Harun Morrison: Score for an Invisible Man 

‘Aeroponic’ – root systems nourished by air – Acts is the name given to the nomadic Dutch Art Institute’s final Kitchen presentations. Each participant addresses one question. 

Here you will find the documentation of Harun Morrison's presentation as filmed by Baha Görkem Yalım. The written report is by Bethany Crawford and it includes a summary of the comments by esteemed guest respondents.

Score for an Invisible Man 

Harun's question: What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue?

Harun's introduction: “There is a certain acoustical deadness in my hole, and when I have music I want to feel its vibration, not only with my ear but with my whole body. I'd like to hear five recordings of Louis Armstrong playing and singing What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue—all at the same time." Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952.

Bethany's report: Five performers sit in a wide circle facing each other, each with a small portable speaker in front of them. Louis Armstrong’s ‘What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue’ comes from one of the speakers, a few moments into the song the second speaker joins with the song played from the beginning, then the third, the fourth, etc., until all the speakers are playing the song. The asynchronous rounds create a song collage and new melody, warping the tempo within the collage and changing the perception of the temporal flow in the room emphasized by the differing spatial placement of the sound sources. The layered melody and lyrics permeate the room with a looped reverberation. The ending of each song is a slow withdrawal of an evocative presence, leaving behind the echo of the melancholic feeling of the song and tangible absence.

Amal Alhaag felt there was a lot to be said in the amidst Covid-19 and the renewed BLM movement that highlights some of the pain and trauma that’s carried with this particular song. She had always wondered if the song and title could be seen as a battle cry, and to whom. She said that it was difficult when blackness is always construed as a relation in the West to whiteness. She noted that ‘the invisible man’ and the closeness to ‘invisible black woman’ in Germany or the UK or wherever, that one is always in some sort of negation to be offered agency and having to wait for someone to provide you agency. She commented that although the presentation is only the length of the song, there’s a lot going on and some of it hard to bring forward; she found it very surreal. The performance made her think of sci-fi, and how being black in this current reality makes it feel like sci-fi. For her, the work brought us associations of race and cybernetics.

Flavia Dzodan was very interested in the intention, and whether that matters in art. She said she thought so, but that none of the people who played the recording were black. She didn’t know if he thought of the work in this way, to bring people who have no experience of blackness forward to confront what it means to be so black and blue. She found this gave the performance another level of complexity, where the people who created this taxonomy of being so black and blue are being confronted with this question, that they can never know how colonial power is the power to name and to call it black, and the ultimate form of otherness is blackness. She found the fact he made the neighbours sit with this question of blackness very powerful. She found this the most powerful element of the work: What does it mean to be so black and blue? Perhaps that question should always be answered by whiteness, she said, as they create the taxonomy of it. 

Adam Szymczyk found it very complex and a perfect use of the simple form, in the precise use of a very minimal line that could be considered a score, which produced something very powerful. He said it was maybe both a performance and political statement, adding that performance might become a political statement when enacted in public space. The work opened up so many conversations for him, not just about Ralph Ellison’s book Invisible Man (1952), but in the author’s protagonist’s longing for Louis Armstrong’s playing, presented in the presentation’s over-exposed and well-lit underground and how the artist speaks about acoustic deadness. He thought the performance really worked and found it not only a meditation on those things, but with a vital effect.

Harun Morrison's Score for an Invisible Man was presented at Radio Kootwijk.

Find the overview of all 35 AEROPONIC ACTS 2020 here: BEND IT!