“if death is the absence of life, then death’s death is life.”
– Sun Ra
this is not a book of dead time. this is not a book of dead space. this is not a book for the dead. this is not a book of the dead. this is not a book. this was an idea. this was a work, this was a making of nothing into something essentially
nothing. this is a panegyric void coiled through the liminal vacuum that sucks death’s breath away and keeps it from talking nonsense to the symphonic sensorium of everyday life.
this is not a book and inside its nonexistent covers there are no words and no pictures, no colors and no stories, no figures and no actions, no thoughts and no deeds. every phrase unwritten here cannot describe anything evermore.
every image unseen here is disappeared into our forever. every phrase we imagined here describes the space that fills in the page under and around and over and especially between each cipher. every image plucked from the shadows
here reveals the space of the light that returns to it again and again, moving three hundred thousand kilometers each second through this space and that. your space. our space. the space where we are; where we’re space.
now that the world has come here after it’s end, we are ready to listen. we have already listened. we are ready for vision for we have foreseen already, long past. this is a report to the sun of what we heard looks like. this is a report
to ra on how we saw sounds.
this is the end of a secret mission through death to discover an opening to life.
somewhere sings a disembodied head that rides a current on the river that slakes the thirst for unremembering.
there is no death.
there is sun, stars, light.
there is space.
sun ra is dead?
long live sun ra!
forever! – norman douglas
Born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and now based in the UK, photographer Gerald Jenkins has long identified as an outsider, and his vast oeuvre spanning nearly four decades reflects his natural affiliation with others who sit similarly at the fringes. From cult writers and musicians to models and activists, his photographic subjects bring their own powerful identities to bear on his work, and Jenkins’ ever-evolving artistic process reflects their varied contributions to his ongoing study of the tension between Western capitalism and ancient spirituality. Incorporating traditional craftsmanship into a nontraditional methodology, he manufactures his own imaginative props for shoots—seashell headphones, moon-shaped facemasks, disco-ball helmets—hand-crafts unique frames, and appropriates imagery from his own extensive archive to create complex, multilayered collages reflecting a worldview at once conspiratorially cynical and profoundly hopeful. With visual overtones of Sam Haskins’ picture novels, these artworks synthesize Jenkins’ many years photographing for fashion magazines and cinema, his documentation of Australian Indigenous Culture, and his ongoing relationship as photographer and friend with the members of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, whose philosophies and corresponding aesthetics gave him the creative entry point he had been seeking to contemplate what indeed comes after the end of the world as we know it.
Jenkins’ growing disillusionment with the fashion photography industry and its treatment and depiction of women—particularly black women—echoed an earlier unease with the discrimination he witnessed towards the Indigenous population in Australia. The fruits of this frustration, however, have been abundant: both drawing upon and challenging fashion tropes and techniques, Jenkins has produced an expansive body of work in collaboration with numerous female models independently of any formal commissions. Often incorporating accessories hand-crafted by Jenkins, with makeup and styling (or a lack thereof) and overall aesthetic decided between photographer and model, many of these shoots have formed part of an ongoing dialogue between Jenkins and his subjects around questions of spirituality, Western capitalism, race, and gender. Natural forms like feathers and leaves are superimposed onto human ones, evoking an underlying organic unity between mankind and the natural world; these divine symmetries connect to Jenkins’ interest in the traumatic separation of Australian Indigenous peoples from their land, the severing of their physical and cultural roots to yield a present divorced from its native past. As noted by Darius James, author of the cult classic Negrophobia, Jenkins evokes a beauty in his subjects that is far-flung from the objectifying world of fashion, deliberately depicting women who “are not for aesthetic contemplation” but rather for “transformative meditation.”
Conceptually and through physical collage work, these stylized portraits are overlaid with symbols derived from a combination of Indigenous and Afrofuturist principles of spirituality. Through visual metanarrative, Jenkins explores Sun Ra’s sci-fi futurism and the movement it birthed, based on the conception of inner and outer space experienced simultaneously and a lost past enacted as a vibrant, fantastical future incorporating Egyptology, cosmology, Christian mysticism, and theosophy—not unlike the Australian Indigenous peoples’ conception of history as being housed within an eternal present, in which time and space are intimately connected. Just as certain integrated forms and symbols bely a deeper unity between man and nature, many also reveal the discreet power structures built into the social and physical architecture of our cities, the suggestion being that ancient conceptions of oneness and spirituality are the true reality, and civilized progress the myth. Out of the seeds of oppression, visualized through pharmaceutical, capitalist, drug and incarceration-related iconography, as well as stereotypical racist tropes reclaimed, are born visions of liberation and salvation.
A book encompassing many of the following images is currently in progress, with an introduction from writer Darius James, who has also overseen the commissioning of essays from a variety of other authors and cultural figures.
It’s After The End Of The World Gerald Jenkins. 344 Pages. 306 Photographic illustrations (approx) Binding: Faimei cloth hardback with Metal Foiling. Size: 280mm x 220mm Portrait. Weight -1.69kg A Picture novel study of the human spirit in the fantastic / magical and the human soul in the metaphorical and physical in Five Chapters – being Oppression, Rainbows, Mythology, Cosmology, Salvation. With poems by Sun Ra and Handwritten Lyrics by Kainthepoet. Written Contributions by Norman Douglas, Darius James, Jake-ann Jones, Carl Martin, Little Annie, Michael Gonzales.
ART YARD 2019
It’s After The End of The World ©2019 Gerald Jenkins. Published by Art Yard Limited.
ISBN: 978-0-9933514-5-7. © 2019 Art Yard Ltd All Rights Reserved.
Produced for Art Yard by Gerald Jenkins.
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