Aria Dean

Draft – Five videos and a newly commissioned work by Aria Dean

In the coming six weeks, six exclusive videos by Aria Dean will be published every Thursday. Each available for seven days only, the works will propose a panorama of Dean’s recent video work. This selection will culminate with a newly commissioned piece, published on April 23rd, on Aria Dean’s current project Music for Plants.

March 19–25, 2020: Eulogy for a Black Mass, 2017
This narrated compilation overlays videos shared on social media with a voiceover that interrogates the structures that shape the meaning and perception of blackness. At the center of Dean’s investigation are online memes, which the artist compares to blackness, as they may be both understood as dynamic entities that circulate through networks, reflecting each other in their mutability.

March 26–April 1, 2020: (meta)models “I” is a crowd (demo), 2019
(meta)models “I” is a crowd (demo) references the visual language of hip-hop music videos. Dean considers the cinematic structure of such videos and its role in producing not only images of black subjects, but also a palpably black cinematic experience. She peels away the genre’s many iconographic and symbolic layers to map the structural relationships that fix the racialized subject.

April 2–8, 2020: A River Called Death, 2017
A River Called Death belongs to a body of works that focus on Mississippi’s Yazoo River and its surroundings—the birthplace of her paternal grandfather—as a means of exploring the real and imagined legacy of the American South. The video intercuts her own footage of the river with a jarring “censor bleep” and a subtitled fictional narrative about a ghostly man. With its disjointed juxtaposition of image, sound, and text, A River Called Death points to visual media’s complex role in articulating the conditions of blackness.

April 9–15, 2020: But as one… (rework, feat.), 2019
Bracing Dean’s practice is the enduring question of what constitutes an ontology of blackness. This question is rendered explicit in this video of densely edited crowd scenes, plucked from hip-hop and rap music videos and transferred to black and white. In these tightly sequenced, soundless videos, Dean approaches a kind of hip-hop structuralism in which moving-image assemblages magnify the peculiar ontological condition at hand.

April 16–22, 2020: Production for a Circle, 2019
In Production for a Circle, two young, fashionable couples convene for dinner and everything loses its shape. The four characters pass through a crisis of subjecthood, causing them to lose sight of themselves, of each other, and of the boundaries between them. This video is the documentation of the premiere of this piece, held in October 2019 at Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, th

April 23–30, 2020 : Music for Plants, 2020Specially commissioned for the 5th floor, this new video work features a 3-d animated Kudzu plant dancing to an arrangement of Camille Saint Saen’s ‘Danse Macabre.’, Kudzu is an invasive, parasitic plant species that dominates the southeastern United States in actuality and in the cultural imaginary, overtaking the sides of roads throughout the region and constantly appearing in southern gothic literature and other American traditions. Here, the artist draws here a parallel between kudzu and blackness, which returns to earlier inquiries in her practice around the ontology of blackness as a sort of viral force, a system of meaning capable of reproducing itself and its own meaning structures without any ontological core. The final product is a generative, realistically rendered living model of the parasitic plant, whose movements are generated from motion capture of the artist dancing.

The parasite’s life is dependent on the artist’s movement, but obfuscates its human origins. The artist is converted into a non-human entity, modeling a weird affinity or porosity between artist-as-maker, artist-as-product, artist-as-subject and between the artwork as representational object and as a process itself.

Aria Dean (b. 1993) is an artist, writer and curator based in New York and Los Angeles. She is Editor and Curator of Rhizome.. Dean’s writing has been featured in Texte zur Kunst, e-flux, Artforum, Art in America, Kaleidoscope and many other publications.

Dean will present a new play for The Hammer Museum’s 2020 Made in L.A. Biennial. In spring 2020, she will have present a solo exhibition with Greene Naftali (New York).

All works courtesy of the artist and Chateau Shatto, Los Angeles