Echoing the art-historical tradition of the painted triptych, cleave to the BLACK is a three-screen video projection that offers a panoramic perspective on the legacies of the past that continue to leave an indelible mark on contemporary Black male experience. Alluding to episodes from the Bible and stories from African folklore and cosmology, the piece brings a subtle overtone of parable and myth to its carefully composed and quietly haunting scenes. Looping sequences of a procession of figures slowly climbing an outdoor staircase in a regulation council block are contrasted with a tableau of those figures sleeping (at nightly peace or at final rest). In between is a third screen depicting an arcadian landscape – a memory of a time long gone or a glimmer of better things to come? Far from a vision of utopia or a fantasy of paradise, it feels more like a space that is being reimagined and remade, from the bottom up. Moving through a series of gradually unfolding transitions, cleave to the BLACK, in its deliberate, meditative pace, celebrates slowness as a precondition of recovery and care and also as a lens through which the movements of the Black body attain a distinctive state of poise and grace. Made in close dialogue with a group of Black men from different London communities, cleave to the BLACK is a work of authentic, personal expression and evocative, atmospheric poetry.
Read The Cape and the Cloak by award-winning poet Kayo Chingonyi, a response to Michael.'s cleave to the BLACK.