Suck Teeth Compositions
3-channel, HD video installation with sound
16 x 9 format, 9:47 | 2018
This three-channel video and sound installation presents a choral symphony structured around the everyday Caribbean oral gesture of sucking teeth. Referred to variously as kiss teeth, steups, chups, and stchoops, to suck teeth is to produce a sound by sucking in air through the teeth, while pressing the tongue against the upper or lower teeth, with the lips pursed or slightly flattened. West African in origin, this verbal gesture is used to signify a wide range of feelings, including irritation, disapproval, disgust, disrespect, anger and frustration. Given that representations of African-American Blackness dominate and define mainstream understandings of the Black experience, when it comes to anti-black racism, most white Canadians are allowed to feel comfortable and are supported in their comfort by the historical and ongoing narratives of “not me,” “not us,” “only them, down there.” Suck Teeth Compositions is thus a response to the frustrations of living within this denial, and an expression of the anger and pain that many Black people often experience living in Canada, where we are always assumed to be better off, if not completely free of racism.
Installation Photo (Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 2019): Steve Farmer