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incoherent artist statement 2020-21
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Hello! My name is Suldano Abdiruhman. You have reached my artist statement. This is a living document meaning if you are lucky enough, you might even catch me editing in real time. In this statement you will find things like:

words of my own (prefaced by ​​// )

quotes from writers, artists, and thinkers

images that strike me

links to things i find interesting and/or important

If you have questions about any of the content you find below please feel free to reach out to me at

Or, give me a call or text at 215-688-7032.

Thanks for visiting!


//There is a state between sleep and wakefulness where images flow freely into my mind. Almost akin to the peace of meditation, there is a freedom here from thought, intellect and emotion that extends from my pillow and through my hands in the studio. Is it possible to re-create the circumstances for this clarity in my waking life?

// Each day at the farm I dig my hands into the earth. Each time I brush my fingertips against the iridescent silty sandy loamy ground it erodes my fingerprints. But I don’t mind. At first I scrubbed hard to rid myself of the dirt that built up between every crevice on my skin. Each raised line on my fingerprints a mountain, and the valleys filled with earth until the landscape became level and you could skate across the surface. Now I welcome the dirt as a friend. I imagine the plants, vegetables, grasses, bugs speaking to each other, looking up towards me with benevolence as I dig around them like a puppy. I thank the dirt for helping me remember my tie to each and everything around me. A tie made from consciousness, rope, hunger, twine. 

How do you understand the link between the art world and the academic world, and do you see yourself doing the same kind of work in each?

While I think that each space can be a context for the production and dissemination of ideas, what’s different about the university, at least for me, is that I think of my classroom as a laboratory of thought. In the classroom, I try not to have an audience, even as I might, in the case of a lecture, sometimes lead and direct the engagement with ideas. I really enjoy being a part of this collective exploration of thought, one that feels open-ended and exciting.

Not that museum spaces can’t do that. I was a part of this day of study in London, a day of events for the anniversary of Scenes. It was a day of study organized by Rizvana Bradley and in relation to Arthur Jafa’s show at Serpentine gallery. It too had this sense of open-endedness, and an exchange of ideas. I think that’s what I really enjoy, the sense that there’s something at stake, and we’re all a part of that, as opposed to I’m speaking and there’s an audience observing. I really enjoy the collaborative process. At its best, the classroom can be that.

Trying to live a life not defined by servitude, trying to live as if you were free—this was this radical experiment in thought and imagination enacted in everyday practice. (Sadiyah Hartman on writing about the lives of young Black girls in the early years post slavery 1890-1930)

// Say yes to the world  

arawaka and gins. bizzare familiar

looking for “one universal energy which runs through everything: from insect to man, from man to spectre, from spectre to plant, from plant to galaxy.” - ana mendieta

// tik tok could learn from yvonne rainer. stiff where? her movements say “everything is everything”. so interconnected you forgot what came just moments before. not like the old american amnesia or the screen fatigue 5 second attention span forgetting which violently pushes the moment before to the ground. a different kind of “forgetting”, like a fading echo or... 

emotions are the repressed detritus of life in the public sphere

james baldwin on light:

I learned about light from Beauford Delaney, the light contained in every thing, in every surface, in every face. Many years ago, in poverty and uncertainty, Beauford and I would walk together through the streets of New York City. He was then, and is now, working all the time, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he is seeing all the time; and the reality of his seeing caused me to begin to see. Now what I began to see was not, at that time, to tell the truth, his painting; that came later; what I saw, first of all, was a brown leaf on black asphalt, oil moving like mercury in the black water of the gutter, grass pushing itself up through a crevice in the sidewalk. And because I was seeing it with Beauford, because Beauford caused me to see it, the very colors underwent a most disturbing and salutary change. The brown leaf on the black asphalt for example—what colors were these really? To stare at the leaf long enough, to try to apprehend the leaf, was to discover many colors in it; and though black had been described to me as the absence of light, it became very clear to me that if this were true, we would never have been able to see the color, black: the light is trapped in it and struggles upward, rather like that grass pushing upward through the cement. It was humbling to be forced to realize that the light fell down from heaven, on everything, on everybody, and that the light was always changing. Paradoxically, this meant for me that memory is a traitor and that life does not contain the past tense: the sunset one saw yesterday, the leaf that burned or the rain that fell, have not really been seen unless one is prepared to see them everyday.

