words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

Posts tagged “Philadelphia

Urban Contemplation 05

The city series….

The Door (Recovery Remix 2011)

Transformation: finding new places to find oneself

The door that leads from the city

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Urban Contemplation 04

The city series….

Across the River the City that Sleeps with Dreams….

The city that sleeps with dreams


Urban Contemplation 03

The city series….

Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility (Recovery Remix 2011)

8 a.m.

tell me the lies

say that you love me

come back to haunt me

for days without end

and nights without rest

the bittersweet siren call

the addict’s sad song

3 a.m.

This post is dedicated to a dear friend, may he rest in peace. It was his kind, centered, and wise words that showed me the way to a better tomorrow.


Urban Contemplation 02

The city series….

The Playground (Recovery Remix 2011)….

Take me away from the place where all this started…this desire.

The playground


How Can I know If You Believe In Me (a short reprise)

on a sea of glass

a reflection of what you believe

is it me

or my imagination

that is dreaming

believing in

the beautiful times gone by

and forgotten moments

now and forever

— for us

Now and forever believe in me


Life on the Edge of Nothingness

Remove yourself from the painful past and uncertain future

Sometimes in the waking we often remember that life exist with its
own set of difficulties. It seems as if we are living in perpetual change and in
transitional states of being. We are confronted with interpersonal
relationships that need our undivided attention, support, and unwavering love—while
simultaneously we must seek solutions to a world struggling with civil,
political and social unrest. It is a monumental task at times to remove oneself
from the painful past and an uncertain future. But for the sake of the communities
we live in, and our children—we must
take that leap of faith i.e. believe in something greater than ourselves,
struggle against all odds, and see beyond living on the edge of nothingness.

This piece entitled “Remove Yourself from the Painful Past and
Uncertain Future” is a reminder of how we must move from one place to another
throughout our lives, both figuratively and literally. Sometimes there is pain involved in that move. I created this piece
back in 2003 when I was going through a period of personal change, and
recollection. It was one of a series of works that reflected on a transitional time
in my life, where I needed to migrate both physically and emotionally. Part of
that process was a physical move from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.
The other part of that move was internal—from a place on the edge of nothingness—to
a place on the edge of everything….

I found that a place on the edge of everything is a beautiful place indeed.


The Fun House @ Highwire Gallery: 1991 / Dreaming in Future Tense / a 2011 remix

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“Sometimes we turn the pages in the Book of Memories and come to remember the children who dream in future tense”…..

The Highwire Gallery production of The Fun House
workshop began in March 1991 at the Sayre Morris Community Center in West
Philadelphia and concluded with a performance in May. Funded by the PA Council
on the Arts, the goal was to bring together a group of children and introduce
them to the arts. Our focus would be on dance, performance, music and the visual
arts. Another important part of the workshop was for it to be a community
service, which merged different ethnic backgrounds and communities. For the
eleven girls who participated in the workshop, the hope was to inspire personal
challenges and the pursuit of their dreams. Everyone involved, the artists of
Highwire Gallery, the kids, Empress our musical director, Sandra Lynn our choreographer,
and “DADA” (Dancers Against Drug Abuse) met the challenge and worked hard to
make the program a huge success.

How do we encourage our children to dream, a dream that
inspires, enriches and motivates them to reach for the sky, and to touch just one of the millions of snowflakes that
can be found in the realm of possibilities? How do we lead them by the hand,
through the garden of hopes and dreams?

The Kids at Sandy Beach 2011

I think we do it one child at a time, one school at a time, one
project at a time, and as one community. Children love to discover, and be creative.
I strongly believe that the arts will provide them with the tools they will need for exploring their
imagination and giving birth to their dreams.

What do you feel is our children’s greatest need? What resources in our society would you like to see be provided for the well being and growth of our children? Do you believe that the arts, especially at a young age, is a vital tool for encouraging creative thinking and problem solving?

What do you think?

