OBA: OUR BETTER ANGELS
In this project, Laster took a group of young rappers from their hometown of La Courneuve in France to Harlem, New York, a neighborhood known for its social complexity and musical heritage. The exchange between the French and Harlem rappers produced a number of exciting connections that eventually led all the way to the White House and the production of a series of films, photos and other materials destined for the construction of a large-scale exhibition.
NEW YORK, 20 FEB – 4 MAR, 2010 – Eight rappers and two bloggers from La Courneuve spent two weeks in New York City and Washington D.C. as part of a special exchange program organized by artist Monte Laster, the F.A.C.E. Association and the Harlem Biennale of Contemporary Art. While in the U.S. these young men explored topics that included contemporary art, the influences of American music: jazz & hip-hop, urban planning, the economic crisis, immigration and the Obama presidency. They also performed and recorded their music and participated in various workshops, collaborating with several non-profit organizations, schools and universities. This work led to a visit to the White House and a film created by the rappers entitled First Personal.
OBA II is the second phase of the OBA project. The components of this project are presented below.
LA COURNEUVE, 2011 - As a result of the success of the first phase, FACE had the opportunity to produce this next phase, only this time from the perspective of Harlem. Abiodun Oyewole, considered as one of the founding fathers of hip-hop and slam, joined a group of young spoken-words artists from Harlem as they came to La Courneuve. They participated in a variety of planned events, producing works of their own and interacting with people who, though across the ocean, share an urban community of a similar complexity to Harlem.
The OBA project provides a framework for how these young people of mixed nationalities work together and provides a purpose for their work. The engaging relationships which have ensued as a result of OBA I, have already been extraordinary. OBA has engaged the collaboration of governments, politicians, media, universities and more. The final works of art created through the still ongoing OBA will result in a fascinating story destined for the construction of a large-scale exhibition.
This project is funded by the US Embassy in Paris, The French Ministry of Culture, The City of La Courneuve, and private donors.
FAMILY OF POETS
April 7th-15th, 2012 - OBA II / The Family of Poets is a project conceived by artist Monte Laster and produced under the direction of FACE and Quancard Contemporary Art. It consists of a series of documentary videos, photographs, poems, musical creations, artistic interventions and sculptures. Each piece reflects on themes of education, violence, imitation, belief systems, immigration and the concept of what a "masterpiece" is in today's context. The project links commonalities found between Harlem, New York and La Courneuve, France — each famous for its strong urban cultures, social dynamics, bad-boy image and political influence.
As a journey from the perspective of Harlem in Paris, OBA II / The Family of Poets follows the experience of 8 young poets formed under the direction of Laster. This group will travel to Paris in April 2012 to perform original pieces commissioned by Laster within the context of OBA. Performances will take place in La Courneuve, the Louvre Museum, Chateau de Versailles, Saint-Eustache Church, and for the grand re-opening of the Palais de Tokyo museum. The poets received training and mentoring from legendary poet Abiodun Oyewole of the Last Poets and urban-word artist Mikal Lee (aka. Hired Gun).
Sister-school program from October 2010 to June 2011.
A sister school program was implemented between the Joliot-Curie Elementary School of La Courneuve and the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School of Harlem. A collection of "urban fairytales" will be created on video by young children in both schools and then shared over the internet between them. The Family of Poets will work with the rappers of OBA I, Laster, and the children of Harlem. Stories and videos will be shared through a blog. The Family of Poets traveling from Harlem to La Courneuve will be the first physical link between the schools.
Participation in the Workshops/Performances from October 2010 to June 2011
Art residency in La Courneuve : June, 2011.
Abiodun Oyewole oversaw and critiqued the work of the Family of Poets in Harlem. Oyewole also did an artist residency in La Courneuve, where he worked in collaboration with Laster on a video about the urban atmosphere. He contributed a text that is in juxtaposition with Laster’s images of the city. The residency gave him the opportunity to explore The Last Poets’ legacy and its impact on the local community as a paradigm for the global influence of hip-hop.