By Anthony D. Stepter
“I wonder if he’s heard of Chet Haze?” I thought, as Kodwo Eshun, one half of the UK-based art collective The Otolith Group, took the first question at the Black Collectivities conference (May 3–4) from a “gentleman with the backwards cap.”
The event’s organizers, Northwestern University professor Huey Copeland and MCA curator Naomi Beckwith, insisted that each question asker share their name and affiliation before proceeding. This is how I came to realize that the Northwestern student asking for clarification on “hermetics and hermeneutics” was Chester Hanks, better known as the middle son of actor Tom Hanks, and perhaps even better known as Chet Haze, aspiring rapper and the subject of snarky gossip blogs across the internet.
A deeply academic gathering of artists and scholars focused on black art collectives is an unlikely place to cross paths with an internet celebrity. At least it seemed so at first. During opening remarks, Copeland mentioned that the conference’s specific topic allowed for a “fuller understanding of black collectives” specifically and the field generally. This idea of looking at broader vistas from specific perspectives was a common thread throughout the two days of discussions, screenings and performances. Read the rest of this entry »