Ray Anthony Barrett:
Go Tell It on the Mountain
On View
Dispatches from the Western Wild

Vol. 1: Libertas (Joshua Tree, January 17, 2021)

Vol. 2: Imperium (Bombay Beach, February 3, 2021)

Dispatches from the Western Wild, the first iteration of a series of programs by Ray Anthony Barrett, is an online journal written over the course of four months while he completes an expedition across the American West. These Dispatches—reflections on genealogies, sustainability, ecologies, and the varied landscapes of the Western wild—document the shared histories of forced migration of Black and Native American people and serve as an ongoing rumination on this months-long passage traversing both familiar and unfamiliar land. Ray's reflections are rooted in both a personal endeavor towards liberation and an historical inquiry into complex questions of identity and landscapes of survival, resilience, and revival.


A note on Vol. 1: This is a personal account and includes descriptions of addiction and relapse, as well as suicide and suicidal ideation. There is also a brief mention of the historical violence enacted upon Indigenous women. If you or someone you know might be having thoughts of either relapse or suicide, there are many resources available online, including:

60 Digital Resources for Addressing Substance Use Disorders, Addiction, and Recovery
Speaking of Suicide Resources

Ray Anthony Barrett: Go Tell It On the Mountain is a newly commissioned project organized by Active Cultures, which traces the artist and chef's months-long journey across the varied landscapes of Western states. Through a multifaceted project—spanning writing, research, film, and cooking—and which unfolds over the course of a year, Ray explores how the shared histories of forced migration of Black people and tribal nations have defined American cuisine. It is through the lens of foodways and food justice that his line of inquiry takes form: namely, to examine the many reverberations of white supremacy, and the pernicious effects of "Manifest Destiny," a colonial project that continues to affect the Black and Native American experience. Ray investigates particular Indigenous North American and Black American agricultural practices, food staples, cooking techniques, and preparation. His resulting diaristic accounts in Dispatches from the Western Wild, and his experimental film Go Tell It On the Mountain, are conceived as meditations on how these practices have indelibly shaped what we understand to be American food, and how they contextualize ecologies and complicate singular narratives of the Western landscape. In each of the programs in this project, Ray pays particular attention and care to the many ways that land informs notions of identity and conceptions of food.

As Ray continues his journey in 2021, he and his production partner Rusty Baldwin will document the trip, while Ray accumulates photographs and archives that will serve as a source of material for this series of upcoming programs. The resulting artist film, writings, and public programs interrogate the relationships between food, ecology, and agriculture to reveal the tensions and conflicts therein. Ray's work with Active Cultures begins with Dispatches from the Western Wild, and will be followed later in 2021 with a screening of his film and a public conversation. Finally, the series will culminate in a meal and public gathering to commemorate Ray's journey and travels throughout the West while also offering food as a lens from which to unravel these complex histories. The meal will be conceived by Ray and will highlight the ingredients and cooking methods Ray has utilized over the course of his expedition, highlighting the complicated and tenuous relationship between land, labor, and culture.

Organized by Bianca Morán, with support from Curatorial Assistant Anna Cho-Son.


Images: Ray Anthony Barrett, Go Tell It On The Mountain, 2020-21. Production stills. Photography by Ray Anthony Barrett and Rusty Baldwin.

Ray Anthony Barrett is a visual artist and chef, living and working in Los Angeles. For most of his career, his art practice has been concerned with language, its use as a tool to perpetuate power dynamics, and how meaning shifts in relation to images and perspective. Since 2018, Ray's pop-up, CINQVÉ, has been devoted to tracing the evolution of Soul Food from California to its West African origins. Recently, Ray returned to his art practice to address the systemic problems that have been exposed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. His current line of inquiry approaches food justice and foodways as a means to examine the psychological toll resulting from the legacy of white supremacy and imperialist visions of manifest destiny. His projects have been featured at Gagosian, Beverly Hills; The Underground Museum, Los Angeles; and Dak'Art: African Contemporary Art Biennale in Dakar Senegal; and his work has been profiled in Hyperallergic and The Los Angeles Times. Ray received his BA in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MFA from Pacific Northwest College of Art.