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Quotidian Talks: Narratives in art, literature, music and masculinity

Guest author Ed Pavlić reads from his latest novel "Another Kind of Madness" and talks with Serpentine Fire artists Umar Rashid and Duane Paul about art, music, border crossings and Chicago.

Reception and music following the conversation

About the participants:
Ed Pavlić’s has written ten other books, most recently: "Another Kind of Madness" and "Who Can Afford to Improvise?: James Baldwin and Black Music, the Lyric and the Listener" (2016), "Let’s Let That Are Not Yet: Inferno" (2015) and "Visiting Hours at the Color Line" (2013). His next book, poems, "Let It Be Broke" will appear in 2020. In 2018 his essays appeared in Boston Review, the New York Times, and Brick, A Literary Journal as well as at The Poetry Foundation. He is Distinguished Research Professor of English, African American Studies and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.

In 2003, after relocating from Chicago to Los Angeles, Umar Rashid began to write and illustrate the history of the Frenglish Empire 1648- 1880 (a portmanteau of France and England) based on the supposition that the historically antagonistic empires of France and England made a tenuous peace and unified into a single, gargantuan, colonial empire. The main focus of Rashid’s work is the stories and reinvented histories of people of color who are oftentimes marginalized and omitted from the historical record, and the intricacies of race, gender, class, and overall power in the colonial world. In the process of writing and illustrating this history, he creates alternative narratives that reference history and focus on the cosmologies of the empires, paying particular attention to religion and spirituality. The common thread throughout the work employs iconography as a place marker between past, present, and future. This element is realized in the oeuvre in the “Imperial Tattoo System” (a classifying mechanism Rashid uses to define and differentiate the characters in the story) and within the maps, and cosmological diagrams. The narrative is also heavily informed by the hip hop culture of his youth (golden age), various (modern and ancient) pop culture references, gang and prison culture, and revolutionary movements throughout time.

Duane Paul is an Afro-Caribbean artist, trained at Parsons who has participated in DCA’s Public Art program with installations at LAX and in Pasadena and many exhibitions in and beyond LA. Paul's layered, multi-hued, organic, sculptures are subtle, invoking memories and experiences, and focus on "the impermanent". Paul’s practice celebrates the past, but allows the new and now to reveal itself in a "sense of stoic stillness, serving as venerated communicative emblems of my experience with people, family, lovers, linage, and my chosen kinships."

Serpentine Fire is an immersive moment of aesthetic innovation and black masculine joy. Based on the song of the same name by Earth, Wind & Fire, Serpentine Fire captures a group of artists who have radical art practices, much like the band’s early music. Mel Edwards, Henry Taylor, Ed Love, Todd Gray, Kori Newkirk, Umar Rashid, Lyndon Barrois, Glen Wilson and Duane Paul use divergent media to create visually rich language born from life in LA.