Unable to attend in person? Watch the streamed event here.
The herbalist Alfredo Bowman, popularly known as Dr. Sebi, often asked, “What were we eating before we were taken from Africa, before there was an invasion by the man from Europe?” Dr. Sebi’s answer came in the form of a diet that eschewed “Caucasian food” and emphasized fruits, vegetables, and pulses, which he promoted as complementing “the African gene structure.” Drawing on Black nationalist movements as well as Hippocrates and the Old Testament, the quietly charismatic (and unlicensed) practitioner traced all diseases afflicting Black people to their displacement from Africa through the transatlantic slave trade. Before dying in 2016, he had attracted a global following that included Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Hussle, as well as numerous charges of fraud for claiming that his treatments cured illnesses as various as herpes, HIV, and diabetes. In her video Leaf of Life (2022), the artist Ilana Harris-Babou considers Dr. Sebi’s amalgamation of tradition, myth, and persona—which enabled him to advance an identity rooted in the bodies of Black people around the world—and asks how distrust of American institutions contributes to the appeal of his message.
For First World Order, Harris-Babou’s video (an adaptation of her recent contribution to Triple Canopy) will be presented alongside works by Ulysses Jenkins, Anthony Ramos, and Philip Mallory Jones from the collection of Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), which is co-organizing the event. (The name of the event is taken from a video by Jones that recovers the practices and perceptions forged in African cultures millenia before the rise of the ancient Egyptian Empire.) Through rituals, symbols, and lore—some hearkening to tradition and some concocted for the camera—these artists seek alternatives to the forms of identity and expression that have been foisted on them (and that characterized the mass media of the time). Rather than speak as subjects of the nations that claim them, Jenkins, Ramos, and Jones situate themselves as between cultures, places, and epochs, which they imagine as the basis for unity between those who have been made to feel like exiles at home.
Following the screening, Harris-Babou will be joined by Yasmina Price to discuss the political concerns and representational strategies expressed in the works. They’ll ask how, today, artists are envisioning forms of belonging that defy the logic of time and space, and that turn to tradition without succumbing to nostalgia—or eliding the particular conditions and historical experiences that define diasporic populations.
View the Works Online
EAI has made Jenkins’s videos—along with a selection of related works by Anthony Ramos and Philip Mallory Jones that will not be shown at the event—available to the public for free for a limited time.
First World Order is free and will be livestreamed. RSVPing is not mandatory, but we encourage you to register in advance. The event is part of a series that concludes Unknown States, an issue devoted to the fictions that make up nations and nationalities, and is organized with Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), which now shares an office and venue with Triple Canopy. The series also includes Stopping Time, with Lou Cornum, Raven Chacon, and Audra Simpson; Empires in the Sky, with Atossa Araxia Abrahamian and Rana Dasgupta; and Executive Fiction, with Richard Beck, Ari Brostoff, and Sean McCann.
COVID-19 Protocols, Seating, and Accessibility
All attendees are required to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and to wear masks unless otherwise indicated. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis (even for those who have RSVP’d). The doors will open thirty minutes prior to the event and attendance will be limited, given safety concerns and the capacity of our venue.
Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have questions about access, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org in advance of the event.
This public program was made possible through generous support from Jane Hait, a founding member of Triple Canopy Director’s Circle; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Research for Unknown States, Triple Canopy’s twenty-seventh issue, was made possible through a Craft Research Fund grant from the Center for Craft.
- Ilana Harris-Babou is an artist whose work is grounded in the practice of video but includes sculpture and installation. Her work employs the aspirational tropes of popular culture, especially the language of cooking shows, music videos, and home-improvement television. She has exhibited work throughout the United States and Europe.
- Yasmina Price is a writer, researcher, and programmer. She focuses on anticolonial cinema from the Global South and visual artists across the African continent and diaspora, with a particular interest in the experimental work of women filmmakers. She has interviewed filmmakers, spoken about Black film and revolutionary cultural production, and programmed screenings for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Maysles Documentary Center, International Documentary Association, New York Film Festival, and more. Her writing has been published in Film Quarterly, Artforum, MUBI Notebook, Vulture, Hyperallergic, Aperture, and Art in America. She is a PhD student at Yale University.
- Electronic Arts Intermix is a nonprofit arts organization that is a leading international resource for video and media art. A pioneering advocate for media art and artists, EAI’s core program is the distribution and preservation of a major collection of over four thousand new and historical video works by artists. For fifty years, EAI has fostered the creation, exhibition, distribution and preservation of video art, and more recently, digital art projects.