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YI Artists Meet Dave McKenzie

FEB 20, 2013

Dave McKenzie listens as YI Artist Allandra asks a question about his work, February 2013. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Dave McKenzie listens as YI Artist Allandra asks a question about his work, February 2013. Photograph by Correna Cohen

On Wednesday, February 20, during our second Youth Insights Artists session, the group met our artist-in-residence, Dave McKenzie. Hailing from Brooklyn by way of Kingston, Jamaica, Dave uses painting, video, sculpture, and performance in his artwork. Dave provided the group with images and explanations of some of his work. There were two pieces that interested me the most.

First, a video/performance piece called Babel (2000-2006), in which he interacted with a small audience by sticking a microphone in his mouth and wrapping the cord around his neck. He attempted to communicate without being able to form any words or sounds other than the unpleasant guttural noises from inside his mouth and throat. He took this a step further by choking himself with the wire, and seemed fairly nonchalant when mentioning his frequent black outs during the performance. As a musician and a performer, this piece was more relevant and purposeful to me than any other contemporary art I’ve seen. 

Artist-in-Residence Dave McKenzie discusses a slideshow of his work, February 2013. Photograph by Correna Cohen
Dave McKenzie observes as YI Artist Luna explains her newspaper collage project, February 2013. Photograph by Correna Cohen
As the Whitney Studio segues from discussion into studio work, YI Artist Zeus takes a moment to continue the conversation with Dave McKenzie. Photograph by Correna Cohen

Another work called Open Letters (2004), provoked my interest as a writer. It was inspired by an incident when he was almost hit by a car, followed closely by another instance when he willingly jaywalked in front of a different car. The piece consists of a letter written from the point of view of the driver apologizing for nearly hitting him, and another from his own point of view, apologizing for jaywalking. This work made me want to do some writing myself.

I joined Youth Insights hoping to work in the Writers group, but was placed in the Artists group, which worried me. I do not enjoy art that isn’t music or writing, for various reasons. It was reassuring when Dave McKenzie showed us his work, and I found some of it interesting. By the end of the session with this group, I hope to be more aware of the reasons for my dislike of art that isn’t music or writing. I also hope to determine and hone what skills I have as an artist, outside of music and writing. I look forward to succeeding or failing. Either way, I doubt it will have been a waste of time.

By Devan, Youth Insights Artist