As night falls on 11th October a rogue frequency is transmitted from London’s Mall. This frequency sits below popular channels, infecting smart devices with bursts of encrypted data with no beginning and no end. Offering an alternative to algorithmic censorship and cultural extraction. Beyond notions of history, place and time. – Nine Nights
London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts is currently hosting Channel B, an audiovisual exploration of Black futurism by black-owned art, music, and creative education initiative Nine Nights.
We had the opportunity to talk with London based DJ, artist, vocalist and curator Shannen SP. Having worked with her and Kode9 at several Hyperdub Ø events in the past it made sense that she reached out to us to get SUBPAC technology in the mix again for her work at the ICA.
Hey Shannen! It’s been a while since we worked with you and Kode9, it’s great to see the work you are showing at the ICA. Can you tell us about the concept of the Nine Nights initiative and what has been happening at the exhibition so far?
Hey, thank you! Nine Nights is a Black led and operated music and arts initiative building a community of black artists across disciplines, platforming alternative black art and raising money for Black focused charities at home and overseas. We also run workshops aimed at Black youths to help them gain industry skills, knowledge and access.
NN was founded in May 2020, during the covid19 lockdown, we saw how the pandemic was disproportionately affecting Black and minority populations. All of this was unfolding during the protests against police brutality for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The music industry and nightlife was at a stand still and we wanted to make sure that we committed to not going back to “normal”. NN aims to find new modes of artistic empowerment and collaboration for Black creatives across the arts.
Channel B has been running for about 3 weeks now, we’ve had two large activations of the space with performances from Mykki Blanco, Novelist, MikeQ and Bambi and Amani Revlon, Joviale, Uniiqu3 and more. We’re also running some workshops in the day – today we have Black Futures taking over the theatre showcasing works they have commissioned and launching their project. Lots more to come!
We incorporated wearable SubPacs into your AV installation. Can you tell us more about it and the artists involved?
The installation is called Zen Projects Ltd, it has a silver reflective floor, massage therapy chairs, a large sound system with a screen with a reel of works by amazing Black artists from across the world.
The concept derives from wellness culture, mental health and capitalism. It addresses the corporatization of trauma and mental health, as well as the co-option of allyship by media outlets, cultural institutions and the like.
When conceptualising Zen Projects LTD, I wanted to build a space that played with this idea of paying for wellness and piece of mind. Zen Projects LTD is satirical speculative fiction about a wellness business available for hire that I imagined existing in a dystopian city – an anachronism in a sense!
Although the concept of the room is tongue in cheek, a lot of the works in the space are very much genuine pieces aimed at the comfort and experience of black people. It’s inspired by the audiophile bars of Tokyo, bass driven black music and healing. I want people to use the space in a genuine way! As black artists and black audiences engaging with art institutions, we are so often expected to display and engage with our trauma.
The artists exhibiting works with Zen Projects LTD are B.O.S.S (Black Obsidian Soundsystem) who have provided a guided meditation piece, Devi Mambouka, aka Masma Dream World, a Gabon born artist, producer and sound therapist who created the vibrobath – the world’s first vibroacoustic sound bath, Zimbabwean British artist and designer Kumbirai Makumbe – a rising talent who I recommend keeping an eye on (they also collaborated on the spatial design of the room with me), Cuss Group, a super interesting Johannesburg based collective, Man Wigs, an iconic London based wig designer and the legendary Scratcha DVA, who I commissioned to make two bass mediation pieces, with the SubPacs in mind.
How have the SubPacs been received?
Amazingly, I think paired with the soundsystem they have really enhanced the concept of the room.
We have a big love of South African music at SUBPAC. Can you tell our community about the Amapiano Now compilation you curated with Joe Cotch for NTS earlier this year?
The idea for Amapiano Now came about after I visited Joburg in summer 2019, where I fell in love with the sound after my cousins were playing me nothing but Ama. It had already taken over SA and I was really drawn to it being such a massive bass driven sound that was turning out clubs, yet the BPM was so slow. The first tracks I heard were by Vigro Deep and King Jazz, with really haunting piano melodies and hardcore breakdowns and percussion.
Ama now was very much an exploration of the darker sounds coming out of the scene, more stripped back and techno adjacent.
My recommended tracks to check off the compilation are Mawhoo – Mswapheni ft Dj Obza and Bongo Beats, Alfa Kat’s Sip Sip, Gaba Canal’s Shona Le and DBN Gogo’s Shuck and Jive / Possible but pretty much all of the tracks on there are hard. Very SubPac compatible!
Do you have any recommendations of new tracks, artists or labels we should check out?
I can recommend Manchester vocalist LINTD, the Amapiano Now compilation, Jay Trench, Poison Anna, R P Boo’s latest album Established! is phenomenal. I also just went to see Lyra Pramuk at the Barbican and her voice is stunning! Oh and LCY!
What else have you got planned now things are opened up in the UK? Where can people catch you Djing?
I have a residency at Colour Factory in Hackney, East London. I’ve curated a line up for them on the 27th of November with Shaybo and Novelist for NN, you can catch me on the warm up slot 🙂
Big love to Shannen SP, all the artists involved,the staff at the ICA and SilentEvent. If you want to check it out the exhibition is running till the end of January 2022.
More info and links:
Amapiano Now Compilation