Roland Slade welcomed as Bruce Gallery 'Wensinar' guest

Category:  The Arts
Monday, March 15th, 2021 at 5:38 PM

Anthony Ferris — graduate assistant for Edinboro University’s Bruce Gallery — has organized a series of the cleverly titled “Wensinars,” taking place Wednesday evenings. At these events, students of all majors are given the opportunity to listen to presentations given by various artists. On March 3, Roland Slade was the weekly guest speaker.

Slade, who grew up in Pittsburgh, creates video collages using the various clips he chooses in a specific order to tell a bigger story. Ferris told the audience in his introduction that Slade shares these collages on Vimeo under his pen name, Cleeze.

Many of the ideas Slade tackles within his videos have to do with racial inequality. One of his more well-known pieces, titled “Celebrity Activist,” was selected for the 2020 Erie Art Museum Spring Show. This short film demonstrates how big corporations manipulate emerging Black artists, especially those in the music industry, into a mouthpiece through which they feed the public the subconscious messages that work for them. Slade talked to the audience gathered about how this doesn’t make sense, as “seemingly, in no other race does the entertainer speak on behalf of its people.”

In “Celebrity Activist,” he starts with an excerpt of white men dining at a table, explaining how they’re able to turn people of other races against one another, all while remaining the puppet-master behind the scenes. He pairs this with scenes of Jay-Z and Sean Combs, along with interviews about who should really serve as a leader in the black community. Malcolm X asks at one point, “show me in the white community where a comedian is a white leader; show me in the white community where a singer is a white leader.”

Another subject featured in the collage appreciates that people listen to the messages in his art, but doesn’t feel they have the authority to be looked to for answers regarding social justice. This subject explains: “I’m not supposed to be a spokesperson for [the] black community. OK my music should empower us, yes, I should give my money to the movement, yes, but it's our intellectuals that should speak for us, not Charles Barkley.”

Slade explained: “About 10 years ago, I began to see a change. Way back in the day, you had a rap video, and whatever you saw on the screen was what the song was about. Then I saw this shift and a lot of what we were seeing was not what was in the song. A lot of it became very demonic — so a lot of satanic worship, kind of like rock music — and I took note of that.”

Slade believes these celebrities are forced to change themselves to become famous, and by doing that, the system ends up sexualizing or demonizing these artists. He explained further: “What society does is they prop these Black people up as if we can obtain this wealth, if we just work harder ... They put these people in that position — to be the activists to talk on these things — and it stops [Black Americans] from being able to get any headway on redlining, on predatory lending — you know, just on all the issues that are happening in the Black community, one of the biggest being reparations. Why do you need reparations when you could just work harder?”

In his work, when he pieces these clips together, Slade brings in all the meaning behind the original clips and applies it to his overall message. But he wants his audience to go further. “This is why I started to put the credits in my clips, because I actually want you to go search these movies, and I want you to watch these movies in their entirety.”

Slade is one of many guests that have appeared, and that will continue to appear on these Wednesday “Wensinars.” The next speaker — Erie Arts & Culture artist-in-residence Rachel Libeskind — plans to give her presentation, “nothing means anything and everything means something,” on March 10. The events start at 5:30 p.m. and will run for approximately an hour.

The full schedule of speakers can be found at Bruce Gallery's official website. You can watch the entire talk with Slade, here.

Hazel Modlin is the Executive Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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