“It is necessary, while in darkness, to know that there is a light somewhere,” Baldwin writes in “Nothing Personal.” “To know that in oneself, waiting to be found, there is a light. What the light reveals is danger, and what it demands is faith.”

on doing your work:

"I love America more than any other country in the world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. I think all theories are suspect, that the finest principles may have to be modified, or may even be pulverized by the demands of life, and that one must find, therefore, one’s own moral center and move through the world hoping that this center will guide one aright. I consider that I have many responsibilities, but none greater than this: to last, as Hemingway says, and get my work done." 

—James Baldwin, "Autobiographical Notes," in Notes of a Native Son, 1955

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I wanted to make something brutal and leveling. I wanted to learn how to create work that is about living, that is sacred and profane, that is fugitive, that does not look wild and unruly but is wild and unruly. I wanted to learn to create work that defies the form and expectations of the body that produces it.  

when signing publications and ephemera for those he admired, for friends and supporters, hemphill wrote “take care of your blessings, fiercely.” i take this as a directive. my work is something to take care of. my life is a blessing to take care of, even and especially when it is threatened. i am not dead. i am very much alive, and i will live.

-tiona nekkia mcclodden (an essay on posthumous caretaking)

The American archipelagoes are extremely important, because it was in these islands that the idea of creolization, that is, the blend of cultures, was most brilliantly fulfilled. Continents reject mixings . . . [whereas] archipelic thought makes it possible to say that neither each person’s identity nor the collective identity are fixed and established once and for all. I can change through exchange with the other, without losing or diluting my sense of self. And it is archipelic thought that teaches us this.

“I imagine the museum as an archipelago. It is not a continent, but an archipelago.” It would accordingly have housed not a synthesis, serving to standardize, but a network of interrelationships between various traditions and perspectives. The museum would not illustrate previously established findings, but function as an active laboratory: “It is not a recapitulation of something which existed in an obvious way. It is the quest for something we don’t know yet.”

It must be said from the start that trembling is not uncertainty, and it is not fear. . . . “Trembling” thought—and in my opinion every utopia passes through this kind of thought—is first of all the instinctive feeling that we must reject all categories of fixed thought and all categories of imperial thought. . . . The All-World trembles; the All-World trembles physically, geologically, mentally, spiritually, because the All-World is looking for the point—not the station, but the utopian point where all the world’s cultures, all the world’s imaginations can meet and hear one another without dispersing or losing themselves. And that, I think, is utopia, above all. Utopia is a reality where one can meet with the other without losing himself

When I was very young and I had very few resources, I discovered that I needed to depend very much on my own agency, and one of the things that I came up with at that time was that I could always find a way to work within my scale. My scale meaning my size, my body. I would still be able to accomplish things larger than my scale. One of the more interesting things was when I become a mother and I needed to take care of my child and play with him. He was playing with Legos and blocks. I was always thinking about what he built with the blocks. That was very important for me. I decided that I could work like him. I could build big things out of very small parts.

It’s invigorating to be with young thinkers, because they are hungry and they eat from you. But I am still hungry, too, so I eat along with them

I think that a studio is anything. We cannot follow only the idea of the white cube as a studio. The world is my studio. On my palette are so many things that I can play with. It’s a balance. I don’t think that we still need the idea that somebody needs to lock themselves in a box to not be disturbed in order to produce something amazing and beautiful.

-Maria Magdalena campos pons

Critic robert elliot fox on ishmael reed’s work:

Reed uses humor “as a weapon in the very serious enterprise of exposing human excesses and absurdities, and, at the same time, to remind us of the dangers of taking ourselves and our cherished opinions too seriously.”

// the only way out is play!