New Roots: Patreece McIntosh on Ikem Smith’s 2063

The NGJ recently staged an art writing workshop for its curatorial staff, which was presented by Nicole Smythe-Johnson. Here is the first of a series of short reviews that were produced during this workshop, written by Patreece McIntosh – a response to Ikem Smith’s 2063 music animation, which is currently on view in New Roots. Patreece is a Visual Communications graduate of the Edna Manley College and works as the NGJ’s Graphic Designer.

It depicts a blood red sky, absent buildings and not a single tree in sight. Against this post-apocalyptic background a dark figure is running, we don’t yet know why. It is a minute and fifty seconds of panic and confusion, the music becomes more intense and then abruptly there is an impact. He crashes to the ground with force, a firearm flashes across the screen and we now have our answer when we least expect it.

The death of the figure in Ikem Smith’s animated music video entitled 2063, and created fifty years earlier in 2013, is still quite mysterious though it is clearly implied what has happened to him. There are so many questions that can be asked; one can ask who he was, what he was doing before, where he was going to and who he was running from. The fact that the figure is unidentified makes it easy to imagine that it could be any of us and so these questions could be answered with a little imagination.

The animation suggests a future that is polluted and devastated. The iconic clock tower which flashes briefly at the beginning as well as the words of the song “…twelve o’ clock, midnight, Half Way Tree…” gives away the setting. It begins with a dark sky, the background gradually changes to red, revealing an environment which seems to be covered in enough smog to blot out the sun. The air seems polluted and maybe so is everything else. The environment is desolate, it seems that everything has turned to dust, possibly decimated by war or natural disaster. Pollution, corrosion and devastation, it could all be taken at face value; however it could also speak to the current state of our governance, our economy and the direction we are heading in as a country – questions which were particularly acute during Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, to which the video seems to allude.

The song itself is quite heavy, packing a few more pounds than the video itself: by the time the background fully turns red, the lyrics ring out “…A nuh IMF fault seh wi licky licky, we too wanga gut too wanga belly….”.  It is a pretty provoking statement and this is obviously political. It jabs at a history and a present that is saturated with greed, the radius of this topic however is much too large to be explored here. I would urge a spectator to really consume the lyrics of this song.

This piece provides many different experiences within a very short time frame. It has the power to suspend, it is mysterious, it is disturbing and it definitely has impact. The lyrics of the song provide a sort of back story to the piece and the piece simply isn’t effective without it. This animation however feels somewhat incomplete but complete in its own right; because the truth is there is something real about its incompleteness that resonates with our state of being in this country.

Click here for more on Ikem Smith and his work in New Roots

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