Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack and AKUA
“Sinnaman (Version 1)”
10 min 30 sec, 2020
Soundscape Composition by AKUA
Conceptual Performance Assemblage by Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack
‘Sinnaman’ is an audio-video work presenting the artist Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack in a stark performance led by an ethereal and emotional soundscape composition by AKUA. Daniel finds himself alone in a room with his own minimalist assemblage sculpture of rusted and gilded quotidian objects: a broken wooden chair with its seat topped by a trio of mop heads deeply dyed and painted in tones of charcoal, rust and cinnamon. He powerfully compels the viewer to follow a choreographed ritual in duet with his ever-transforming symbolic figure. The mood is built, set, released and shifted by AKUA’s soft, reverberating vocals before fading to an audio sample elucidating the botanical history, biology, and anatomy of the cinnamon (Sinnaman) plant.
The original music, sculpture and performance were conceptualized and composed in the beginning of June from each artists’ own place of quarantine. This work was created in the direct wake of the uprising that swelled across the country in reaction to the widespread videos of the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. During a time of unprecedented racial and political upheaval, as well as unimagined isolation, uncertainty and discord, these two Black artists, living in these current States, combine their creative voices to explore, process and cope with the racial and political turmoil permeating this tumultuous moment. Daniel said this of their collaboration, “Our essence has combined just like I always knew it would one day. We have lifted each other up.”
Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack
Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack is a completely self-taught artist. Gaitor-Lomack inherits and objectifies a conceptual art practice rooted in assemblage, installation and performance art; pushing depths of the physical and material while simultaneously creating a window of artmaking for the viewer to behold and travel through. His labor is a vessel at risk—bridging cultural histories and timeless influence with symbolic sculptures, site-specific performances, structures, artifacts, metaphor and poetics. This is a discipline encouraging the mind, blacking out conformity and slowing down the rapid sensory of it by expanding the destination of colors, forms and action. Gaitor-Lomack embodies the multiplicity of genre/medium, excavates language and communicates a zenith of nuanced realities, fantasies and universal relevance today.
In 2018, Daniel was a grant recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation (Los Angeles). Daniel physically exhibited in a traveling exhibition (BBQLA AFA) throughout the U.S., spanning three months, 14 states and 7,000+ miles. He’s exhibited at art fairs, artist-run, international, alternative, commercial and museum galleries such as: BBQLA, Night Gallery, ltd los angeles, LAXART, Transmission (U.K.), Torrance Art Museum, and NADA Miami. Recent honors include the 2020 NXTHVN studio fellowship in New Haven, CT, where Daniel is currently based.
AKUA is a Canadian-Ghanaian artist based in Los Angeles. Her career start was marked by the release of her debut EP 'One's Company' in 2013. The following year, AKUA was invited to tour as a backup singer for Solange and found herself performing on some of the world's most celebrated stages. It was during this chapter that AKUA contributed vocals to a range of other distinguished artists including Robyn, Dev Hynes/Blood Orange, Charli XCX, Chance the Rapper, Kindness and Dean Blunt.
In 2017, AKUA returned to writing and producing her original material, which culminated in the creation of her debut album ‘Them Spirits.’ Released in March 2019, the album is a seven-song monument to the experience of losing her father to cancer and the complex period of grief which ensued. Having written, recorded and produced the album largely on her own, AKUA released 'Them Spirits' independently and has since been shipping-out records worldwide from her second-floor apartment in Los Angeles.
How would you describe yourselves these days?
AKUA: Introspective, gestational, a little volatile/distrustful and pensive.
Daniel: Walking the streets with big brown bags of groceries in each arm, smiling proud, trying to get home safely.
What does "For the Love of LA" mean to you?
AKUA: I can’t say it means anything specific to me in this moment ...it’s a title I didn’t come up with.
Daniel: It’s evident. Love is where I rest my head. L.A. is who rubs it.
How did you get to know one another? And how has your relationship developed throughout this collaboration?
AKUA: Daniel and I originally met at the Underground Museum through a mutual friend years ago. We have mostly crossed paths in recent years when I’d go over to Daniel’s old apartment to rehearse with his then-roommate Anthony, a frequent musical collaborator of mine. Daniel had converted their apartment into a sort of live-in studio, so Anthony and I would basically be rehearsing surrounded by Daniel’s sculptural work, which was always a provocative backdrop. I’m a relatively private person so rehearsing in front of others is not my ideal, but I never minded that Daniel would overhear us. There’s always been a gentleness and trust between us. Between rehearsing, we’d always find time to chat about our lives and our work.
I have not found collaboration to be easy nor immediate in these last few months for a variety of personal reasons and, in that sense, communicating with Daniel during this project allowed me to connect on themes that I may have otherwise explored alone.
In our initial conversation Daniel and I connected on our response to the social and political climate and touched upon the ways we have, or have not, accessed our respective artistic practices to process, distract, explore or cope.
This collaboration felt like connecting with an old friend, a good listener, a friend who implicitly understands where you’re coming from.
Daniel: We met through a very special mutual friend. I still remember the night. The trust of our relationship has developed in ways. Our essence has combined just like I always knew it would one day. We have lifted each other up.
How do you think the work you've created reflects the time we're in?
