The point of departure for the book Black Ark with Lee “Scratch” Perry (1936–2021), a Jamaican musical and visual artist who was based in Switzerland, is a detailed inventory of photographs and writings (Spring 2021) from the Black Ark Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, where Lee produced his music from 1973 on. He was a seminal pioneer of dub, an electronic subgenre of reggae that uses sampling, looping, remixing, reverb and echoes to create new songs as well as rework and appropriate pre-recorded songs and tracks.
Black Ark Studios was one of the cradles of dub. It’s also where Lee “Scratch” Perry’s musical approach found an enduring visual counterpart in the form of continuously evolving mural paintings and drawings as well as shape-shifting assemblages of records, instruments, found objects, posters, newspaper and magazine clippings, and appropriated books. The artworks form actual layers upon layers that are rhizomatically intertwined with the studio building itself as well as with the furniture inside—and with Perry’s biography and persona.
Perry created his very own, dense and eclectic world—a world that is documented in Black Ark, before it disappears for good: the premises have recently been sold. The photographic documentation of the studio was supplemented by efforts to secure and preserve Perry’s cultural objects as part of a joint project with various cultural institutions.
Black Ark which reflects the rhythm and layering effects of collage both in its content and the materials used to craft the book. Perry was involved in the conception of the book in its early stages. It also interweaves various media and chronologies. The new photographs of the Black Ark Studios will be juxtaposed with stills from old documentaries and archival photos.
The idea of a “house” serves as both a working hypothesis and a metaphor. It will be the starting point and endpoint of various thematic strands, both visual and textual: for example, the book will explore the Black Ark as a “spiritual yard” in the context of African diaspora, as well as looking into archeomusicological aspects. Furthermore, extended captions by Perry’s biographer will provide the backdrop for a kaleidoscopic panorama of Perry’s eclectic and ingenious work.