This Friday (May 20), members of the diasporic artists collective NON Worldwide, including founders Chino Amobi, ANGEL-HO, and Nkizi, will perform at New York's New Museum as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York. The trio will take to the stage together for the first time to show a new video work, alongside a performance. As ever, their performance will be centered on a mission to challenge boundaries of identity and territory, where the New Museum will briefly become the NON State, with the audience and performers forming its citizenry.
To reinforce this idea, NON has teamed up with Red Bull's concept store, the Gift Shop, to create items for its citizens, including passports that will be issued to all attendees, and stamps that will be used to mark a holder's participation at various events. Red Bull have also worked with the cofounders of NON to assemble a duty-free pop-up shop, where items such as NON apparel, NON accessories, including pocketknives and airplane pillows, and even a NON flag, will be sold. Max Wolf, the Gift Shop's programmer, described the pop-up shop as being a place where artists were given the resources to make sellable items that people couldn't get elsewhere. Wolf told THUMP: "To build on the notion of NON as a borderless state, we all wanted to really explore the idea of the duty-free shop as a place where you can buy all these trinkets of a country, even thought you are technically in a stateless territory when you're in a shop like that."
THUMP spoke to Chino Amobi, NON's cofounder and its Creative Director, by phone to further discuss the ideas behind the duty-free gift shop and how to use a NON passport. Scope the lookbook from the pop-up shop—which will be open May 18 through May 22 from 2PM-7PM at The Gift Shop, downstairs of Red Bull Studios New York—and read the interview below.
THUMP: How do the items available in the Gift Shop relate to the NON's ideology and vision?
Chino Amobi: With NON, we exist as a state, the NON state—a borderless society. We think a lot about borders as being constructed by colonial imaginations, especially Africa, and how its countries were divided up into separate territories by European nations. One of the few places that exists outside of these borders are airport duty-free zones; these areas are technically stateless. So we thought it would be perfect to align with that concept in terms of its relation to the NON-state. In a way, we're using this concept to decolonize the space and reclaim it as a NON-territory, so when we perform at the New Museum, that's the same mind space that we'll take there, it'll be the NON-state at that time.
You're issuing NON passports at the New Museum show. How do you use them?
Red Bull is making stamps for the event at the New Museum. Citizens will receive stamps in order to get into that venue and then at the after party, there's going to be stamps corresponding to each performer's set. And at future events in the NON-state citizens will be able to receive stamps, so it works to establish identification within the NON-state. Long-term identification.
How can someone become a citizen of NON?
To become a citizen means to be in solidarity with our mission and our aims and our objectives and our goals. If you come into the space, and you are not what we're about it terms of spreading peace, and building inclusivity, and social justice, and civic engagement, as well as holistic interaction, within our community, then you become a threat to our space, and then there's an issue.
Who are some of the threats to the NON state?
People who are trying to exploit or damage it. Let's say you run a children's orphanage, these children have been forgotten by society, or their relatives have abandoned them, so want to help them because you have the resources to nurture them, and advocate on their behalf, and defend them. And say somebody wanted to come into your house and pit these kids against your will, would you allow them to do that? You have to protect them. In that same way, NON-citizens, many of them are artists, and people sometimes try to come in and exploit them, or underpay them, or put them in a situation that wouldn't be good for them, or their careers. So we advocate for them and protect them and speak for them, and give them a defense. In numbers we are stronger than we are as individuals.