Installation view, Theaster Gates: 13th Ballad, MCA Chicago, 2013. Photo: Nathan Keay, MCA Chicago.
The complexities of urban living are a recurring theme for you. What are some of your latest projects in this area?
I was given a bank building in Chicago to work with, and I decided to start a bank and an investment fund for the neighborhood that I live and work in. Greater Grand Crossing is a predominantly African-American community, and I want to use this abandoned architectural gem to think about the relationship between failed markets and new markets, “black space,” and cultural equity. The redeveloped space will become the Stony Island Arts Bank. It will house a library from Johnson Publishing Company [publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines], a culinary-training program, exhibition and performance space, and space to just hang out.
I have also been thinking a lot about bricks—how they are manufactured and their history in relationship to architecture, labor, design, and aesthetics. As a result of my ongoing project Soul Manufacturing Corporation [an exhibition where “skilled makers” produce “things” in a factory space], we are amassing a number of handmade bricks. I want to think more about how these systems are created, and I want to put both the systems and the resulting objects to good use.
I also think that my experimental performance ensemble [the Black Monks of Mississippi] should make more music in the city. Maybe a storefront church or a small speakeasy that lives in the ’hood.