Ironically it’s a jammy, infectious groove that beckons visitors deeper into the darkened ArtCenter gallery space, where once they arrive, the serpentine cyborg dancer in Rashaad Newsome’s short video masterpiece repeatedly urges them to instead, “Listen with your eyes.”

Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance comprises the debut of a short but monumental new video work, along with large-scale mixed media collages representing not only the artist’s personal research methodology as to surveying historical and diasporic representations of Black culture, but also a window into the omnivorousness of their creative-process appetites. The three works Beloved Community and Afro-Fabulations I & II exist along portrait/selfie lines, with central figures assembled from bits of other bodies, in a conventionally understood way of building collage. However in the case of these striking images, the assertive physicality of this construction procedure is not only a material factor, but a salient part of their meaning.

rashaad newsome

Rashaad Newsome: Beloved Community, Fujicolor Crystal Archive photocollage with Swarovski crystals on dibond, 45 3/4 x 45 3/4 in. (Courtesy of the artist and ArtCenter; Photo: Shana Nys Dambrot)

All the considerable energy in the mixed media works comes from the constant flicker between resonance and dissonance, comfort and questioning, identity and gender morphology. In that way, the collages offer not only a compelling, extremely analog and dimensional counterpoint to the aspirational, sublime and sexy futurism of the digital video. They offer a closer look at the artist’s intentions and thought process—an acquisitive and juxtapositional way to construct a new multi-platform language that simultaneously takes art history, advertisement, geopolitics, race, queerness, technology, science, social media, poetry, ancestry, and futurism into account.

Rashaad Newsome Hands Performance video still credit Angel Xotlanihua

Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance, video still (Photo: Angel Xotlanihua)

The role gender plays in this dynamic is especially compelling. In the video it’s fluid and presents as post-human, but in the collages it’s tectonically patchwork, being made of existing things so that the continuum of visual signifiers is choppier. This in turn gives a sense of the lurching process of evolving the mind and its social language, embodying the cognitive state of play.

For the Hands Performance video itself, Newsome worked with a team of Black Queer ASL interpreters, Los Angeles-based fem performers, flex and vogue dancers, and motion capture technicians. They began with a fascinating process they describe as “translating an original poem into a movement dataset.” The poem is on the gallery wall at the entrance, and begins, “Hear with your eyes. Let your heart and soul be your trans sista hearing aid as we move from pain to pleasure. All while finding time for joy and leisure…”


Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance, video still (Courtesy of the artist and ArtCenter)

And not only the data but the dancer, the humanoid superstar known as Being, has clearly taken its message to heart. As their performance vignettes invoke global dance styles and spell-casting prestidigitation, the text reminds viewers of one big difference—it’s not just moves, it’s language. “This is for the deaf and hard of hearing girls,” is a repeated hooky refrain, signaling a bigger beat about to drop—followed by the sync-breaking directive, “Listen with your eyes.”


Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance, video still (Courtesy of the artist and ArtCenter)

With its nonstop dance club earworms and infinite watchability, spectacle and not deconstructive contemplation is the vibe of the video; it hovers like a spaceship in the center of the room, a timey-wimey, bigger on the inside portal to an anthemic and lavishly realized alternate/future time and place. Its architectural settings are cinematic science fiction marvels, with hints of ancient Rome and Kubrick and the MCU. Being faces the viewer, often making eye contact but always keeping their audience in mind, always performing, and quite aware of how alluring they are.


Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance, video still (Courtesy of the artist and ArtCenter)

As they are seen crushing the impressively quick, precise, elaborate choreography, their shiny exoskeletons capture and reflect ambient light along their smooth and curvaceous titanium lusciousness. It’s seductive and unsettling as an experience, and the same as a pedagogical strategy, alive with the promise of a future there is clearly no need to fear, while at the same time revealing the Herculean undertaking required to become expert in history in order to carve out spaces of Queer, Black, and Deaf joy for the future.


A conversation with Newsome and two of the dancers who worked with them on the video will be held on Friday, February 16, 6:30pm, at the ArtCenter Mullin Gallery, 1111 S. Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena. The exhibition is on view through March 2, and admission is free. For more information visit:



Rashaad Newsome Hands Performance exhibition credit Angel Xotlanihua

Rashaad Newsome: Hands Performance, installation view (Photo: Angel Xotlanihua)













































































Editor’s note: The disclaimer below refers to advertising posts and does not apply to this or any other editorial stories.

Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.