The BLK Ken & Barbie: The Dis-Identification Performance (2014) is a unique collaboration that visually reconstructs the real stage of everyday Black men and women’s lives and places these dolls in the midst of their reality. The multi-layered element has been a part of the “BLK Ken & Barbies” series, as they are situated in everyday environmental settings of Black daily lives, juxtaposed with full coloured images merged with haute couture and polished elegance. This includes the sometimes visually dysfunctional Black and white environment/backdrop treatment – which may also include a messy and disordered home/bedroom, smoking and broken down car, local meat and grocery shops, local Caribbean restaurants or a local junk yard while looking for car parts. This concept is a direct play on W.E.B. DuBois’ theory of Double Consciousness that he developed out of the necessity for African American’s need to have controlled images of their representation while in public and in front of White folks and negotiating their own cultural and self-representation within themselves. This internal conflict and constant negotiation can be seen as a schizophrenic sickness within the individual about their actual identity and perceived identities.
This historical process will contribute to a dialogue around our colonial, post-colonial and neo-colonial identities. This visual dialogue is pivotal to the diverse historical African-American slavery sexual scripting that academics say is at the core of popular cultures Black male and female gender identity formations (Female; Freak, Gold Digger, Diva, Jezebel, Baby Mama and Dyke; Males; Studs/Buck, Vicious criminal, Social delinquent, Petty thief, Savage African, Superior Athlete, Natural-born Musician, Perfect Entertainer, Mental Inferior).
This body of work visually explores the ways Black male and female youth/people forge their own historical consciousness and a sense of generational identity through reconstructing post-colonial Black Barbie and Ken personas. This is the symmetry of the diversely photographed posed “innocent inanimate objects” Black dolls alongside poised human images that sometimes straddle gender boundaries and actual displayed Black dolls negotiating these projected and prescribed feminine and masculine identities from their respective private and public identities.