Blogs The Green Room

The Boundless Journeys of Faustin Linyekula: Deneane Richburg on Le Cargo

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dance artist Deneane Richburg shares her perspective on Friday night’s performance of Le Cargo […]

Faustin Linyekula performing Le Cargo. Photo: Agathe Poupeney

Faustin Linyekula performing Le Cargo. Photo: Agathe Poupeney

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dance artist Deneane Richburg shares her perspective on Friday night’s performance of Le Cargo by Faustin Linyekula, the first evening of Tales of Home: Congo/Mozambique. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Entering carrying Sortir de la Grande Nuit by Achille Mbembe and what appeared to be a traditional Yoruban wooden carved stool/sculpture, Faustin Linyekula begins Le Cargo facing the audience at a microphone, contemplating the benefit (or perhaps lack thereof) his storytelling has on those about whom he tells stories. Also woven into this moment are questions surrounding whether or not he has actually ever danced and the politics of determining what is and is not dance according to the ideology that governs the spaces one inhabits. Considering the geographic spaces he has traversed throughout his life (born in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, attending university in Kenya, and presenting his work all over the world including Europe and North America), the civil unrest that sometimes incited these journeys, and his desire to create work that speaks to the complexities of his upbringing and his experiences, as Dr. Brenda Dixon Gottschild comments: “Linyekula writes choreography […] his creations are chock full of compound movement ‘sentences’ that often end in ellipses, parentheses, or semicolons, rather than full stops[…] Linyekula makes sense of the complexities of his heritage by using his fierce intellect to interrogate those conditions onstage and in conversation.”

Linyekula invites the viewer on this boundless journey that has no mile markers and no specific end point. Woven into this experience are stories grappling with his identity, that of his Father, the internal journey that led him to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the physical and ideological corners he was/is pressed to inhabit in Kisangani, throughout Africa, Europe, and the United States. Just as he observes the intricacies inherent in the process of defining/identifying, Le Cargo remarks on the complexities of being via Linyekula’s sophisticated and layered use of space, lighting, storytelling, and movement. The stage is divided into three “regions,” the first is a downstage center area where he places the wooden stool/sculpture, the Mbembe text, and a microphone. In this space he addresses the audience engaging in a very familiar proscenium, performer-audience relationship. This relationship is in contrast to those in the other spaces of the stage. Upstage left are two footlights that, when illuminated, create a corridor of light emanating on a downstage right diagonal. The presence of two footlights and a strong yet narrow path of light create the feeling of introspection and a solitary tension which is reflected in the frenetic feel of the movement he performs in this area. Finally, stage right are a grouping of footlights arranged in a circle; the circle representing a place of togetherness/community/not being alone. As a result of the circular placement of the lights (on the floor lining the circle) each time he enters into the circle, two shadows appear on the back scrim creating the feel and image of two additional ghostly bodies moving in the space together with him. Throughout the work he walks along the circle of these footlights making careful decisions of when to enter the circle and when to remain along its perimeter. The presence of the circle and the manner in which he moves outside and inside of it seem to illustrate the ideal this symbol represents while acknowledging its placement as simply an ideal; not necessarily a reality. Throughout the work it seems in some ways Linyekula’s physical, and perhaps intellectual and emotional travels mirror his journeys on stage between these three spaces.

My personal insights as a result of a question asked 

After sheepishly raising my hand to ask the first question of the post-performance discussion, I realized I’d been trying to find the overall narrative of his work. Soon after asking this question I realized Le Cargo invites witnesses to compile and organize the primary messaging of the work themselves. This is not a work characterized by a linear narrative; instead it invites viewers to uncover their own point of entry—one where they witness emotional/intellectual/spiritual challenges enshrouded in the beauty of a viscerally engaging movement experience.

Dance and Community: Faustin Linyekula and Panaibra Gabriel Canda

In anticipation of this weekend’s performance by dancer/choreographers Panaibra Gabriel Canda (Mozambique) and Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), I tagged along to the artists’ residency activities this week. Each dancer’s work—Linyekula performs the solo piece Le Cargo tonight and Canda performs Time and Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos on Saturday, both as part of Tales of […]

Faustin Linyekula performing Le Cargo and Panaibra Gabriel Canda performing Time and Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos. Photos by Agathe Poupaney and Arthur Fink.

