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becoming / what if?
this episode:
tshaka campbell
poet, artist & performer, london


in his ‚becoming‘ series, martin eugen raabenstein interviews artists, art professionals and art enthusiasts about their opinions and ideas on various aspects of the art market and its current presentation practices.

tshaka campbell plays a leading role in the spoken poetry scene by combining sharply formulated and precise sociological studies with a deeply felt love for people.

nice to have you with us. would you like to introduce yourself?

i am tshaka campbell.  my entire name is tshaka menelik imhotep campbell. i am an internationally accomplished poet, artist, performer, as well as the first black santa clara county poet laureate. i am a husband and father inspired by life and i ask the world to “listen different!”. .

you are the new artistic director of a renowned art gallery –
you have a lot of exhibition space and an even bigger budget at your disposal. how would you plan your first year in office and what would be your most important goals?

this is interesting, as my approach would not necessarily be a totally visual one. that being said i would focus on 2 areas.

  • mixed media art, primarily from under represented communities and under privileged artists.
  • ekphrastic poetry w/art

i chose these two because i like the complexity and devise techniques and layering that they both have. they both can be an essential avenue for pushing the boundaries of artistic exploration.

with mixed media art, you get a powerful form of creative expression that blends various materials and techniques. by merging diverse elements, artists can transcend traditional boundaries, fostering innovation and pushing the limits of artistic possibilities. this approach encourages experimentation, that i feel gives artists the freedom to convey complex narratives, emotions, and perspectives, ekphrastic poetry serves as a captivating bridge between visual art and the written word. it allows poets to delve into the nuances of paintings, sculptures, or other visual creations, transforming static images into dynamic narratives. by interpreting and responding to visual stimuli, ekphrastic poetry enriches the audience‘s experience, which could also build a connection between the realms of visual and literary arts. it too, opens avenues for exploration, inviting both poets and readers to engage in a multidimensional dialogue that enhances the appreciation of artistic expression.

can you explain this in more detail with the help of a project,
an idea?

curate a show that explores the ideas of home or belong to a place or space using both approaches. mixed media art by the underserved could provide a very interesting and complex view into the idea of belonging and what that means.  the ability to infuse multiple media to deliver that message could be very cathartic and personal. the poetry piece is two fold in that i would have a combination of pieces by invited artists done specifically as well as previously exhibited pieces. the works of art would then be shown to poets who will both write and record poetry to a particular piece of art work.  the poems would be both hung suspended in and around the exhibition at eye level as well as projected and played so that viewers can walk thru and engage with the word … thereby almost creating a “live” mix media piece in the process.

which artistic positions are of particular interest to you?

there are multiple artistic positions that i like and love. too many to list but a few are: regionalism, realism, social realism, photo realism , collage, symbolism, futurism and mixed media. however currently, i have a particular calling to more of the realism genres. mainly because i feel there is still so much more to capture about the ‘black’ experience /identity.  i think there is so much more detail of this experience across the globe that still needs to be represented. while many other approaches can tell this narrative, which also has a place ,i see that there is an overwhelming need for this exploration and ‚telling’ of the tension of a people on an ultra- granular level. there is something to be said about the amount of time and precision and focus and belaboring it takes to create an image, and is a call to the acknowledgment to demonstrate the deserving-ness of the black body as a matter of fact, as a matter of course. as a normalized part of the global evolution.

what are your all-time favorites in the visual arts?

faith ringgold, augusta savage, kara walker, jean-michel basquiat, ainsley burrows, kehinde wiley, leonardo da vinci, oswald boateng (suit designer – his work is visual art to me), frida kahlo.

thank you very much. it was an honor.

iir, march 2024

becoming, tshaka