Ben’s Work

Mendi + Keith Obadike

Keeping Up Appearances 2001, Mendi Obadike

Interaction of Coloreds 2002

Blackness for Sale, 2001

Text Multiple: Street Portrait

Work in progress

I enjoy the idea of doing a similar piece for another short street which is in Waterloo. And have these multiples accessible on both streets but for the wrong city. With a note on the back saying “for corrections contact” if I received corrections I could remake the work from others writing whether that be the home owners themselves or people who just happen to walk down the street.

Project 2 Ideas : Parent Video

  • Having them read poem written about them before they had children and before they divorced, shot closeup or possibly layered audio tracks with just text visible
  • Alter the poem somehow, change the meaning? Have different text between what is being read and what is shown.
  • Play with the role of the narrator, inhabit that role?
  • Write a companion piece?

While grappling with how to best connect this poem to a video work involving my parents and their relationship to it I began to lose steam and interest in the melodrama I felt rising out of this work’s potential reading of their relationship. How things change and people’s feelings in relation to each other change, this is what I felt was at the core of my concept, and it didn’t feel particularly interesting to me or fair as a half-assed portrayal of how love functions over time.

So I changed course. After receiving this email from my grandfather, I wanted to react to it as a prompt, make something that could stand as a visual representation of how I feel about it.

My grandfather is my family’s historian, and his desire to understand and record our lineage is something I admire deeply. But in my present moment and day to day, when I looked at this list of names I suppose I expected to feel connected to at least the idea of these names, who they represent, how their lived experience might have been, and how it relates with mine. But I didn’t. I felt the same amount of analytical detachment I feel reading a textbook. I felt that no matter how I could manifest these names into people, how much substance I could excavate out of any written or oral record of them that any of it would still feel like any other history personal or otherwise. That being biased, inconclusive, and narrow in its portrayal of life. I guess I feel the need to question the drive to understand, or “humanize” one’s personal history. Perhaps flat and declarative means of representing one’s history, like my grampas email, are more to the point than those that indulge narrative and romanticism. Point being the reminder of ones place in the continuity of life over time. If anything besides that resulted from me thinking about this list of names it was that I may be the last in this line of men because I do not want children.

With that being said I struggled with how to convey this feeling visually. I ended up deciding that my most beneficial plan of attack was to keep this line of names and dates as flat and neutral as it was presented to me. Because it is through flat and neutral means that these listed people will continue to exist to me. So I began investigating how this text could be pushed even further away from personhood, lineage and narrative and settled on colour. Specifically digitally rendered colour through hexadecimal codes. I knew that any digitally represented colour had a specific 6 digit line of code that could be copied and replicated to create the same colour on any platform (Photoshop, Website Design, Adobe Illustrator etc.) and so I decided this as my means of transcribing the written information of the original document. Originally I started inputting the birthdates of these people as the code (001999) and then repeating the number of years between the names as a system of creating colours representing people as far back as year 0 CE, so it went 40 years, 26, 25, 26, 31, 26, 27, 24, 31. But It wasn’t following how hex code language works and I only got a repeating pattern of colour that Illustrator was creating for me. (I should have posted this but I deleted it after I realized what was happening)

I then tried converting each year into a hexadecimal digit (there’s an equation I found online) and then grouping them by 6 so that I could have a complete code to make a colour for that group of names, but it still wasn’t working.

Notes in progress

Finally, and as simple as it usually is, I found a text to hexadecimal code converter online. I then converted each name and date into code, took the first six digits and used those to create the colours. I played with the format, like whether or not to keep the original composition of the document sent to me, but it felt too clear still like it was a document that had been redacted or censored. So I chose the grid separated by names and dates and this is what resulted.

Nine Names in Hexadecimal Code
Nine Dates in Hexidecimal Code

Tattoo Project

Cross Graft, 2022
Cross Graft, 2022 (Detail)
In Remembrance Of (Dissolved Municipalities), 2022

2 thoughts on “Ben’s Work

  1. Hi Ben, you are clear and give specific detail in your notes and writing – and I enjoy reading about your intentions and processes. This is exceptional among students, writing about their work! You also make critical observations, and give really useful comments to other students about their work, and I appreciate your participation in the process of critiques. These pieces of yours here are austere, but also inventive and poetic – and merit being ambitious in their final resolution, perhaps large in scale, or many in a series – using the best papers and finishing materials you can get your hands on. Let me know about the kinds of references you might be interested in as we go along – if themes of the projects don’t resonate, I hope I can offer you the inspiration and models for working you would need – and support you to make what you must!

  2. Hi Ben,
    Even though we saw your wonderful Internet Video /Ice Fishing piece during critiques the finished video link should be here, with a title and description etc. Also the presentation you gave about historic news clips on You Tube should be here too – I think the documentation of your used “Cross Graft” pieces (great title) looks fantastic, eerie, and surprising. But it needs more context and description. Your participation in critiques was especially helpful to everyone in our class community, thank you for contributing so meaningfully and constructively. I hope you found inspiration for your ongoing work, all the best to you! – Diane.

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