Sanford Biggers on the Unlikely Kinship Between Hip Hop and Quilting
In Conversation with Imani Perry on
The Quarantine Tapes
Hosted by Paul Holdengräber, The Quarantine Tapes chronicles shifting paradigms in the age of social distancing. Each day, Paul calls a guest for a brief discussion about how they are experiencing the global pandemic.
On Episode 165 of The Quarantine Tapes, guest host Imani Perry is joined by Sanford Biggers. Sanford is an artist working across a wide range of disciplines. He talks with Imani about some of his recent work with quilting, describing how he came to that medium and talking about the cultural and historical elements of that work. Imani asks Sanford about his beginnings in art and about the range of his work, from sculpture to music to textiles. Sanford offers a brilliant view into his process as an artist, talking about creating pieces that speak to police brutality, remixing classical European and African art, and the kinship between hip hop and quilting.
From the episode:
Sanford Biggers: This is a cyclical nature that we’re seeing this violence. We’ve been watching this violence for 400 years and we will still see more of it. But it’s also the fact that, regardless of how often it happens, we will not be silenced. We will not disappear. In fact, if anything, the remembering and memorialization of those incidences makes us stronger and fortifies us as a people—not just African Americans, but Americans, to seek justice.
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Sanford Biggers’ work is an interplay of narrative, perspective and history that speaks to current social, political and economic happenings while also examining the contexts that bore them. His diverse practice positions him as a collaborator with the past through explorations of often overlooked cultural and political narratives from American history. Working with antique quilts that echo rumors of their use as signposts on the Underground Railroad, he engages these legends and contributes to this narrative by drawing and painting directly onto them. In response to ongoing occurrences of police brutality against Black Americans, Biggers’ BAM series is composed of bronze sculptures recast from fragments of wooden African statues that have been anonymized through dipping in wax and then ballistically ‘resculpted’. Following a residency as a 2017 American Academy Fellow in Rome, the artist recently began working in marble. Drawing on and playing with the tradition of working in this medium, Biggers creates hybridized forms that transpose, combine and juxtapose classical and historical subjects to create alternative meanings and produce what he calls “future ethnographies.” As creative director and keyboardist, he fronts Moon Medicin, a multimedia concept band that straddles visual art and music with performances staged against a backdrop of curated sound effects and video. Moon Medicin performed at Open Spaces Kansas City in October 2018 and at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in 2019.