Select the link below for a dream-like journey into a contemporary child’s lullaby.

http://youtu.be/p3HGyXa0mjM

Winter Poem by Nikki Giovanni 

once a snowflake fell

on my brow and i loved

it so much and i kissed

it and it was happy and called its cousins

and brothers and a web

of snow engulfed me then

i reached to love them all

and i squeezed them and they became

a spring rain and i stood perfectly

still and was a flower

— Author and poet Nikki Giovanni

From “The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni”

And last but not least in this journey of dreams…a short animation.

http://youtu.be/e-sj8_UvD2A


Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / Resolution and Redemption

http://youtu.be/6Gc0oD7okEk

Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / Resolution and Redemption was first conceived as a collaborative project with video artist Walter Smith and fellow artist / singer / actor and friend, Ronald Freeman in 1994. The emotional impetus for the project was the ever increasing urban decay surrounding us in Philadelphia. Through substance abuse, drug warfare, and a rapid deterioration of its infrastructure, we came to see our beloved city in a struggle for survival. The original song, Hunger for Holiness, which accompanied the original video was written and sang by Ronald. The composition sought to give insight to the problems and plight of the urban construct and hope for a better tomorrow. In this remixed version, a dreamlike jazzy trance score replaces the composition to create an otherworldly sense of ambiguity, but again hope.

Maybe Tomorrow a Better Possibility / A Self Portrait of Resolution and Redemption


30-Day Song Challenge: Day 14

30-Day Song Challenge: Day 14 asks the question what is “a song that no one would expect you to love”?

The song that inspired this post. Read the summary first, then view the video.

http://youtu.be/P237zpWbPRM    The Waterboys – Bang on the Ear 1988

Okay, you have to visualize this
true story to absorb the moment.

It is 1989 in the urban landscape
which is West Philadelphia. The streets are lined with row homes, some occupied,
others abandoned. The row homes cast deep, long, shadows onto the pavements
where the trees have long since been cut down. The shadows are created from the
orange florescent-crime prevention lights hanging ominously from above. I
remember distinctly when Philadelphia changed from ordinary street lamps to
these supposedly crime preventing monoliths.  There is an eerie glow and a surreal feeling
as I drive my 1987 Toyota MR2 towards the corner of 52nd and
Catherine Street.

It is the middle of summer and the
temperatures are in the low 8o’s at 2:30 a.m. It is hot and humid. There are
some young kids out playing in the streets, and I wonder why they aren’t in
bed. But this is Philly, and there is a never sleep embodiment that pervades.
There is also a contrasting sense of culture that sometimes invades places
unknown….

I am listening to the cassette
tape of The Waterboys and the song “Bang on the Ear”. My windows are down and
the volume is up. I approach the intersection and on my left a teen, dressed in
true urban, black, hip-hop gear, is standing smoking a joint. Our eyes connect
for a moment. I am waiting for the traffic light to change. It’s taking its
time, when all of a sudden the youth in rebellion jumps into a country square
dance. “Whoa”, I say to myself, “he is so cool and down by law”, as his arms and
legs move in perfect rhythm to the beat of the Waterboys pumping from my car.

It is a surreal moment indeed as
time stands still. I watch him, watching me, as he performs specifically for
me. The light changes, I smile, give him a thumb up and slowly pull off.

I will never forget that
encounter. It reminds me of how art and music transcends, transforms and
connects our different cultural backgrounds. In a moments’ notice we can be
swept away by something new, different and exciting.

Enjoy the song. It has the beat of life 🙂

p.s. “down by law” means “one who has authority” in urban slang.

Bonus Song

Billy Bragg – You Woke Up My Neighborhood 1991

You Woke Up my Neighborhood


Post Canvas and Paint 03: The Whipping Machine Acid Flex Dance Remix

The Whipping Machine Acid Flex Dance Remix 1989 / 2010

http://youtu.be/rvSKJjCkVx0  Youtube video

In continuing the Post Canvas and Paint series, I am presenting a video piece entitled The Whipping Machine Acid Flex Dance Remix 1989 / 2010. It is a video art abstraction created as a video segment of The Whipping Machine, a multi-media performance of modern dance theatre performed at The Painted Bride Art Center in June of 1989 in Philadelphia. Utilizing the Amiga 1000 computer and multi-layering soft and hardware effects, I explore the pulsating ambient rhythm of marbled abstraction. In this segment the video represents the mesmerizing intoxication and manipulation by the industrial complex on the masses. Today I am posting this piece as a reflection of our current political and economic struggles.

Stay informed and stand up to tyranny and deception.