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The Mattress Factory is an artist-centered museum, international residency program and renowned producer and presenter of installation art. We say “yes” to artists, offering time and space to dream and realize projects in our hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. We invite audiences from around the world and around the corner to step inside, immerse and connect with the artistic process.

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Alisha B Wormsley

Remnants, Portals and Power: The Afterlife

This play is a reflection on the (im)possibility of accepting diversity and the other. The fragmented body of the neoplasm—the fruit of unstable conditions—overcomes barriers, loves and denies itself and others, wanders around, forgetting its profession. It frequently and with pleasure divides, goes through dangerous palpation, questions the possibility of contact with the experience of the other. Poorly brought up but very successful, it invites us to a trans-species transition.

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Materials: salon dryer chairs, black metal pyramid, media players

Video on wall:
Journey to Pythia (2022)
film, compiled from the children of NAN archive by Alisha Wormsley
composition, Pythia Is A Black Girl’s Name by Li Harris

Video in portal chairs: excerpts for children of NAN archive
Collaborators: Jasmine Hearn, Ingrid LaFleur

For me, Black womxn combine ancient and futuristic practices and are often aligned with the most advanced technology. The work seeks to exemplify that by building narratives that mirror my early life where old technologies were replaced by new; family dreamscapes, sister/mother-hood and an interest in Science Fiction. Through my work I am negotiating Black womxn as a site of their own making.

In this excerpt of the archive, there are three pyramid salon chairs that act as a point of departure to a safe Black realm. The children of NAN archive is fascinated with the “thriving radical Black dimension” (Drexciya, Space Is the Place, the Sai Anantam Ashram, the Outdoor Museum, Sheba and Axum, the Underground). All of Wormsley’s work is in search of, development of, design of, creation of this (children of NAN, There Are Black People In The Future, The People Are The Light, Streaming Space, Sibyls Shrine and most recently in collaboration with Li Harris, D.R.E.A.M. = A Way to AFRAM). The videos are assemblages from past work that aims to help us remember how to be thriving, radical and Black.

Artist Statement

I am a visual artist and cultural producer, working in film/video, sculpture, performance, experiences, text and sound. I have spent the past two decades in a space of negotiating authorship and artistic freedom through an interdisciplinary, mutable practice. Committed to the composing and re-imagining of Black womxn’s stories while accessing resources, I am centering space for their dreaming and how those narratives might be shared.

For many years I have centered and unified my exploration of Black Womxn’s experiences through a physical and theoretical archive I call the Children of the NAN. The archive consists of photography, video footage, films, objects, philosophies, myths, rituals, and performances that I’ve made and collected. In some ways the archive is me. Fascinated by the spiritual potency of the object, the archive is a blend of rituals and the sacred, science and dreaming—an avowal that for the liberation of all, there must be a centering of Black womxn’s sovereignty.

A new project in collaboration with Li Harris, D.R.E.A.M. = A Way to AFRAM (Diffraction + Restoration + Electromagnetic Analogue of Mass) emphasizes our bodies as a site to continue the ancestral practice of creating safe places for Black people to exist abundantly on this planet and beyond. It is through the work and research that we ascend to AFRAM, an inner space reality for Black exponential potential of Being by establishing a series of portals through site-specific field work in international and national topographical locations. We came to this through our work, Slaves and Indians, a land and blood acknowledgement. We learn via experimentations with data such as environmental sounds, historical narratives, and visual media collected for further study and processing.

Centering the narrative in the Black maternal, this archival framing impacts all of my work. I gather materials in my practice that move through my body of work in the same way that the land shifts through the seasons. I am interested in how the object is formed and movement from recording to textiles to sculpture all belong in this archival frame—building a coherent foundation from which to think of Black womxn’s cultural production.

In Sybil’s Shrine: a residency for Black mothers, I am using the artist residency archetype to set free the cultural production of Black mothers. The project seeks to interrogate the role of arts foundations and funding through the lens of Black feminist theory. It also offers a critique of the extractive qualities of creative capital, and ensures resources are directed to a population often overlooked and neglected by traditional sources of funding.

In my ongoing There are Black People in The Future series I am in conversation with artists and activists globally around the idea of Black people designing a decolonized future. This resource is creating an ongoing dialogue in the pursuit of a new design for Black futures, and putting a spotlight on how a Black radical imagination can critically examine sites where Blackness once existed.

When

2022

Where

1414 Monterey Street, 3rd Floor

About The Artist

Alisha B. Wormsley (Pittsburgh, PA, USA) is an interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer. Her work contributes to the imagining of the future of arts, science, and technology through the black womxn lens, challenging contemporary views of modern American life through whichever medium she feels is the best form of expression, creating an object, a sculpture, a billboard, performance, or film and thrives in collaboration. Recent exhibitions, projects, and public art commissions in partnership with; the Oakland Museum, VCUArts Qatar, Speed Museum, Southbank Arts London, Times Square Arts, and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Wormsley’s project, There Are Black People In the Future, gives mini-grants to open up discourse around displacement and gentrification and was also awarded a fellowship with Monument Lab and the Goethe Institute. In 2020, Wormsley launched an art residency for Black creative mothers called Sibyls Shrine, which has received two years of support from the Heinz Endowments. She is a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow in Fine Arts, an Awardee of the Sundance Interdisciplinary grant, and the Carol Brown Achievement award among others. Wormsley has an MFA in Film and Video from Bard College and currently is a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University.

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