Rashaad Newsome's Black Magic reflects on 'blackness' in innovative art exhibit

A little Black Magic is coming to Philadelphia, in a project that mixes contemporary art with futuristic technology

Black Magic is an art project comprised of three elements. The first is an exhibition titled To Be Real, which uses artificial intelligence to create an interactive experience.

"This animation is called Being, and it's the first generation of an AI, "explains Rashaad Newsome, a multidisciplinary artist who is the creator of the Black Magic project, "It's nonbinary; it's not raced."

But the cloud-based creation does talk.

"I will be your guide to Rashaad's project," Being says.

You can use the Snapchat app to activate some of Newsome's works through a custom augmented reality lens.

"Put your phone up to the artwork, and it will come to life," Newsome says.

The second part of Black Magic is The Champion Ball, a vogue, performance competition that brings together the LGBTQ ballroom community and leaders in art, music, fashion and activism.

"I really wanted my Ball to really be about the power of the imagination," Newsome says. "In order to participate, you have to sort of learn about an artist's work and try to kind of recreate that on the ballroom floor."

The artist for the runway category is Mickalene Thomas.

"So you kind of have to create a look that has a lot of patterns and have big Rapunzelesque hair," Newsome says.

The third element, called FIVE, features local artists.

"Taking vogue performance, which is something that started in Harlem in the Bronx from the black and Latinx community," Newsome says, "and then turning it, that physical dance, into a physical object using technology."
That technology renders drawings in real time on a screen above the stage.

"I created my own motion-tracking software," Newsome says. "And so as the performers dance, they sort of become my pen, and they're drawing with their bodies."

Musicians and vocalists also provide an improvised soundtrack.

With the project, Newsome explores issues of gender and blackness and says he hopes viewers use the experience to "really kind of lean into the power of the imagination because when you have an imagination, you really can't be stopped."

Black Magic | To Be Real exhibition

Through November 30, 2019

The Champion Ball | Reserve Tickets
November 16, 8pm | Admission is free but tickets must be reserved

Five | Tickets
November 23, 8pm

Philadelphia Photo Arts Center
1400 N American St #103, Philadelphia, PA 19122
215-232-5678
Copyright © 2019 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.