My Barbarian: The Golden Age
February 6 – March 30 2008
My Barbarian is an artist collective based in Los Angeles whose interdisciplinary projects conflate fantasy and satire to explore cross-cultural mishaps and historical misadventures. The members, Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alejandro Segade have collaborated for eight years on an interdisciplinary practice that engages viewers critically while playing off of the effects of spectacle and entertainment. The Golden Age is a two-channel video installation that positions the viewer in the center of a darkly playful confrontation with the legacy of the African slave trade. Employing a hybrid song-and-dance form, My Barbarian, dressed in sailor suits, performs a seductive, seemingly innocuous song about the colonized subject’s loss of agency, while an audience mimics their actions en masse, in a kind of narrative line dance, à la the Hustle or the Macarena. As their campy song and dance—a conflation of injustice and self-victimization—unfolds, My Barbarian and company chant in unison, “You raise your hands up high and ask God, ‘Why?!’ (That he don’t care, no he don’t care). Who put the gold in the Golden Age?” Exorcising hidden texts embedded within slave work song lyrics through the testimonial affect of R&B, My Barbarian exacts a unique critical reflection on action and labor.