Mama BLACKNESS Returns.

Coffee and Shoot Down with Dominique Duroseau

By. Megan Curet

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Dominique Duroseau is posing for TiLLT magazine’s second issue Black, Queer and Relevant. On the rainy cobblestone streets of NoHo, the artist stands before oncoming traffic in a black gown, attached headpiece and a black veil. She simply stands, and re-arranges her position only for a new shot. It is not your average dance shoot, and yet Duroseau commands the streets, the attention of on looking pedestrians and drivers.  An afternoon spent photographing this dynamite mixed media and performance artist then culminates with a sit down over coffee. Duroseau is honest, humble and fierce. Advocating for a new era of art for Black artist and is doing so through her work.

Duroseau creates narratives, by documenting texts, topics and issues focused on black cultures constantly striving within today’s society. As an artist Duroseau uses photography, sculpture, performance and other visual aspects to depict contemporary struggles against indifference, coded vernacular and entrenched disposition. The coffee grew cold quickly over the historical narratives in which the performance works were born of. Duroseau discusses the economical entrapment placed on over qualified and educated black artist who are often only invited to fill in a status quo.

There were a number of topics discussed but in the end, the coffee was finished and TiLLT made sure to grab some key perspectives on the artist and mover Dominique Duroseau.

TiLLT: Why a black gown, and why a black veil? What is this new work you are sharing with us?

DD: Well, I wanted to wait until September for the release of my new work, but I figured today would be just as good as a day. I've been working on my other entity: Mama BLACKNESS. She is the Alpha and the Omega of all things Black related, predominantly our cultures. Because we've been fractured for so long and despite much change, we still have much mending to do; she's returned to do so.

TiLLT: As you combine essences of visual and performance art into one. What would you describe the type of work you create, to be?

DD: At the core of it, it’s all existentialism, but the grimy and dark parts of how we exist. It’s really focusing on a lot of black cultural issues such as identity. I am born in Chicago, raised in Haiti. So I have a very mélange upbringing. So of course, that meant that on some levels my background is very sheltered. Growing up there are things you live through but you did not talk about. So I am absorbent in that sense, and after moving back to the United States to study as an adult I had to truly learn what it meant to be in a culture that is classist versus a culture that is racist. Being in Haiti is all about class but being in America is all about race.

TiLLT: So how has race influenced your work? What is one of your main works that really encompasses this use of existentialism based on the Negro experience? 

DD: Rap on Race with Rice, is based on a James Baldwin talk with Margaret Mead (1971; Lippincott) and it was over seven hours long, discussing issues of race during that time. But when I listened to it, it sounded like it was ongoing issues of today, and this was before the time of Trayvon Martin. He, who was murdered, so I knew this piece needed to be created, so relevant even now.

I invited people to sit down with me over discussion with black and white rice as we split them. It’s easy to split black and white rice and what I wanted was the movement to become almost hypnotic in such a way that you become very comfortable talking about these issues. So we are splitting without knowing that we dividing this rice based on color. Each time the work is done it is so different from the last, the discussions are never the same, the people are never the same and the experiences are never the same.

TiLLT: You discuss the Negro status quo. What future do the performance artist of color have if the opportunities are growing slimly?

DD: The way the art world functions, is social. You need to know XY and Z before anyone can introduce you to someone. With that being said we need to break the system of small slots by working with other people, especially fellow people of color. We need people to curate and create opportunities for one another and that needs to start with us, among us. If black bodies are often used only to fill in a quota, then we need to start creating those platforms for one another.

TiLLT: Your work engages your audiences using all of their senses, it challenges the status quo and brings people to question what it is they feel and how they see the realities of marginalized bodies. So how are you narrowing in your mission to be more direct and effective?

DD: My mission is to keep developing these narratives. All of these pieces using all of these mediums are narratives. And I believe they are all needed narratives. You won’t stop me from talking, and I want people to hear what these pieces have to say. My performances are about emotions, and they tap into, “how can I get you to feel me, the pain, or this thing on another level?” My mission is to create a dynamic that will have an effect on you.