Romi (Ron) Morrison

Romi Ron Morrison is an interdisciplinary designer, artist, and researcher working across the fields of critical data studies, black feminist praxis, and cultural geography. Focusing on boundaries, social infrastructure, and community technology, their practice works to engage informal practices of knowing and representing space beyond modes of enclosure that capture land into property, people into subjects, and knowledge into data. From building open source platforms to upend the continued practice of solitary confinement to crafting community based archives to combat gentrification, their artistic practice investigates cartographies of ancestral intelligence, unassimilable data, algorithmic violence, and blackness. They have been a collaborator with design teams that implemented projects in New Orleans, Ghana, Colombia, Ethiopia, New York, and Venice and have had work exhibited at the American Institute of Architects New York, UN World Urban Forum, Tribeca Film Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Joan Mitchell Center, Recess Assembly Gallery, and Project Row Houses. Romi holds degrees in Psychology and Gender Studies, as well as a graduate degree in Design and Urban Ecologies from Parsons School of Design. They are currently an Annenberg PhD Fellow in the School of Cinematic Arts at USC in Los Angeles. Their current scholarly writing is invested in questions of cultural encryption, fugitivity, ungendered flesh, and black computational thought.

black : fact

black : fact is a meditation on the radical capaciousness of black flesh. Here, blackness stays in motion, evades containment, and troubles the inscriptions between things. Using the semi colon as punctuation, this short video essay takes up black feminist theorist Hortense Spillers conception of ungendered flesh. Spillers details the ways that the bodies of captured black slaves were dismembered from their corporeal agency and relegated to what she calls the flesh: “But I would make a distinction in this case between ‘body’ and ‘flesh’ and impose that distinction as the central one between captive and liberated subject positions. In that sense, before the ‘body’ there is the ‘flesh,’ that zero degree of social conceptualization that does not escape concealment under the brush of discourse, or the reflexes of iconography” (Spillers 1987, 67). Yet, the flesh is also a site of immense power and promise.

Flesh is not a site of the contained body, able to be managed disciplined, or measured. Instead flesh, troubles this boundary between things. It disrupts where you think you begin and I end. As the video plays, different markers of encoded language are placed on either side of the semi colon, provoking the viewer to make an associative connection between the left and the right side. These linguistic transitions begin to move faster and faster until the comparative logic falls out of time with the ticking clock and breaks down showing the limit of trying to contain or subjugate blackness into being knowable and measurable. This highlights the unsettling work that blackness does in showing beautiful ways to live otherwise, beyond normative performances of gender, sexuality, body, family, self, and nation.

This work pushes back against the ways that visual art often seeks to capture blackness, emphasizing the body as an exotic place, a place to purge, to covet, to dominate, to desire.

Spillers, H. J. 1987. “Mama’s baby, papa’s maybe: An American grammar book.” Diacritics 17 (2): 64–81. https://doi.org/10.2307/464747.