Renaissance Maps it Out
Toronto, Canada: where
6 mins: read time
"What I am sharing with you right here is my treasure trove," Renaissance says as he clicks open an archival video of Dr. Khalid Muhammad on the Phil Donahue Show. We watch snippets fast forwarding to different parts, listening for glimpses of ideas, body gestures, the way in which questions are posed. He hands me a book of pop art and flips through pages until he lands on the ones he has mentally book marked. Sharing with me poster inspiration for the Privilege Project. He tracks an idea for another talk show he wants to show me, searches through histories of what he has seen to find the name of the host he is looking for - Geraldo. We speed-watch through an episode about 1990 NYC club kids.
His work is chaotically unbound from medium. He explores at his own will, and according to what is available around him. As I turned past a wall to say hello I was greeted by maybe 12 doormats he had been painting on. "What do you think?", he asked. From Renaissance, that is a loaded question he actually expects an answer to.
What about Social-Anti, how did you come up with that name?
What does it mean to you?
You can ask me again tomorrow and I will give you a different answer. The idea is social and anti - two different entities. I am a social person and I may be social to the degree that someone thinks there is no anti in me. I think I am more anti than social. When I looked up social anti it is an enigma; it has no definition. So the more people look it up the more they will want to create a definition and that embodies me - I am still forming into shapes. Social-Anti also has to do with society, how people are anti in society when we need to be able to connect humans.
Sometimes when we define something it can be easier to define by what it is not.
Is there anything that Social-Anti isn’t?
I look at Social-Anti as trying to break down any sense of privilege, even my own privilege. I don’t want to be commercial, but I am not the traditional cookie cutter shouting, “Yo I am against the system”. I put on real social experiments watching how people treat me on a daily basis, it can be fucked up. The way we treat each other on the daily. It’s madness, 2019 and we have to go through psychological warfare.
In your posts on Instagram and when I’ve come to a renegade fashion show you put on; you have referenced yourself as making history with your art. What does it mean to you to make history?
The neighbourhoods I come from are artistic desserts. Communities where people are just poor - 80-90% of their income goes to rent and trying to sustain themselves. They can’t focus on creating art, you have to get a job. An environment like that stomps out creativity. When I was a kid I was wearing all purple, and pink I had things about me that got stomped out. Anything I have done in terms of creativity has made history. I made these things happen from nothing. Bringing art onto the train and bringing art to the street, like a protest. I don’t know what is driving me to do it, I don't have an exact reference, for this design but if I could be supported in my ideas I can only imagine how far I could take things.
As a maker of history then, what responsibility do you feel as you make a mark on yourself and others?
I don’t think about any of that. I know the majority of my experiences have been traumatic. In the sense of responsibility, it is about just doing it. When people see my work they still say “oh! You did that?!”.
Back in the day, they had Race Music and nobody remembers it.
It is where a lot of the music we know in America today derived from. That was Africans in American experience translating what they would do as sound. As the music has been conveyed and shaped many don't remember Race Music anymore and what impact that had. There is a whole stereotype of doing something and the way it is perceived. I have to challenge those things, I don’t think about anything but, “Yo this shit will blow people’s minds in the idea of it”.
Photo courtesy of Ayo Dore-Waschuk
You have been working in fashion and painting, did fashion come first.
Yeah, I think so.
Of the two which do you feel is going to be the biggest facilitator of the change
that you want to see?
I’ll make paintings and the paintings will be looked at in a particular way. The clothes will sell faster, though there is hesitation to those as well. With the paintings that I do I am really trying to focus on conveying a message that will translate now and in the future. I really want to leave codes in paintings. When you look at it, the stuff you don’t celebrate today will be like a map in ten years. I don’t care if the paintings sell I know they will change the world! I see so much art where people are highly skilled and I have to block that out, I keep building my skill but my message doesn’t change. There are some high skill people. It’s crazy!
I love that you just said you think of your paintings as a map because when I was looking at them I was thinking that.
So the questions I have is: your work is often made of repetitive elements and has a map like quality marked with symbolic streets and pathways. What are you leading your viewer to?
My paintings are conveyed through emotions and past experiences. Someone just pointed out to me that most people think about the problem 80% of the time so we can’t think about a solution because we are exhausted. If we can speak about the problems 20% and use 80% of our energy for a solution it can shift our thinking. I was looking to the past so focused on the trauma of stuff and it impacts. Now I am more focused on a journey towards a solution.
Can there ever be a final painting, a solution,
I look at the pieces as offering a final destination for different and multiple people. I don’t know if I will be able to paint something and it be the final story with a solution. But each painting will provoke different people in different stages of their solution. They are meant to trigger you at that moment to start your journey in time. I don’t know if I could ever convey a final painting but that will be sick! If I could get my skills up there!
Photo courtesy of Ayo Dore-Waschuk
Interview and photography by Alexis Venerus
Additional photography by Ayo Dore-Waschuk
Follow Renaissance @__social__anti__