Faustin Linyekula performing Le Cargo and Panaibra Gabriel Canda performing Time and Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos. Photos: Agathe Poupaney and Arthur Fink

In anticipation of this weekend’s performance by dancer/choreographers Panaibra Gabriel Canda (Mozambique) and Faustin Linyekula (Democratic Republic of the Congo), I tagged along to the artists’ residency activities this week. Each dancer’s work—Linyekula performs the solo piece Le Cargo tonight and Canda performs Time and Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos on Saturday, both as part of Tales of Home: Congo/Mozambique—deal with home, loss, and the difficult narratives of the violence and tragedy that have wrecked their home countries (Joan Frosch does a great job of describing their work and the connections to their histories here). Both are trailblazers in contemporary dance and have been key to bringing African artists to the forefront of contemporary dance.

Linyekula and Canda arrived a week in advance of their performances and joined us for a series of residency activities including an artist talk with a University of Minnesota dance composition class, a Meet & Greet at Juxtaposition Arts, and a staff lunch discussion at the Walker, as well as a master class led by each artist. In speaking with them and attending these activities, I gained insight on their processes and motivations and got an in-depth view of their perspectives as artists, educators, and collaborators. Taking their master classes allowed me to weave my understanding of what the artists spoke about earlier in the week into their tangible practice as dancers and choreographers.

During his master class, Linyekula, lithe and wiry but with an unwavering groundedness, shared with us his toolbox of movement and allowed us as dancers to utilize and interpret the movement individually. In his own work, his dancers are vital and irreplaceable: “In my pieces, if someone gets injured, we do the piece without them or we cancel the show. We do not replace them.” This same philosophy translates to his teaching.

Canda, a tranquil and solid presence, also shared with us a toolbox; in an intense 45 minutes we learned a set phrase of his choreography and then were given freedom to interpret it in an open improvisation. It quickly became apparent that the importance of trust in one another was vital for success, as in any improvisation. After several tries we got the hang of it, but not without some effort and acknowledgment of the importance of relationships, awareness of space, and awareness of each other—many of the same common elements that I discovered in learning about their work, both as artists and as leaders.

Dance as negotiator of relationships/dance as negotiator of the self

During a visit with a U of M dance composition class taught by Scott Rink, Linyekula and Panaibra talked about everything from childhood memories and corrupt national histories to French négritude literature. And, of course, dance.

Linyekula, shoes and socks off, sat on one knee atop his chair and spoke of relationships. He explained that he has expanded upon Merce Cuningham’s notion that “dance is the motion in time and space.” He sees it as his responsibility as a performer to build and rebuild these relationships (with time, space, and the audience), taking into consideration that they are not a given, and that they will inevitably collapse, continuously.

At one point, he shifted and asked Canda and Rink to move off the stage, leaping up to illustrate the circular relationship with an audience and the ways this relationship is broken in a forward-facing proscenium setup (in an interview with Brenda Dixon Gottschild when he visited the Walker in 2007, Linyekula illustrated the proscenium stage’s connection to colonialism: “There’s never been any reflection on just the stages that we show those dances on. Space is what defines the type of relationships. The proscenium theater is a clear extension of Europe—a colonial stage.”)

FaustinCircle

Faustin Linyekula talking to University of Minnesota students on Monday. Photo: Gabby Coll

Linyekula considers performance an act of responsibility and looks to storytellers as a model. The magic happens in a moment, in the present, and must occur in collaboration with the audience. Without the audience the story would not exist: “You’re choreographing the relationship, in this moment that we spend together … so how do I work with the body to negotiate this relationship?”

These relationships are vital to Linyekula; he spoke of props (rejecting the word “prop” itself as “gross”) as partners, as well as the dynamic between dance and music—two autonomous entities coming together and becoming something entirely different, possible only because they are together in that particular space and time.

Canda also articulated the significance of these relationships, but he sees them from a slightly different angle. Through performance, he stated, “I can begin to understand myself; you can be honest with yourself when you’re projecting yourself. How people perceive you doesn’t matter, but you begin to know yourself. Even if an audience rejects me, you’re helping me understand myself. The viewer becomes a mirror” (emphasis mine).

