Reflections on McCallum Tarry by Dr. Anthony Neal

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Awkwardly enough, when I walked through and passed by the McCallum Tarry exhibit, Intersections the sound of Jimi Hendrix performing “Machine Gun” at the Fillmore East back in 1969-1970 kept playing over and over in my head. At first glance, one might wonder why. Are not these two things disparate realities in space and time? I probably would have thought in a similarly manner if I had not been told that the artists, McCallum and Tarry, did not want to provide labels or a narrative for their work so as not to diminish the affective meanings inherent in the work.

McCallum Tarry is about race and it is not. Its very meaning coincides with what I call the “fictive insanity.” Fictive insanity means that race is ubiquitous and amorphous simultaneously. When I listen to Hendrix’s "Machine Gun," am I listening to a live concert or am I listening to a sermon? Scientists have concluded that there is no biological basis for race. The McCallum Tarry work has a similar conclusion. Within the work, race is ubiquitous and amorphous simultaneously. When I listen to Hendrix do I hear a guitar and drums playing notes and chords or do I actually hear bombs and machine gun fire?

The exhibit confirms that there is no biological basis for the social and political construct that we know as race. This includes skin color. This also includes the texture of one’s hair. It is here that we find intersections. It is here where we find community. After all, Hendrix stated in "Machine Gun," “Evil Man make me kill ya…Evil Man make you kill me…Evil Man make me kill you…Even though we’re only families apart.”


Dr. Anthony Neal, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, has been a professor in the Department of Political Science at Buffalo State College for the past 25 years. His teaching and research interests include President Barack Obama, African American political culture, African international relations, the American presidency, Congress, and political metaphor. Dr. Neal will spend the Spring 2013 semester on sabbatical in order to further his research on the first four years of the Obama Administration.

Dr. Neal is also a published poet and photographer. In addition to written poetry, Dr. Neal is an accomplished spoken word artist. Since becoming a member of the Buffalo State community, Dr. Neal is a regular contributor to magazine and has used his multiple talents and interests to craft a novel approach to the study of Political Science and a unique presentation of politics within the classroom. His latest spoken word collaboration has been with Ras Jomo of Healing Hands in a three night Ujimaa Theatre presentation of Africa: Spirit and Sound. This performance is also slated for Montreal, Canada and Jamaica.