Christopher Burch “Somethings ..are (In) the Way of Things”

Christopher Burch’s visual works  combine drawing, painting, flocked damask wallpaper, hand painted silver serving trays, and sculpture to create a haughntinlgy surreal full scale site specific installations. The results are conflating landscapes in which historical, socio-economic and political forces that have shaped and continue to shape American racial geographies, teeter on the edge of madness.
Something in the Way of Things, written by Amiri Baraka in 2008, is a disturbingly subtle and dark social commentary probing an existential crisis within the African American experience due to the inability to fully synthesize historical and contemporary racial tensions and realties .  Memory and testimony (ultimately language itself) become metaphors for seeing or the inability to see. Baraka exposes, that the borders between visibility (to see, to articulate ones experiences) and invisibility (to not see, to not be able to articulate ones experiences) are at times schizophrenic.Burch’s project  for the TNF A.I.R residency is entitled “Somethings ..are (In) the Way of Things”. During the months of January 2012 and February 2012 Burch will build a full scale, on site,  installatioon/environment re-interpreting Amiris Baraka’s poem “Something in the Way of Things.”Accompanying the installation of work within the Luggage Store Annex,  the residency will also incorporate  literary performances and dance pieces held in the Tenderloin National Forest itself. These performances and recitals will address various personal interpretations of the poem “Something In the Way of Things.”(Hours: Daily 12-5, closed Mondays)


Christopher Burch lives and works in San Francisco CA.  He received his BFA at Columbia College in Columbia Missouri, in 2002 and his MFA at the San Francisco Art Institute in 2008. He is also a founding member of the Screwed Arts Collective based out of St. Louis MOChristopher’s, aim is to create a visual language that captures the ectoplasmic echoes existing between laughter and death, the space between erasure and presence, the conflict between the singular and multiplicity, the uncanny ability of the comedic to show the vulnerable, the horrific, the morbid, the schizophrenic, and the ghostly, all at the same blurring moment in time.
Below is a poem that inspired Christopher:

In town

By Amiri  Baraka

Something in the way of things

Something that will quit and won’t start

Something you know but can’t stand

Can’t know get along with

Like death

Riding on top of the car peering through the windshield for his cue

Something entirely fictitious and true

That creeps across your path hallowing your evil ways

Like they were yourself passing yourself not smiling

The dead guy you saw me talking to is your boss

I tried to put a spell on him but his spirit is illiterate

I know things you know and nothing you don’t know

‘cept I saw something in the way of things

Something grinning at me and I wanted to know, was it funny?

Was it so funny it followed me down the street

Greeting everybody like the good humor man

But an they got the taste of good humor but no ice cream

It was like dat

Me talking across people into the houses

And not seeing the beings crowding around me with ice picks

You could see them

But they looked like important Negroes on the way to your funeral

Looked like important jiggaboos on the way to your auction

And let them chant the number and use an ivory pointer to count your teeth

Remember Steppen Fetchit

Remember Steppen Fetchit how we laughed

An all your Sunday school images giving flesh and giggling

With the ice pick high off his head

Made ya laugh anyway

I can see something in the way of our selves

I can see something in the way of our selves

That’s why I say the things I do, you know it

But its something else to you

Like that job

This morning when you got there and it was quiet

And the machines were yearning soft behind you

Yearning for that nigga to come and give up his life

Standin’ there bein’ dissed and broke and troubled

My mistake is I kept sayin’ “that was proof that God didn’t exist”

And you told me, “nah, it was proof that the devil do”

But still, its like I see something I hear things

I saw words in the white boy’s lying rag

said he was gonna die poor and frustrated

That them dreams walk which you ‘cross town

S’gonna die from over work

There’s garbage on the street that’s tellin’ you you ain’t shit

And you almost believe it

Broke and mistaken all the time

You know some of the words but they ain’t the right ones

Your cable back on but ain’t nothin’ you can see

But I see something in the way of things

Something to make us stumble

Something get us drunk from noise and addicted to sadness

I see something and feel something stalking us

Like and ugly thing floating at our back calling us names

You see it and hear it too

But you say it got a right to exist just like you and if God made it

But then we got to argue

And the light gon’ come down around us

Even though we remember where the (light or mic) is

Remember the Negro squinting at us through the cage

You seen what I see too?

The smile that ain’t a smile but teeth flying against our necks

You see something too but can’t call its name

Ain’t it too bad y’all said

Ain’t it too bad, such a nice boy always kind to his motha

Always say good morning to everybody on his way to work

But that last time before he got locked up and hurt, real bad

I seen him walkin’ toward his house and he wasn’t smiling

And he didn’t even say hello

But I knew he’d seen something

Something in the way of things that it worked on him like it do in will

And he kept marching faster and faster away from us

And never even muttered a word

Then the next day he was gone

You wanna know what

You wanna know what I’m talkin’ about

Sayin’ “I seen something in the way of things”

And how the boys face looked that day just before they took him away

The is? in that face and remember now, remember all them other faces

And all the many places you’ve seen him or the sister with his child

Wandering up the street

Remember what you seen in your own mirror and didn’t for a second recognize

The face, your own face

Straining to get out from behind the glass

Open your mouth like you was gon’ say somethin’

Close your eyes and remember what you saw and what it made you feel like

Now, don’t you see something else

Something cold and ugly

Not invisible but blended with the shadow criss-crossing the old man

Squatting by the drug store at the corner

With is head resting uneasily on his folded arms

And the boy that smiled and the girl he went with

And in my eyes too

A waving craziness splitting them into the jet stream of a black bird

Wit his ass on fire

Or the solomNOTness of where we go to know we gonna be happy

I seen something

I SEEN something

And you seen it too

You seen it too

You just can’t call it’s name