As Joan Frosch writes, “Panaibra is engaged in a theater of transformation, not reiteration.” Through his work and his movement, his aim is to break from the constraints of traditional dance technique. He utilizes dance to deconstruct history and to more fully understand his own body and self.

As he says, the Marrabenta Solos are a “way of understanding who I am today….[as a] journey through history to understand my own body… There is a potential to reinvent aesthetically and shape my own body.” The piece arose as a means for him to reconcile the history of Mozambique through connections with and translated through the body. “This work is a process of rehealing; to deal with this pain. How do you work from the inside until [you] can still find the energy to recover? It is a question of what is behind the movement. There is an invisible body that is ourself; something that you feel is motivating you. So how do you translate this to movement, this body that is living inside?”

Left to right: University of Minnesota Professor Scott Rink, Panaibra Gabriel Canda, and Faustin Linyekula. Photo by Gabby Coll.

Left to right: University of Minnesota Professor Scott Rink, Panaibra Gabriel Canda, and Faustin Linyekula. Photo: Gabby Coll.

Relationships as tools

Apart from their work as artists, Canda and Linyekula have embarked on important projects in their home countries through Studios Kabako in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and CulturArte in Mozambique, respectively. Studios Kabako provides training to artists, supports and produces several projects each year (as well as Linyekula’s own work), hosts workshops with dance artists from around the world, and operates the first recording studio in the country. CulturArte was established out of Canda’s need for a space to produce his own work and now serves as a training center, an art production center, and  a dance company, as well as an organization that lobbies for governmental support for the arts.

The successes they have accomplished in their work and in their respective organizations would not be possible without the relationships that Linyekula and Canda have fostered, both with each other and with other artists in their communities and across Africa. Speaking to a group of 30 artists, community leaders, and people of all ages at Juxtaposition Arts this week, Panaibra and Linyekula noticed the parallels between the work they are doing in their home countries and the work JXTA does. Similar to the organizations in Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo, JXTA provides training and support for young artists and prepares them for success by teaching concrete creative skills with a strong emphasis on collaboration—through mentoring and sharing space and skills, and in partnerships with other organizations. Both Linyekula and Canda were excited by the work JXTA is doing; Linyekula repeatedly called their organizations “kindred spirits.”

Faustin_JXTAcrop

Faustin Linyekula and DeAnna Cummings, executive director of Juxtaposition Arts. Photo: Gabby Coll

About the importance of collaboration, Linyekula mused: “It’s easier to meet other African artists in Paris than on the actual continent; this is why Panaibra and I need to collaborate and spend time together and think about the work we are doing.” Their institutions in Kisangani and Maputo have collaborated, and they created Pamoja (which translates to “together” in Swahili) in order to connect artists on the African continent to host workshops and to produce, tour, and show their work.

This year, Studios Kabako was awarded the CurryStone Design Prize for its work in Kisangani as well as a project completed in Lubunga whose aim was to map water distribution along the Congo River. Through the mapping of the connections between people and water (lack of drinking water is a major problem in Lubunga), Linyekula realized that “we may not build a physical bridge on the Congo River between the two banks. [But] perhaps if we start building bridges in our heads, start connecting with other people, that may already be a first bridge.”

Canda has also succeeded in creating sustainable change through his work. In 2007 he established (In)Dependence, a project dedicated to training and integrating dancers with disabilities. At JXTA, he spoke of asking questions, including, “What does it mean for a body to be marginalized?” He has managed to find a way to integrate social practice into his art, without becoming a social worker, emphasizing that he “will not take you to the stage just because you are disabled; you need to show me you have artistic quality that can be a part of my own practice. I don’t want to be a social worker. I want to challenge the way people understand [differences].”

When thinking about dance or any performance-based art, creating and nurturing any kind of relationship can appear to be an obvious need. But it isn’t easy. During the Meet-and-Greet, Linyekula noted, “We speak in mother tongues, but we write in foreign ones [in our work]; everyone who is not you is a foreigner to your work.” These artists have managed to take this concept and stretch it so that these relationships gain vitality to accomplish so much more. The infrastructure for art production and sustainability did not exist in either the Congo or Mozambique; yet it is through the building of these connections that Canda and Linyekula are beginning to establish one. The only certainty is that the future is an uncertain one, but, undoubtedly, there is much in store for these artists and for the next generation of artists in their communities.

