(wip) AP 2020
This piece adapts the form of the children’s “Cootie Catcher” game to interpret 4 of hip hop’s mythologies through a number of possible fantastic narrative encounters. In so, the game animates dynamics as components of a contemporary narrative within the broader culture and offers a comment on agency & society.
I am an inter-disciplinary artist with a strong foundation in printmaking. The content of much of my visual work is drawn from and inspired by Hip-hop culture. As a practicing emcee and writer, my practice in both print and performance includes an ardent consideration of language and meaning.
The piece “Player Hater Ruler Catcher” (2020) is a paper game; an interactive access point towards Hip-hop’s fantastic narratives and artifacts. I am considering the game ‘PHRC’ like a tool of translation: using four corner pieces of a compass or paper ‘stone’ to create a complex and whole world.
This project takes the form of a children’s “Cootie Catcher” game, folded from hand-dyed paper and printed using etching techniques that group four narratives into one object. I am artist and author, designing a mode of representation that allows for active and creative critical thought and conversation.
Each character, their respective moves and fortunes are etched on separate copper plates. Printmaking techniques prompt my understanding of how the identified components of this game relate within a bigger narrative or world: I may physically explore and represent these numerous alternative relationships through and with the materials.
The thematic metaphor of Player Hater Ruler Catcher is found in its stories of those “caught” in a system. A player understanding the ironies of contemporary American society may wonder about the good of a guessing game. Does the users’ power to choose beget true freedom, if the options and their outcomes are largely already determined by powers that be?
Myself being the power (artist and operator) in this instance, I have striven to represent the reality of this realm without pessimism, but also without false hope. I am wary that my own satirical marks on the game may be misinterpreted or overlooked. Taken out of context, elements of the work may appear confusing and violent.
In recognition of this, I stress the importance of the paper structure to create relational context; it is key to understanding the meaning of the characters and their actions. The folded and mobile physical form of this Player Hater Ruler Catcher protect its identified characters, actions and their world. The Cootie Catcher recalls (to me, at least) the lust of play, asking the user to engage and enter the fantasy, and bringing to consciousness the emotional engagement inherent in these (usually girls’) games.
I am relying on this relationship between content and form to make an essential cultural point within the work; in so far as the aesthetic form holds violence, poverty, the oppression of women and a maddening drive to capitalism: we must understand that the historic, social and economic context of the content is integral to understanding and making a careful, critical account.
This project is an ongoing consideration of language, of narrative and of power. It is an ironic “Game,” but Hip-hop’s creative works come from real contexts and circumstances. It prompts my wondering: to what degree should Hip-hop be fantastic, and where are the limits of our curiosities and playful spirits when dealing with raw, American cultural texts?
The four corner characters are drawn from Gang Starr’s Moment of Truth, Eminem’s Eminem Show, 2 Chainz’ Based on a T.R.U. Story, and The Game’s The Documentary. These are particularly narrative or descriptive albums from New York, Detroit, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, respectively. Each was important in its time and marked shifting aesthetics in Hip-hop culture.
Each emcee sourced is male. I have listened for the few women referenced and placed them explicitly in the margins of the plates. An adequate consideration of the female psyche in the context of Hip-hop culture and music is of continued concern to me as an artist.
Hannah Arendt’s On Violence, bell hooks’ Black Looks, Gramsci’s Prison notebooks: state and civil society, and Hermann Hakens’ Machine As Metaphor and Tool also informed my choices in action placement and design of the game.
Shakespeare’s Othello, Ken & Ryu from the game Street Fighter, the biblical tale of Ecclesiastes (also known as Kohelet), and Columbina; the goddess representing the American philosophy of Manifest Destiny inspired the allegorical components of the work and advise the telling of fortunes and outcomes.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inspiring to the early spirit of adventure in the work.
A Works Cited notebook accompanies the game, which includes some presentation of this material.
Player Hater Ruler Catcher was created during the COVID19 Pandemic, amongst political uprising in New York City, and is dedicated to these lives lost; specifically from artistic, historically marginalized communities.