BLACK BOX ATLANTA / “EMERALD SPRINGS”
Black Box is an experiment with space, creativity and reclaiming a sense of self and belonging in the world. While its eventual focus is on joining people of African descent who have long been divided by space, time and secrecy, its current iteration focuses on encouraging creatives to engage with endangered spaces and form stronger bonds. This secret garden, which empties out to a large lake behind a public park, is the first step in this project. Over the past few months, I have bathed it in love and attention, on an individual level and then by introducing others to the space to create, explore and dream together. As the weeks continued, I’ve begun to pick up trash in the adjacent blocks, remove invasive species to uncover more of the original stonework, establish relationships with members of the community, and adopt the park as my own personal refuge, while encouraging others to do the same.
Meeting people from the neighborhood has brought up several interesting stories about the space, like it having been covered in kudzu for decades, and built in the 1950s as a gift from a wealthy man to his mistress. The truth of the park comes in second to its beauty and the wonder it evokes. Currently, the big unanswered question is what lays in the mass of kudzu just beyond the park?
Forgotten areas like this one are often easier to destroy than restore. But the practice of existing within these spaces, and seeing them as community areas that all have a right to and may invest in breathes new life into both the spaces and ourselves.
POp-Up #1 / OCTOBER 14, 2018
This was not meant to be the first Black Box, but it had been gestating for so long, it gave birth to itself. A friend and I discussed inviting a couple of musicians to the park, who in turn invited a couple of musicians, and it grew from there. Creative workstations were set up around the park to encourage painting, writing, drawing, photography, tarot, reading, musicianship, and community. I dressed in an outfit I later realized to be embodying the archetype of Pan, and spent most of the time setting out and lighting candles. The musicians were in their own sacred space. Wielding the camera, but outside of the space of pure documentation, I swept through the park, quickly capturing what was taking place before getting back to my role as caretaker of the space. At dusk, we walked the path together to a large lake behind the park, the musicians touting wind instruments. We split paths as I returned to straighten up, and they meandered, finally finding their way back to the park. Our individual processes of navigating time and space catapulted us from city life to working with nature, releasing control, and surrendering to the process. The lit candles, becoming brighter in relationship to the darkness, were blown out one by one. Minuscule ancestors, watching over us all.
Several vases of flowers were left in the park, along with a heavy ceramic bowl that contained water the musicians played around. The next day, when I went to clear trash from the park, the vases were stacked, flowers thrown in the trash, and the heavy ceramic bowl was broken and stacked next to a pile of vases. It instilled a sense of fear with me, reminding me of a childhood memory of building treehouses that neighbors marked “go home _____” in black marker. This private space for our childhood reveries, defiled. The initial fear gave way to a sense of empowerment, go back to this space, overcome it, see where facing fear takes you.
Instead of shying away from continuing Black Box, at the next one, these broken pieces were set where the whole bowl once was, as a reminder of strength and unification. Even when we are broken, split, our pieces scattered across the world, we come from one massive whole, so threatening, some would rather destroy it than let it be.
POp-Up #2 / OCTOBER 21, 2018
Spiritual photographers seemed to be the theme for this Black Box. We all engaged with the space from a place of acknowledging the land, our ancestors, and honoring our spiritual traditions. All three of us sat in the circle, wandered, and greeted friends and strangers that we found along the way. The conversation inside the circle was so beautiful and illuminating, and though it went untaped, stays in my soul.
Why as adults, are we afraid of bravely marching out into the world? Why do we look towards America as the only home for we who have existed here for centuries as people of African descent, always fighting for our “rights”? How aware are we of the effects of her centuries-long disregard for our lives, our needs, our truths? When do we embrace our own freedom, totally?
Together we walked to the lake, cameras in tow, diverging and converging, filled with laughter, wonder, and inspiration. The photographs below represent our collective journey.
Bottom row photographs by Saudade Toxosi (b/w) and Adinah Morgan
POP-UP #3 / OCTOBER 28, 2018
This edition was a couple of days before setting off into the ocean (for work.) On the front end of it, I felt a bit of hesitancy to do the required things, the set-up, the inviting, facing the idea of what it takes to grow something, and the fortitude to remember that the seed is in the ground, even if the sprout hasn’t emerged. This led to me running late on the set-up side until my lovely fairy friend swooped in on her bike, and asked if she could help. I asked her to cut and place flowers, only to find out that she had spent time arranging flowers for awhile. It is interesting how things like that always seem to line up.
Another pixie friend arrived, and it started to become clear that the attendees on this day were all tied to health, women, and travel. She noticed something on the ground, and it was the strangest animal with what seemed to be a face on its butt. Just a regular ole caterpillar with an adaptation for protection, but it was one of the stranger land animals I’d ever seen.
Before this date, I did a small amount of tidying up of the invasive species (kudzu and english ivy) and swept away masses of leaves from the steps. Emerald Springs began to come to life even more in this regard. As we passed the swimming pool overgrown with rocks, a friend pointed out that its shallowness signaled that it must have once been a koi pond. Imagining koi swimming in the back while the fountains cascaded in the front was incredibly heartwarming.
KAT PICS! (below)
AN EXPERIENCE / NOVEMBER 6, 2018
After being at sea, and all that it entailed, I returned to Emerald Springs, having missed the first Sunday session since they began. It is always strange to return from the Caribbean to autumn beginning in Georgia, but the park wore fall in all her splendor. Being back was breathtaking, yet I felt called to spend more time at the lake than in the park itself. Arriving at the lake, a large bird sat in the middle of it. An egret, crane? I should live up to the last name Sibley and get to know my birds better. Sitting to observe the lake and crack open a fresh deck of tarot cards (yea, yea…hippie alert), the large bird began to circle the lake, each lap making tighter and lower circles. Deep feelings were stirred up in me, that I am still too ashamed to blog about, but it was incredibly moving. Eventually, I moved to another section of the lake, cloaked in her autumnal splendor, and sat on another space with stairstepped branches, to gaze upon the glimmer on the water. The egret/crane flew its circles again, but this time, the circle felt like it was around me. What a liberating feeling, to be in conversation with nature.
ART-IN INTEREST MEETING / 11.11.2018
The stakes got a little higher today, foregoing a gig to make a meeting, moving locations, using social media for invites. A productive walk and talk took place alongside a couple of curatorial and naturalist minds. Nothing beats discussing enlivening forgotten spaces on Remembrance Day. Beginning a plan for a springtime pop-up felt like a good way to bid the autumn pop-ups adieu and make way for the cold weather setting in. After the meeting, I swung by Emerald Springs, the lighting of the setting sun mixed with the bright yellows and oranges of the trees and the bold pink leaves near the lake were stunning. Two couples held hands by the lake, and it was lovely to think of them sharing with each other. The patterns that rippled across the lake were a little more magical than usual due to a duck’s erratic preening. A short visit, but equally as sweet.