Faustin Linyekula will perform Le Cargo tonight, Friday, November 7 at 8pm, and Panaibra Gabriel Canda will perform Time and Spaces: The Marrabenta Solos tomorrow night, Saturday, November 8 at 8pm in the Walker’s McGuire Theater.

Story/Time: Bill T. Jones on John Cage

Three decades ago, choreographer Bill T. Jones jolted the New York dance scene. Bucking the prevailing stripped-down postmodernism, he and his partner Arnie Zane created sensational dances collaborating with composers, fashion designers, and visual artists. A new queer aesthetic emerged that was anything but minimalistic. When I worked at Walker Art Center (1988–1996), I presented Jones’s […]

Bill T. Jones in STory/T

Bill T. Jones in Story/Time. Photo: Paul B. Goode

Three decades ago, choreographer Bill T. Jones jolted the New York dance scene. Bucking the prevailing stripped-down postmodernism, he and his partner Arnie Zane created sensational dances collaborating with composers, fashion designers, and visual artists. A new queer aesthetic emerged that was anything but minimalistic.

When I worked at Walker Art Center (1988–1996), I presented Jones’s company on multiple occasions. During this period, the AIDS pandemic ravaged his world, killing lover Arnie Zane (1988) and collaborator Keith Haring (1990), as well as scores of friends, colleagues and dancers. Consequently Jones’ work became politicized. Last Supper at Uncle Tom’s Cabin/The Promised Land (1990) had him searching for hope as a gay black man in America. Its final resolving tableau included 52 nude bodies of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, ages, and genders.

The conceit of this work proved electrifying, as it included his core company augmented with local dancers on tour. Everybody had to own the nudity, claim the identity politics of survival and transcendence. The work was rapturously received by those who saw it—and picketed by those who feared it.

Jones continued mining his grief and rage in Still/Here (1994). He developed this piece in workshops with people facing terminal illnesses. Newsweek called it “a work so original and profound that its place among the landmarks of twentieth-century dance seems ensured.” Arlene Croce refused to see it, but wrote about it in the New Yorker, dismissing it as “victim art.” No one was neutral.

Jones continues to create iconoclastic dances across a vast array of aesthetic explorations. His collaborators are eclectic: Cassandra Wilson, Orion String Quartet, Chamber Society of Lincoln Center, Fred Hersch, Jenny Holzer, Vernon Reid, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Toni Morrison, and Jessye Norman. The company has performed in more than 200 cities in 40 countries.

Commissions and honorary degrees, a MacArthur “genius” award, and the National Medal of the Arts ffrom President Obama have not tempered this firebrand provocateur. Outside his own company, Jones has created dances for Alvin Ailey, Boston Ballet, Lyon Opera Ballet, and Berlin Opera Ballet. He directed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and won two Tony Awards for his choreography in Spring Awakening and FELA! Operatic collaborations include Houston Grand Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Munich Biennale, Boston Lyric Opera, and New York City Opera.

As a writer, Jones published his memoir, Last Night on Earth, in 1995 and a children’s book, Dance, in 1998. He also contributed toContinuous Replay: The Photography of Arnie Zane in 1999. This month, Princeton University Press released his Story/Time: The Life of an Idea, a book about the genesis of Story/Time, a dance work commissioned by the Walker and Peak Performances at Montclair State University and performed at the Walker in February 2012. (For more on Story/Time, watch this video interview between Jones and Philip Bither, the Walker’s senior curator of performing arts).

As Jones writes in the acknowledgements: “Story/Time is a meditation on John Cage’s Indeterminacy, a 1958 work in which Cage read ninety stories, each one minute long. … Engaging with this seminal work allowed me to examine and interrogate a system of thought and practice grounded in ideas held by many—myself included—striving to understand how Eastern thought, liberation philosophy, and art could be used to redefine reality for both the maker and his or her audience.”

In advance of his November 4–14 performances of Story/Time at New York Live Arts, I talked with Jones about his new book and projects under development.

John Killacky: Story/Time is such a beautiful homage to John Cage. You are this hot, politically engaged, out gay artist. I think of Cage as this cool, philosophical, quiet, disengaged from the world, theoretical genius. Can you talk about his influence on you and in particular this project?

