LOW Museum founder and visual artist Pastiche Lumumba recently moved from Atlanta, GA to Brooklyn, NY. Hira Mahmood chatted with him about memes, ‘low culture’, and the aesthetics that turn him on.
I met Pastiche Lumumba in 2010. I was an undergraduate studying English and he was studying Studio Art. We met at an organizing meeting about budget cuts and formed an invaluable personal friendship. In recent years, we’ve worked together in more official capacities related to art.
Lumumba and I have worked together as both writers and co-curators, and much of our conversations have involved discussing the complexities of whiteness and colonial archival practices as seen in mainstream art institutions. Both of us, along with other creatives, explored these topics via the LOW Museum – a space dedicated to the critical engagement of contemporary “low” culture – which hosted art exhibitions, film screenings, group discussions, critiques, and more.
In addition to Lumumba’s curatorial work at the LOW Museum, he also works as an artist of mixed media and digital art, and is a self-identified memestress. Currently, Lumumba is living and working in Brooklyn with the Bruce High Quality Foundation. I chatted with him to see what he has been up to and share his thoughts with Mask.
Where were you born, and where are do you consider home?
I was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1988. Home? I grew up in Houston, Tanzania, Ft. Lauderdale, and then lived in Atlanta for 15 years so one geographic home isn’t really a thing for me. I joke about being from New York since I moved here but home is more of a feeling of community than a fixed location. The best way I can describe that feeling is meeting an internet friend IRL for the first time, randomly, in a city that neither of you live in.
What was your first experience with artistic tools or mediums?
I used to draw a lot as a kid because my mom did. When I started doing art as an adult it was with film and photography.
You conceptualized the LOW Museum as a space that would focus on contemporary ‘low’ culture. How did this space, as a concept, come to be?
I realized that a lot of the culture I was seeing on the Internet and in other major cities was largely absent from the discourse of art in Atlanta. The traditional stuffy white institution is exemplified by the ‘High Museum,’ so we were being ‘anti’ with the name, but also intentionally programmed digital work, political work, and events around identity politics.
You make your own memes, and you are currently teaching a class on memes. What do you think is useful about examining memes as it relates to experimental art, and blackness?
Memes are a very efficient vehicle for communicating a variety of concepts and feelings. They are relatively accessible from a production and consumption perspective. Memes rely structurally on similarity, vernacular, idioms, and so on, and because there are so many of them, it’s a great way to study patterns in culture. In regards to blackness, that’s a double-edged sword because black creativity thrives online but suffers from surveillance and appropriation. The experiment, for me, is archiving. It’s crucial that we create and preserve our own narratives. That’s the main goal of my class.
Recently I’ve been meme-ing about more personal stuff and subtweeting people and situations I’d rather not address explicitly. I’m always surprised at how relatable even the most specific of issues are.
Favorite songs you’ve listened to this week?
“20 Something” & “Garden (Say It Like That)” by SZA
“Riverdale” & “OG Kush Diet” by 2 Chainz
“Me or Us” by Young Thug
“In the Lassa” by Juana Molina
“Hands” by Father
Anyone that you miss right now?
You, Porscha, Theo, Jenessa, Brandon, Hollis, My Mom, My sisters, Quianah, Me.
What are some things that artists should be looking at or thinking about that they are not already?
How to react when you get dragged (accountability). Who your art is benefitting and/or harming.
What are some aesthetics that turn you on?
Black Twitter Handles always: black history lives on through these clever screen names, wholesome memes, and Fake Yeezy’s (because those cheap bootlegs actually do what Kanye set out to do, which is make the design accessible). The fashion industry is imploding, haha.
What’s an artwork you’ve seen recently that swept you off your feet?
Someone painted a picture of Joe Budden as Mojo Jojo and Migos as the PowerPuff Girls circling around his head. I wish there was a museum that was current enough with its programming to show that while it’s relevant. Her insta is @torimaniart.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Being queer/cute doesn’t excuse or erase your abusive or manipulative behavior. Respecting boundaries applies to everyone!