“Anise remains in the neighborhood as it changes and eventually undergoes another wave of gentrification – the one we are experiencing now.”
Social practice artist Aisha Cousins used House #8A to invite the public in helping her write a collectively generated story titled, “If This, Then That: Collective Writings on the Personal Woes, Discoveries, and Periodic Upsides of Gentrification as Experienced by One Native New Yorker Named Anise.” The house contained bits of historical context throughout, as well has some excerpts of Anise’s tale as written by Cousins, and visitors moved from room to room, contributing by writing on the walls as well as inside blank books designed and distributed by Cousins.
Aisha Cousins writes performance art scores (flexible, do-it-yourself instructions for live art projects) or as she likes to call them “recipes for beautiful moments.” Her scores engage black audiences in exploring their contrasting histories and aesthetics (ideas of beauty), while processing their shared sociological shifts (changes in society). Her work has been performed independently on the streets of historically black neighborhoods from BedStuy to Brixton, as well as with institutions such as Weeksville Heritage Center, Project Row Houses, the Museum Of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, and MoMA PS1.
Recent awards and artist residencies include The Franklin Furnace Fund, Rema Hort Mann Foundation’s ACE Grant, and The Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (administered by Brooklyn Arts Council) for the Soulville Census 2015; BRIC’s Fireworks Residency with Greg Tate and his band Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber (Cousins created a series of scores which explore gentrification through lens of black trickster folktales. Then she engaged Brooklynites in doing the scores and merged their comments into a play which Tate built up on to create a stage performance titled Brer Rabbit the Opera: A Funk Meditation on Gentrification); and The Laundromat Project’s Create Change Residency in BedStuy for Mapping Soulville: The Bedstuy Remixes.
Cousins is currently working on a series of scores about black life during the Obama era. You can view artifacts from the 365 day performance, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Could Not Understand which inspired this series in the Brooklyn Museum’s online collection.