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"The Things That Haunt Me Still" a solo exhibition curated by David Borawski

FEB 13 - MAY 30 | 12 PM

Ambitionz of Thames’ Veil, a Ride to Recuperation

By. Noel W Anderson

Listening to 2 Pac Shakur’s

“Ambitionz Az A Ridah” is like listening to a Death Row remix of the

soundtrack to Kubrick’s The Shining. There’s a psychic physicality to how the instruments (strings,

pianos, beats, voices) are deployed. The rapper’s deep, menacing voice initiates the ride:

“I won’t deny it/I’m a straight ridah/ 

 (drop piano here)

 you don’t wanna fuck with me…” 

2 Pac Shakur’s refrain is haunted by a ring announcer’s hollow voice:

“Let’s get ready to RUUUMMMMMBBLLLEE”

Thus begins the opening track of Pac’s 1996 triumphant LP, All Eyez on Me. As a doubled-

beginning, “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” activates an album whose ill-logic trapped between being a sickness

and irrational weaves a dark, toxic, and tragic future. He conjures a hyper-masculinized blackness who

parades in the converse hyper-sexualization of black women, and is motivated by a death drive that

stereotypically characterizes black male youth lyrically affirming the ability to secure one’s own end:  

“I’d rather die before they capture me.”

 2 Pac extends his alliance with death by performatively contouring an ally and cautionary mirror:

“Fuck doin jail time…/

(drop piano here)

Won’t get a chance to do me like they did my nigga Tyson” 

Trailing-off at the end of the line, a reference of the conviction and imprisonment of Mike Tyson seems

an appropriate speculation and point of departure. After leaving prison, Tyson reemerged in familiar

stomping grounds. Returning to the ring to resurrect an already defutured boxing career, Tyson

employed “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” as his entrance song. Deploying Pac’s anthem as a shield, Tyson and

entourage march to the ring en masse, from which emerge a mixtape of affirmational black patriarchal

slogans: “Yes, yes champ. Allah Akbar. Wake-up. Wake-up Philadelphia.Allah. YES!” 

Read together - a collective call to Black God for destruction animated by 2 Pac - these elements

effectively represent black terror, intimidation, and trauma. And this is precisely what Tyson set-out to

do when he said, “I’m ferocious, I want your heart, I wanna eat his children, praise be to Allah!” Like

Pac’s song, and the mass’ chants, this scene of intimidation is internally motivated by fear. Tyson

discloses his “ring-walk” inner monologue:

“When I come out I have extreme confidence but I’m scared to death. 

I’m totally afraid I’m afraid of everything I’m afraid of losin’ I’m afraid of being humiliated…”

Please understand, this is not a plea to excuse the horrific behaviors of a man because of his race. This is

an attempt to begin to understand the extent to which white supremacy and capitalism tax the black

psyche. More importantly, this brief analysis allows me to locate the emerging brilliance of the beaded

works of artist Felandus Thames.

Tyson and his associated toxic masculinities is an appropriate ground against which to measure Thames’

pursuit of black representation. One of his newer works that attempts to initiate the capture of

particular forms of toxic black masculinities is a photographic representation of Mike Tyson in the form

of a beaded curtain. While I think the translation of a photograph of Tyson into interior design is an

achievement…Can we talk about the significance of the chosen form? It should be lost on no viewer the

extent to which Thames’ beads capture and redress one of the stagings of Tyson’s rage: the ring-walk. 

Beyond this point imagination is required. 

A boxer’s entrance into the ring is invitation to death’s geometry. It starts in the dressing room, where

frustration, anger, disappointment, and most importantly fear, coalesce in the fighter’s darkening form.

The journey from the dressing room through hallway acts as a vacuumed crescendo in which violence,

hate, and destruction vertiginously encircle the mass. Internal to this dark tornado is a panorama of

abuse marked by wounding words, black and blued bodies, and feelings of abandonment and

distrust. Beyond this point imagination is demanded!

Having their roots in 1960’s Asian design culture, beaded curtains were believed to possess healing

powers. Beyond their decorative function, these partitions were meant to spread positive (spiritually

affirmative) energy, and elevate the level of domestic cheer. Those who pass through these suspended

thresholds are supposed to be marked by soothing affects. And this is precisely where your imagination

must be activated! Equipped with the vision, we can read Thames’ bead-work as an object possessive of

spiritual power. Adhering to the capabilities of a beaded curtain, it’s not hard, nor maybe even

necessary to imagine the affect passing through the beads might have for the mobile subject. African

American slaves called this transition of healing coming through; to undergo a spiritual conversion: to

be born again. This return to origin is precisely what I mean to imagine the impossible by Thames. Dig?

If Tyson en masse were to emerge from beneath Thames’ veil, it might symbolically wash away the

illness of male toxicity. As a black father, Thames is equipped with the tools to attempt the impossible

task of recuperating the black male subject. Never paternalistic, father is equated with mother under the

rubric parent.  As a parent, this is what Thames represents in the work - a caring only comparable to

what theorist Huey Copeland calls “tending-towards-care.” That black peoples must learn to care for

individual as well as collective self is sovereignty. Inverse to toxic black masculinity’s destructive path,

Thames is motivated by the impossibility of healing as one might imagine a coming through the beaded

image can offer. It is my hope that one day he will position a work in a door or other partitioned

threshold, to let us come through and be washed. Healing affirmed.


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