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Meet the Artist: Aisha Cousins

Brooklyn Arts Council Administrator

Joined:
Jun 2007
Posts:
37

Original Post

Posted on:
September 6, 2012
Posted in:
Featured Artists

Occupation/Titles/Discipline
Artist. Founder of Transmission Completed. I write performance art scores a.k.a. instructions for live art projects. 

Artist Statement

My scores engage black audiences from different backgrounds in exploring their ideas about beauty and in processing the changes taking place in their worlds. The scores are designed to be interpreted differently by each new performer, incorporating her or his unique talents and personal history. Most are designed to be executed in public spaces within black communities. When executed by enough people in enough different places, they often function as documentaries on elements of contemporary black life.

I am committed to reaching people that do not normally feel comfortable in museums or galleries. To further this commitment, I recently added a non-profit arm to my art studio. It is called Transmission Completed and its mission is to bring museum quality public art projects to predominantly black neighborhoods. Our most recent project was the 2012 Black President's Day Exhibition, which was sponsored in part via the Brooklyn Arts Council. It was a 10 block long exhibition that introduced over 3,000 BedStuy residents to the history of African political fabrics and a performance art score they can do with these fabrics.

Where are you from? How long have you lived in Brooklyn?

I was born in Boston. I moved to Brooklyn, BedStuy to be precise, 21 years ago, at age 12. 

How long have you been a practicing artist?

I sold my first painting 14 years ago.

Who or what influenced your decision to become an artist?
I've wanted to be an artist since the second grade, when the Mr. T cartoon came out. I was a Saturday morning cartoon junkie and got excited to see cartoons with brown people in them. I decided to become an artist so I could make more cartoons like that.

What do/did your parents do for a living and were they supportive of you becoming an artist?
My mom works in women's health and does youth empowerment programs. When we moved to New York, she became a professor. She's always been super supportive. Part of the reason we moved to Brooklyn was so I could go to schools with good arts programs.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to LaGuardia High School in Manhattan for art. Then Oberlin College in Ohio to study Art, Black History, and Sociology.

What inspires you artistically?
Wyatt Cenac's standup comedy routines, Victor LaValle's book "Big Machine," Gregory Porter's lastest album, and Adia Whitaker's dance choregraphy are some of my current favorites. The work that Hekima Hapa and Ngozi Odita are doing is also a big inspiration, as is the work done by those super cool dudes from Nairobi, Kenya known as "Just a Band."

Which other artists inspire you?
I've been lucky to work with Derrick Adams, Shani Peters, Clifford Owens, Ben Vautier, William Pope L., Geoff Hendricks, Kenya Robinson, and Jessica Peavy over the past few years. There are so many amazing artists in New York City, but these artists have probably inspired me most since I got to experience them up close.

I'm actually working on a series of performance art scores called SAY IT LOUD! Performance Art Scores for the Young, Gifted, and Fabulous that are designed to introduce younger artists to about 20 of my other favorite artists. I won a grant through BAC to build a website about it, so you'll be able to see the series online soon. You can sign up for updates on the project. The updates will come from my nonprofit arm, Transmission Completed. You can also learn more about said 20 favorite artists by interpreting the scores in person at these upcoming events: Sat & Sun, Sep 8&9: 11pm-7am @ 434 Marcus Garvey Blvd. Part of the Brooklyn Museum's GO! Open Studios Weekend

Sat Sep 15: 11am-6pm @ SoLA Soiree. SAY IT LOUD will have a booth on Sat Oct 6 @ Restoration Rocks. 

What's your favorite place in Brooklyn to visit for inspiration?

Any event organized by the Black Rock Coalition.

Do you make a living from your art? If not, do you have a "day job"and what is it?
I used to work in the Education Department at the Museum of Modern Art. I left to make art full time at the end of January. Recently I've been doing workshops about SAY IT LOUD! for community organizations. They remind me of the youth empowerment programs my mom used to do and I would like to do more of these.

How did you get started presenting your work publically? 
My mom signed me up to exhibit in the Fulton Art Fair one summer while I was in college. I sold my first painting there. That was probably my first public art exhibit. I switched over from two dimensional work to performance art in 2008. I started by performing on the stoop of my building, then at local arts festivals. I also applied for a grant to present work in my neighborhood through BAC. As a result, I was able to do a series of public performances in the same area for a whole summer. Performing in a relatively consistent location over an extended period of time allowed me to build up contacts, press, and documentation that more clearly represented my artistic vision. These in turn opened up a lot more opportunities.

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