Bill T. Jones: He literally represented for me everything cool and removed and sophisticated at a time when I was trying to wend my way into the art world. There was a woman that had known Jasper [Johns] and John Cage. She tried to get them interested in what Arnie and I were doing. They were like “No way!” We were too “obvious.” We were too “in your face.” I always felt a little hurt by that. We did meet John later through a mutual friend. I had dinner with John and Merce [Cunningham] and went to a show with him and got to know him as a man. I couldn’t be in that club, but I realized there was a lot to love in him. This book is trying to come to grips with my need to be in the modernist cool club and acceptance that I will not be in that club. You have to build your ideas on your forebearers, and it is sort of Freudian because you are fighting with your father. What happens when I put on that suit of clothing is who I am.

Jones’s staging of Story/Time began a few years back when he decided to return to performing. Building off of Cage’s storytelling, he created a work in which he reads 70 one-minute stories (drawn from more than 170) while his dancers perform around him. Movement sequences are excerpted from existing repertory, rearranged on the day of performance to create a unique work for that evening. Composer and lighting and scenic designers improvise alongside. Jones was then invited to participate in the Toni Morrison Lecture Series at Princeton.

Merce Cunningham and John Cage performing at the Walker Art Center, March 1972. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

Merce Cunningham and John Cage performing Dialogues at the Walker Art Center, 1972. Photo: Walker Art Center Archives

Killacky: How did this beautiful book come into being?

Jones: The deal with the Morrison Lecture people was we would do three lectures that would result in a book. I had been struggling with this work, trying to mesh these thoughts and ideas of John Cage with my own theatricality and the way my company moves. The process had been so strange and challenging and scary. I thought the lectures would be a great opportunity to talk theoretically about it in the first and third lectures, and show a version of it in one of those wood-paneled rooms in an august university. It felt very claustrophobic, very much of a throwback to a world that I’ve only seen in movies. I never went to an Ivy League school. We set this thing up as if it were site-specific and emulated something that he [Cage] would have been able to put forward in 1958: sitting alone at a table in a room and reading one story after another. The difference was we had a very sophisticated sound design, a rudimentary lighting design, and Bjorn Amelan drawing on the chalkboards before an academic audience. It was wonderful.

Included in the publication of Story/Time are gorgeous photographs of the work in performance as well as 60 of Jones’s masterful stories, weaving in childhood reminiscences and tales from touring around the world. Observing the mundane, Jones reaches for the profound. Vignettes with Virgil Thompson, Abbey Lincoln, Louise Nevelson, Thelonious Monk, and Cecil Taylor are peppered throughout, as is John Cage—whose theories disrupt, provoke, and inspire him.

Killacky: Your company is still performing Story/Time?

Jones: The work is part of our touring repertory. For the upcoming New York shows, we decided do the classic version and then to get rid of some of the “crafting” and strip the place down a couple of times. And we have guest artists: Kathleen Chalfont [Angels in America, Wit], Lois Welk [founder of American Dance Asylum] and Theaster Gates [conceptual artist]. They wrote some of their own stories; we’ll read mine as well and talk about a personal history.

Killacky: You juggle multiple projects at any given time. Can you talk about some in development?

Jones: The new one for the company is a three-part work influenced by W. C. Sebald’s The Emigrants, the story of a Jewish boy who was a “valet” to a rich German boy; an oral history of my husband Bjorn’s 94-year-old Jewish mother, who survived the war by working in an internment camp in eastern France; and my wild nephew Lance, who had drug problems and was a hustler on Polk Street [San Francisco].

In terms of the commercial art world, I would love to be able to talk with you about it. There are a couple projects on the table, but you know how the producers are: we will see which ones go the distance. One is a major motion picture from some years back that was very successful; now the filmmaker is making it into a musical that I am choreographing.

Jones: For the theater work, there is: “Can I do it?” “Can I make an entertaining thing that has some integrity?” So that’s maybe my pride. There is also hopefully my retirement; because in the dance world, you will not retire with what the dance world has to offer you. The company is the child that Arnie [Zane] and I had. Every time I make a new work, I get this excitement in my chest. I keep thinking, “Ah, this is the way I understand the world.” This is my religion. Something keeps pulling me forward that has to do with art-making as a spiritual activity.

