projects: Five Factors 3, Electric Boogie Revolution, and Kalimbrrd. Exhibited together, these sculptural installations are explicit invitations to experience sound and movement as inherited technologies for orienting ourselves in unknowable space/times. Kalimbrrd features handmade, amplified thumb pianos (kalimbas) and noisemakers for viewers to play and reshape the exhibition’s soundscape. Electric Boogie Revolution asks viewers to perform a timewarped “Electric Slide'' from audio instructions; if viewers choose to dance, a visual score will emerge in the sand under their feet. Kalimbrrd and Electric Boogie Revolution are nestled within and anchored by Five Factors 3, a five-channel televisual and furniture installation featuring video of Naeem Martinez White, a local Pittsburgh visual and sonic artist, and myself communicating across different spaces and times (Pittsburgh and New Mexico) with acoustic and kinetic gestures.
I define inherited technologies as invented or observed tools, instructions (algorithms), or concepts that we use to interact with other beings and our environments. Tech is not just touch screens, data servers, and drones. Textiles are algorithmically constructed interfaces between the body and the environment: generated by a weaver or a machine from a finite set of instructions, they protect our skin from injury, maintain our body temperature, store useful materials or tools, and communicate information about our identity, personal history, class, and cultural affiliation. Textile design and production knowledge is passed down generationally, inherited and modified by subsequent generations to meet their needs. Songs and dances operate similarly as social technologies and open-ended improvisational structures. These modes blend inherited instructions (scores) and variable inputs from dancers/watchers and players/listeners (improvisation) with semantic meaning (lyrics), meta-information (style or genre), and timecodes (tempo and time signatures).
By taking the time to slow down and expand our shared understanding of “tech,” I seek to scramble or dislodge Western epistemologies (systems of knowledge) that delegitimize non-European, historical ones. Our common idea of “technology” is wrapped up in an obsession with future-oriented progress, advancement, expansion, and discovery that is supported with the precarious extraction of labor, energy, and other resources from colonized people, animals, and environments. In times of uncertainty, imbalance, and incompatibility, I use music and movement to reorient myself and reintegrate with the dense ancestral expressions within them. Call it emotional regulation for uncertain space/times.
This project is inspired by Sankofa, a gift from the Akan people in Ghana, an Adinkra ideogram (symbolic picture) of a bird in profile with its neck turned as it reaches for an egg on its back. This ideogram commands, “Go back and fetch it.” To move into the future, one needs to reach into the past. I delight in following the cyclical, looping transits of concepts and materials throughout Before the DJ. I hope you do too.
Petra Floyd (she/they) is a queer first-generation Liberian-American multidisciplinary artist and designer raised by working-class immigrants in Philadelphia, and she lives and works in Pittsburgh. Petra makes whatever she wants, however she wants, ideally making herself laugh throughout the process. Petra values improvised, devised, and collaborative modes of making and thinking. She links up with other instigator-activators to craft small moments and performances using close-at-hand materials and resources. Petra dreams about group movement and gameplay spaces for self-reflection and expansion. She makes sounds, videos, drawings, and performances happen, with feeling.
Petra received a BA in Studio Art from Swarthmore College in 2012. They earned an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art in 2022, where they received a Lea Simonds graduate fellowship, project funding from The Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier, and the inaugural Ken Meyer Professional Studio Development award. Petra is a BLK ART LAB artist-in-residence at Pittsburgh’s Protohaven makerspace. They are a 2022-2023 recipient of The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh and the Heinz Endowments’ Creative Development awards. They have been a Freshworks artist at Kelly Strayhorn Theater (2021), a resident artist at 40th Street Artist-in-Residence Program (2016-2017), a Fob Holder at Second State Press (2016), and a Post-college Apprentice at The Fabric Workshop and Museum (2014).
FJORD'S new location:
1720 N 5th Street G7
Philadelphia, PA 19122