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The Black Monks, formerly The Black Monks of Mississippi, has been a through line in Theaster Gates’ artistic practice. Their music is rooted in the Black music of the South, including the blues, gospel and wailings, but also linked to ascetic practices, related most closely to Eastern monastic traditions. It is an experiment around the specificity of Black sound and a way to give life to the abject everyday objects that Theaster Gates collects. The Black Monks often function as “amateur historians, senior docents, and non-sponsored bootleg preachers” expounding the word of art alongside the word of god. Through this gospel soul chant reverberation, Gates paints another picture of the potentialities within culturally specific but broadly received artistic practices. It is Gates’ body and the bodies of The Black Monks that help us understand that the black voice is a specific voice – even if the subjectivities of those voices are universal subjectivities.

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“People get to watch us get freer and freer and that is hopefully doing something that then allows them in their own ways to get free."

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