John R. Killacky is executive director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont.

Two Hours with a Room Full of Strangers: Miranda July and the Awkward Encounter

Perhaps you’ve heard of the porcupine’s dilemma. It’s an allegory dreamed up by Arthur Schopenhauer, nineteenth-century German philosopher, that elegantly illustrates the problems posed by the necessity of interpersonal intimacy. Imagine a cluster of porcupines huddling together for warmth on a cold winter’s day. The heat from the bodies of the other porcupines are keeping […]

Miranda July. Photo: Todd Cole

Perhaps you’ve heard of the porcupine’s dilemma. It’s an allegory dreamed up by Arthur Schopenhauer, nineteenth-century German philosopher, that elegantly illustrates the problems posed by the necessity of interpersonal intimacy. Imagine a cluster of porcupines huddling together for warmth on a cold winter’s day. The heat from the bodies of the other porcupines are keeping each one alive, so they bunch closer and closer together as the temperature drops. There’s just one problem—they’re all covered in quills. The more compact the huddle, the more they prick one another, forcing the porcupines to maintain a safe distance, maximizing mutual warmth while minimizing mutual pain.

Though it leaps from discipline to discipline, one consistency throughout Miranda July’s work is its tendency to mine this tension between vulnerability and self-preservation. July is perhaps best known for her 2009 Caméra d’Or-winning film Me and You and Everyone We Know, but this multifaceted filmmaker, writer, and performance artist has also produced interactive art objects and installations, written a book about people she’s met through the classifieds, and created an app that recruits strangers to deliver personal text messages on behalf of the sender. No matter the project, July’s work tends to focus on the quiet messiness that characterizes human lives—something vastly underappreciated in a world that values glamor, perfection, and efficiency. Whether it’s a sculpture that compels strangers to stand on a pedestal and hug, as with Eleven Heavy Things, or a short story that inserts a naive first-person narrator into a sex scene (often of the non-normative variety), one thing audiences can expect from July is an awkward scenario. Her latest performance piece, New Society, capitalizes on this very thing. Because it relies so heavily on audience participation, the piece is different every time it is presented, but can be summed up in one of two ways: 1) It’s two hours with a room full of strangers, 2) It’s, as the Boston Globe puts it, “an exercise in accidental community.” The latter is well phrased, but the former, for July’s work, rings more true. Many “relational” artists fabricate situations for encounter that, in an attempt to “repair the social bond,” as Nicolas Bourriaud might put it, gloss over the distress audiences experience when thrown together with people they don’t know. July, however, goes right to the source of discomfort, sticks a finger in, and probes the wound.

The virtue of the awkward moment is that it inevitably produces mutual vulnerability. It opens each party up by traumatically disrupting the rhythm of scripted social behaviors. Cultural theorists such as Sarah Ahmed have written extensively about how emotional states can actually be thought of as the residue of interpersonal contact, shaping the boundaries between “I,” “We,” and “Other” by making those boundaries apparent. Consider the porcupines: The experience of bodily pain makes the critter in question aware of its cutaneous borders and allows it to mediate between inside and outside by, say, recoiling from its neighbor’s quill. Similarly, discomfort with strangers comes from the temporary violation of the boundaries between Self and Other that we routinely and vigilantly police. Inasmuch that a performance creates a space removed from everyday affairs (or, given that many of July’s projects deal with the mundane, we could say that her performances and projects bracket everyday moments, lending them the air of the remarkable), July’s works establish a context in which it is socially permissible for audiences to enter into a vulnerable state and feel its full force—to have their personal boundaries violated in order to feel the warmth of another.

In Schopenhauer’s time, the answer to the paradox of the isolated self versus the peril of vulnerability was found in what he called “politeness and good manners,” or the sense of decorum that regulated social interaction and kept the intensity of intimacy at bay. We, citizens of the 21st century, a newer society, are tasked with finding answers to the porcupine’s dilemma all over again. In the midst of globalization and a digital revolution, the politeness and good manners of yesteryear have given way to a much more ambiguous protocol. We still feel compelled to stave off loneliness in the presence of others, but the cultural mores regulating such interactions are continually in flux, failing to keep apace with the social changes wrought by revolutions in technology and more. “We’re all dealing with a lot more strangers due to the web,” explains July, in an interview with The Rumpus, “When you’re physically interacting with someone, it forces you to be more present and probably a little more uncomfortable… I’m interested in what the virtues of all those things are.”

