Idris Goodwin's notes toward liberation through imagination
“We the people,” Idris Goodwin intoned, his voice rendered a decibel quieter through the phone line connecting our voices between Denver and Albuquerque. “We the people. My people. All people.” The way Goodwin speaks, his background in poetry, hip-hop and spoken word is apparent from the rhythms and repetitions of his conversation. “People on a planet, as opposed to people of a nation. I'm reminded how flexible that word is.” We were talking about Chaz Bojórquez' painting, “We the People,” a large piece awash in blue oil paint, a globe affirming the words rounding across its shape and in the galactic black background once again: “We the People.” “What I always respond to first in Chaz' work is that it's text-based. For me, words are my paint,” Goodwin explained as we discussed the spoken word piece (“kind of lecture, but kind of poem, but kind of rap” as he described it) that he's creating for 516 ARTS' SHOUT-OUT Redux, a night of spoken word featuring not just Goodwin, but a whole cadre of talent both local and from afar, including Michelle Otero, Hakim Bellamy and Dahlak, from LA.
SHOUT-OUT Redux revisits a collaboration between Bojórquez and Goodwin from 2010, when Bojórquez created a mural in response to a series of poems about Albuquerque by Goodwin for the original SHOUT-OUT. “Flash forward to now, we're working in the opposite,” Goodwin explained, and for SHOUT-OUT Redux, in part a celebration of 516's 10 year anniversary, Goodwin will craft spoken word in response to existing work by Bojórquez. “The planetary motif makes me think about alternate realities, alternate universes, sort of an Afro-futurist conceit, which is where my head’s been at lately, creating an alternative space … I think it's more radical to create your own kingdom as opposed to storming the kingdom. To redefine what a kingdom means, what wealth means, what success means. That's what artists do all the time.” Goodwin's convictions speak to the importance of creating space for creativity, to share what he has culled from his own imagination and to provide an avenue for the audience to dive into their own. For Goodwin, as we attune to a fearsome post-election world, that space takes on increased substance. “Now more than ever, I feel a renewed, or even a clarified sense of purpose … [to] use my gifts to help create spaces for healing, for catharsis, for release and for the imagination to be ignited,” Goodwin said, noting that just as his piece for SHOUT-OUT has been redefined after the election, that Bojórquez', too, has “taken on a new urgency and relevance.”
“When I was a kid I daydreamed a lot … there would be moments where I would disappear into my imagination and I would have the most wonderful thrilling experiences. … I sort of built a life around it” ...
The working title of the piece Goodwin will perform is “An Invitation from a Tribe Called Tomorrow for those Broken by Today.” “I … feel a sense of urgency to be very deliberate, very clear about the way in which I want to live in the world and who I want around me and the type of communities that I want to foster and be a part of and be challenged by and nurtured by,” he professed, as I scrawled the title into my notepad. “I think art has to be personal, and I walk around with a lot of anxiety as an African-American, knowing what I know, [being] aware of history and aware of what is going on … I want to be writing to help other people articulate what they're going through. To give a name to or help to more clearly define their own struggles.” Later in our conversation Goodwin put it this way—that he would like to be of use. In the recent political climate, the spaces generated around work like Goodwin's, Bojórquez' and everyone's involved in the event is even more essential; its importance is no longer doubted. “As opposed to demanding things from those in power, I'm just looking around and saying: Who’s around me? Who’s in this room with me? And how can we take care of each other? That's the question.” That examination of who your community is and what connects it is rooted in what you believe, and in this scenario, the room that Goodwin will be looking out at on Dec. 10 will be rallied around art, and therefore grounded in imagination.
“When I was a kid I daydreamed a lot … there would be moments where I would disappear into my imagination and I would have the most wonderful thrilling experiences. … I sort of built a life around it,” Goodwin explained. “I believe everyone has that ability, you don't even have to be an artist.” He went on to describe election night, staying tuned into the news until it became apparent which way the tide turned and then, with that stinging understanding, unplugging from the world to favor creation—spending the whole day that followed writing, recording and reaching out to friends and collaborators. “I healed myself through creativity,” he explained. “The imagination can liberate you.”
On 7:30pm on Saturday, Dec. 10, at Outpost Performance Space (210 Yale SE) you can look to your community, too, and sift through—maybe even articulate for the first time—the questions and thoughts that have been at the forefront of our shared consciousness, not least of which are a few of the ones Goodwin raises: What do liberty and justice look like now? How do we take care of one another? The imagination—