An Interpretive Reading

Teddy Harris’s Work
—By Amiri Baraka

Teddy Harris’s work is the modernism of everyday perception and rationale. He makes works from vouchsafes and unrealized dreams, lies and advertisements for the nowheres. That is, he takes scraps of America North and threads them through his truthoscopic sensibility, for instance, pieces of newspapers, headlines, images from the diversity of our mostly grim experience, and he tells it to us again, and clearer.

Harris is a collagist, itself a modern form, and one that has been used to great advantage in pinning the political tale on the donkey, or elephant (or corrupt tiger, as the case may be, e.g. one of the greatest practitioners of the collage art for popular advantage, that is, to tell the truth, was the German collagist Heartfield, who actually pulled Hitler’s tail during the waning years of democracy in Germany. Right-wing politicians feared Heartfield (Herzfeld) because he used the collage to whack them sharply across the face, and lips, revealing their lies and evil to the people).

Harris, still a young man, has entered the collage with an astonishing clarity of form. The diverse pieces of reflected reality and unreality he thinks and pastes together create new images, replenishing our knowledge of the known, or making us aware of the unknown. There is a clarity and cleanness to his craftsmanship, which heightens the ideational projection the image sprays at us. At times, visual image actually seems to “say” out loud what maybe we know or need to know. Yet, he has put it together with an impressive display of knowledge about the medium he is using. There are no sloppy or half put together “slapdashes” which we must sympathetically take to the hoop with our political sympathies. Harris is a fine “auteur” (as the film magazines say, meaning, author, creator). And with this, the content, which, for me, is always principal, emerges bright and striking.

He tells about the peoples’ struggles, world wide, against oppression and exploitation. Our lives under racism and the twisted rule of capital. At times, the images he thrusts at us are sharp enough to make us wince, with understanding and recognition. Harris’ work is fundamentally about consciousness raising, and this is what art does. Mao say, “All art is propaganda, but not all propaganda is Art!” Harris’ work speaks to us truthfully, forcefully, and with great skill. You need to check it out!