If you plan to attend Miranda July’s New Society performance at the Walker this week, expect to be called upon to participate. Expect to look a little foolish in front of people you don’t know. Expect to make eye contact. Expect to be present—and probably a little uncomfortable.

Miranda July’s New Society will premiere at the Walker October 30–31, 2014.

The Inherent Elegance of superposition: Noah Keesecker on Ryoji Ikeda

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, composer and multimedia artist Noah Keesecker shares his perspective on last night’s performance of superposition by Ryoji […]

superposition , 2012. © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

superposition, 2012. © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, composer and multimedia artist Noah Keesecker shares his perspective on last night’s performance of superposition by Ryoji Ikeda. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Ryoji Ikeda doesn’t require you to care about quantum physics anymore than quantum physics require you to care about art. Which is to say that Ikeda’s superposition is not about the math as much as it is of the math and in Ikeda’s world to be of math is to have inherent elegance.

In an interview with MoMA regarding his collaborative duo Cyclo., Ikeda states that “to me, sound is a property of physics; vibrations of air. Music is, in essence, a property of mathematics; without mathematical structures, sounds are merely sounds”. Speaking to him after the performance we chatted about a major underpinning of his work which is that even without our human aesthetic values about sound the mathematical visual derivations he is drawing would still exist. He didn’t invent the sine wave, moiré patterns, Lissajous curves, or the Qubit, but he has invented an astonishingly crisp and pointed work that easily translates the vastness, precision, violence, and subtly of physics and art in a brilliantly crafted audio-visual work.

In general Ikeda’s work stands out for its extremes and superposition is no different. It doesn’t shy away from amplitude (your program comes with earplugs), it doesn’t pander to the moderate audio frequency range of your radio (you can leave your compression at home), and it doesn’t even bother with the topic of popular music idiom comparisons (it’s not about that bass, but there is plenty of bass). What is significant about these extremes is that he is working with a full palette, because if you are going to try to make a work about quantum physics you’re going to need every hertz, decibel, and pixel you can get your hands on.

But what about the show?

It’s a fast 65 minutes. The architecture is pristine, the visuals are surgical, the music is searing at one moment and cool and atmospheric the next. You are gently lulled into Ikeda’s quantum machine and then soon overwhelmed with data. Don’t try to make sense of it all, you’re not supposed to. Someone asked me about a particular section and “what it means.” The work is not narrative anymore than a mathematical theorem is narrative; the meaning determined and extracted through its practical application and relation to a body of knowledge.

Word, words, words. Ryoji isn’t into describing art with words either. Yet words are everywhere. The live performers pound out virtuosic Morse code in unison, illuminate, obscure, and then decode the principles of quantum superposition with keyboards, analog microfilm and live video feeds. In the one quirky and lighthearted section of the work the performers have a simultaneous thought stream like two computers arguing the 1’s and 0’s of the same data set, trying to grapple with humanity, science, religion, matter, life, and meaning, and there is something cute, revelatory, and terrifying about the whole segment. And then, like a text book definition of superposition, when you try to read the position and speed of a particle at the same time, the Qubits hit the fan and the result is explosive and mesmerizing.

Addendum: What Ryoji and I talked about afterwards.

The tuning forks. I overheard half a dozen people raving about the tuning forks and for good reason. I was particularly interested in this section because to me it is the most simple and magnificent execution of superposition, and the music and math that makes it. Two sound waves firing back and forth at each other, each frequency precisely chosen (Ikeda has made hundreds of custom tuning forks at peculiar and precise tunings) for the visual moiré patterns that it produces. It’s like a mathematical proof for Superposition; simple, elegant, factual, and brilliantly rendered and this, this is beautiful art.

Ryoji Ikeda’s superposition will be performed again tonight, October 25, 2014, in the McGuire Theater.

