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MCA Live: Rage to Master


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Rashayla Marie Brown, Credibility, Viability, Accuracy Maya Angelou as a Sex Worker Can’t Knock the Hustle, 2016. Chromogenic development print; 24 x 36 in. (61 x 91.4 cm). Courtesy of the artist


There is a brutality in master narratives, but they can also be redemptive. Inspired by Kerry James Marshall's solo retrospective Mastry, "Rage to Master: RMB Performs on the Occasion of KJM's Retrospective (The M is for Master)" involves recitations of references to mastery as they play out in a variety of popular culture, religious, academic, and emotional contexts.

The references include, but are not limited to, "Master's" of Fine Arts programs, Zen masters, the musician Prince retrieving his master tapes from Warner Brothers, Oprah's Master Classes, the slave Massa, Hegel's master-slave dialectic, and personal mastery as exemplified by self-help gurus such as Judy Smith, the inspiration behind the TV show Scandal. Ever the champion of black women and girls, RMB encourages reframing of the term mastery from an intersectional perspective, highlighting world-record holders, from Anala Beevers, the four-year-old Mensa member from New Orleans, to the 79-year-old bodybuilder, Ernestine Shepherd. The performance takes its name from psychology scholar Ellen Winner's theory that all great artists show a "rage to master" art at a young age; it ends with a grand gesture of destroying a body of work relating to RMB's childhood as a prodigy.

About the Artist

Lauded as a breakout artist in New City and ARC Magazine, artist/scholar Rashayla Marie Brown (RMB) manages a living studio practice across an extensive list of cultural production modes. Exploiting the role of the artist as both an agent and an object of desire, her work spans photographic and video-based image making; performance and social engagement/disruption; curation and installation; and theoretical writings infused with subjectivity and spirituality. A lifelong nomad who has moved 24 times, her journey as a professional artist began as a radio DJ and poet performing research in London, and as founder of the family-owned design company Selah Vibe, Inc. in Atlanta. Brown currently serves as the inaugural director of student affairs for diversity and inclusion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, fostering queer Afrofeminist narratives across institutions.