In Terry Adkins’s Flumen Orationis
, the sound of Jimi Hendrix’s careening guitar (various recordings of “Machine Gun”) blends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam.” With every intense dive of Hendrix’s wailing guitar comes an impassioned cry from King. Their combined power creates a dense, palpable presence, one that lls every nook and cranny in the exhibition space. Adkins clearly heard a resonance between King and Hendrix, but how do these sounds relate to the experience of viewing Sun Ra’s work? Consider the way Ra thought of sound as a vehicle for liberation, transport, and transformation (for example, the idea of “cosmic tones for mental therapy”). Hendrix and King, by contrast, seem to ground their protest and activism more in the here-and-now of national politics as well as in history. In this way, the ever-present sound of Flumen Orationis offers a sober reminder of the context in which the other works were conceived: a land in which injustice was (and is) still rampant. Consider the journey Hendrix and King take you on versus the cosmic adventures of Ra. How does the mingling of Hendrix’s music and King’s speech answer Ra’s words and music? What stories are each trying to tell?
—Henry Cooley ‘18
From the exhibition: Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow (April 13 – April 16, 2017)