AKUA: Certain themes which may feel specific to the COVID era (uncertainty, patience, economic insecurity) are actually quite intrinsic to the long-term realities of living and surviving as an artist. To live a life as an artist is to occupy the unknown…it challenges us to re-conceptualize and re-purpose uncertainty and fear as constant prompts rather than obstacles. Many of us are accustomed to creating within these uncertain and unsettling conditions and, in that sense, I’m not confident the collaborative work Daniel and I have created feels particularly specific to the time we’re in.
As it pertains to the black liberation movement and the current fight towards dismantling oppressive systems, again I believe our work could be generated from a variety of other moments in time. The themes that are at the forefront of our collective social consciousness at this moment are not remotely new to either of us. In fact, one of the motif’s I incorporated in this work was generated from lyrics I had written many years ago; it’s themes felt as-potent and relevant now as they felt for me years back when I put them to pen. There’s something both affirming and discouraging about the persistence of these themes. It is affirming in the sense that issues which I have felt angry or passionate about in the past are not imagined or hyper-inflated. At the same time, it's discouraging to listen to an old song of mine, or a resistance song from the 60s and feel like it was written for this exact moment. It is discouraging to literally hear how little has changed. We have praised ourselves as a society for change, which has proved largely superficial.
One element of this project which does reflects the time we’re in is the fact that we were specifically commissioned to collaborate and generate content to document and attest to the social reality we are occupying at this moment. We are living in a time where people are obsessed with documentation. We have an unusual preoccupation with being able to capture and capitalize on documenting our realities. In fact, we have learned that recorded evidence is a necessary requirement/prerequisite for our testimony to even be considered real. In a time where people can watch a video of a black person being lynched and still pose doubts about the value of their life, we’ve learned that documentation has become a sad necessity for so many. Written and visual documentation have historically been prioritized over oral histories, witness testimony and storytelling. It is not enough to tell; we have to show... for fear our lived realities will be further-erased.
From this knowledge means in many ways we are documenting out of duress or necessity more than we are documenting from our own free will or desire. Further, in a time where paid opportunities in the arts are especially scarce, we might have to create, document and generate content even when we might be less inclined.
Daniel: Just like the reflection, time can play tricks on you. In my opinion, what we create has always been here since the beginning of time.
Could you discuss some of the symbolism in "Sinnaman (Version 1)"? Akua, could you speak to some of the choices you made for the music? and Daniel, would you also like to elaborate on the quote you sent us along with the piece:
as I rise
It seams as sew,
I still can't break these underworld ties.”
AKUA: Prior to approaching the music for this project, Daniel sent me some written ideas and themes as prompts. One specific thing he wrote really resonated with me:
"The Black body falling in deep space, through stained glass ceilings, a calming shatter and then escaping the constraints of dark majesty and histories which plague it’s eternal destination. Where is that? What melody would charm our bones on the way there? Is there light? Is there vanity? Is there us? "
I liked this prompt to create a melody; a soundscape for this particular imagery, which is how I came up with the second motif you hear in the piece. When writing music, I’m most often attracted to creating sonic atmospheres, aural geographies that kind of place you in an imagined space. Daniel also made reference to "the underworld" and I liked the idea of creating a few different sonic works which could represent various metaphysical spaces or the space between different worlds or dimensions. I hadn’t necessarily imagined Daniel would respond to all three motifs I created, but after living with the material for a few days, he felt connected to all three. We agreed to fuse the ideas into a sequence that corresponded to the visual elements of the piece.
Daniel: It’s a sweet taboo. I believe the symbolism is still seeking itself after it has had its way with me.
What do you think the future looks like? And how do you see the arts contributing to it?
AKUA: I think younger generations are becoming more demanding AND simultaneously, more critically aware. This feels like a potent orientation for a lifetime of dissatisfaction if we don’t define what we’re working towards nor how to get there. Within this atmosphere of dissatisfaction, people will be searching for meaning and catharsis. They’ll be searching for new and creative outlets and approaches to address existing problems... and as always, that’s where the arts come in.
Daniel: Future is your breath on the cold glass window. Make your mark. The arts still have some learning to do. Look at the current state of art now and how it is manipulated as a form of hope and opportunity. The best form of giving is anonymous to anonymous.
What places in Los Angeles most inspire you?
AKUA: Anywhere in nature (my favorite trails and parks, etc.) but also my neighborhood in Koreatown where I live and where I also share a studio. It’s a mash up of so many types of people and families…high-population density and a pedestrian culture that feels very tangible and human, in a city that’s largely connected, and divided, by car culture and freeways. The overgrowth of Magnolia trees and wild flowers can distract from the sprawl of garbage and the expanding homeless population that’s expanded from being pushed out of Downtown LA. There’s intergenerational families, immigrants, young artists….incredible food spots on every unsuspecting corner with no frills or pretense…my favorite black hair supply store, Ma and Pa Zumba studios blasting Cumbia into the streets …..my neighborhood is the intersection of so many different cultures, economic backgrounds and ways of life. On its best and worst days, it always provokes me.
Daniel: That place where it’s dark and someone holds your hand along the way.
Do you have any future projects that you'd like to share with us?
AKUA: I’m always writing and recording and I’d like to think I’m working, albeit slowly, on another record. But priorities have been shifting a bit lately. I’m focusing on how to better improve my material reality at this immediate moment.
Daniel: Maybe I’ll become an international ally for artists of color worldwide.