Zody Burke (b.1991, Manhattan) is an American multimedia artist and musician who is currently living and working in Tallinn, Estonia.
She creates cyphers through sculpture and sound, through which to cartograph the complexity of American identity within late capitalism, and interface world-building with geological time.
Her material practice ranges from large-scale sculpture to ceramic high-relief to experimental music, illustration, video, and fiber work. Post-pandemic, she has recently begun to show work around Europe and the United States.
“The fatal weakness of manifestos is their inherent lack of evidence…
Manhattan’s problem is the opposite: it is a mountain range of evidence without manifesto.”
Rem Koolhaas - Delirious New York (1994)
I am an American who is invested in exploring the myopic amnesia and the persistent sense of loss that is exclusive to America. While operating within a system where all information is supremely available, I seek out the blind spots that are glazed over, where culture lags and re-inflicts its own tragedies.
As a born and raised New Yorker, I am constantly surrounded by popular fantasies that provide alternative images to the New York that exists.
New York is the product of an unformulated movement. It is the Rosetta Stone for the 21st century and the confluence of American Dreams made into reality. Navigating history and coming into the present manifesto-less, or with at least a manifesto as opaque as “give me liberty or give me death” has ushered us into terminally crushing neoliberalism, where the desires of the urban subconscious have emerged as lifestyle brands and cultural inclusion systems based solely on the exchange of capital. It is difficult for a millennial to remember or even imagine a New York before all of its culture was systematically purchased, robbed of its substance, packaged and sold back with a huge mark-up.
I spend a lot of time talking with anyone who will engage me about the ephemerality of being a New Yorker, and by extension of being an American. I leave frequently and for long periods of time and I’m not sure why.
In 2017 I traveled to Greece and spent some months volunteering at an anarchist crisis center to aid incoming Syrian refugees. There I was fortunate to be allowed access to a different and complex critical lens through which to view America, one I never encountered in many uncounted years of casually complicit existence.
I hop freight trains and ride them across the country because a homeless teenager told me once that freight riding is “the last real freedom in a first world nation”. This freedom to me looks something like watching cranes, both of the avian and the construction vehicle variety, moving across a vast and endless garbage dump, the former adrift like seraphic carrion crows, the latter resembling illuminated beasts of antiquity, pitching tons of plastic effortlessly into the air with metal limbs, which radiate gold in the first light of dawn, disappearing as fleeting specters through the trees as the melancholic steel howl of the train suddenly whips me elsewhere, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Why is the impulse to travel to that canonic elsewhere in order to discover “what Americanhood is” so deeply rooted in American cultural identity? Nowhere else in the world are the progenitors of culture psychically required to undergo some sort of white-washed ‘vision quest’ as the Beat generation and their legacy of macho adventurism, which itself was gleaned from America’s colonial roots of westward expansion; an omnipresent shadow in the emotional cartography of this country. Joseph Campbell writes on the ubiquitous archetype of the hero who leaves, gains wisdom and returns – are the Americans trying to be heroes?
Art exists where language fails. I am interested in taking back language from the corporations that have colonized it. Working with video, language, illustration, sound, sculpture and performance, I seek to establish that societal concepts of identity and symbolism, particularly in the context of Americanhood, are as tenuous as we see to craft them. I would like to try to cauterize the wounds of capitalism and colonialism which have festered into a uniquely American amnesia. As a millennial artist encapsulated within the contemporary, it is naturally my goal to plot out our relationships with hyperconnectivity and the increasing degree of mutability on all fronts of contemporary society. I aim to extend my spatial and linguistic cinema to cartograph the complexity and absurdity of the modern arena, violence, and the banality of that which cannot be made truth or falsehood.