Data Swarms and Physical Sound: The Cerebral and Bodily Art of Ryoji Ikeda

“Somebody said something very interesting. That if you listen to a Ryoji Ikeda CD, you feel minimalist but if you go to see his performance you really feel he is a maximalist, physically.”—Ryoji Ikeda in a 2006 interview with David Toop in The Wire On the surface, it might appear that sound and visual artist […]

superposition , 2012. © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

superposition, 2012. Photo: © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

“Somebody said something very interesting. That if you listen to a Ryoji Ikeda CD, you feel minimalist but if you go to see his performance you really feel he is a maximalist, physically.”—Ryoji Ikeda in a 2006 interview with David Toop in The Wire

On the surface, it might appear that sound and visual artist Ryoji Ikeda only creates pieces for isolated academics hiding on the top floor of some New Music ivory tower in Switzerland, squirreling away on their next paper about the acoustic phenomenology of stereophonic subjectivity or whatever. Ikeda recently won the Prix Ars Electronica Collide competition at CERN (you know, the place where they discovered the Higgs boson), which granted him a two-year research residency at the nuclear laboratory. In 2008, he collaborated with Harvard number theorist Benedict Gross on V≠L, a series of multimedia installations investigating a mathematical concept of infinity known as the “axiom of constructability.” superposition, the audio-visual piece Ikeda presents at the Walker on Friday, October 24, and Saturday, October 25, gets its title from a principle of quantum theory.

A brief, superficial listen of any Ikeda album might lead you to the same conclusion. The ascetic tone of the sine wave is the bedrock of his sound. Melodies, rhythms, and discernible narratives are all largely absent. He seems to relish bizarre juxtapositions and tonal shifts.

Yet this portrait of Ryoji Ikeda as a totally cerebral artist can be alienating and inaccurate. Ikeda isn’t an academically trained musician or visual artist. He began his career DJing in clubs in Toyko in the early 1990s. This is perhaps where he first learned how to use music and visuals as forms of stimulation to provoke the body and create visceral spectacles. Ikeda’s ability to manipulate an audience’s physical response to his work is what makes him such a vital and accessible artist.

Shards of static tickle the insides of your ears. You can feel his impossibly heavy bass drones in the pit of your chest. Sine waves bouncing back and forth between the left and right channels increasingly disorient your sense of space. Ikeda reminds us of the very physical nature of sound. In an interview with MoMa’s Inside/Out blog, he refers to sound as “vibrations of air.” The rapidly shifting digital images that accompany these sounds also produce physical responses. Streams of data collide on-screen to create a sensory overload that can literally cause an epileptic seizure. Ikeda’s work often circumvents cognitive processing by going straight for our bodies, and you don’t need a PhD in theoretical mathematics to feel the effects.

superposition , 2012. © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

superposition, 2012. Photo: © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

superposition is Ikeda’s first piece featuring human performers since his days collaborating with the Japanese theater collective Dumb Type. For this performance, experimental musicians Stéphane Garin and Amélie Grould will act as “operator/conductor/observer/examiners,” according to his website. In the past, Ikeda has expressed distrust in his capabilities as an improviser and a desire for total artistic control. “When I create a piece, music, installation, or audio-visual concert, my vision is so clear I need control,” he told The Wire in 2006. It’s possible that, with the introduction of human agents, superposition will be even more in touch with the human body because it’s being created by sensitive performers in real time.

Walker audiences may already be familiar with the collaborative side of Ikeda. The Walker co-presented, with the Guthrie Lab, his work with Dumb Type in [OR] in 1999 and Memorandum in 2001—two early examples of the types of immersive spectacles Ikeda has become known for.  Unlike anything that had been seen before in the Twin Cities, the assaultive quality of those performances astonished and thrilled audiences.

In recent years, Ikeda has created a number of massive public art pieces that have maintained the astounding nature of his performances with Dumb Type, while shying away from the shock tactics of those earlier works. His piece spectra, which sent immense beams of white light into the sky, toured multiple major cities in Europe. Every night this October, his audio-visual work test pattern has taken over the forty-seven digital screens in Times Square from 11:57 pm to midnight. Despite the theoretical background of these pieces, their visibility suggests a growing populist sentiment in Ikeda’s work.

Now, none of this is to say that there isn’t deep intellectual complexity embedded in all of what Ryoji Ikeda does. The power of his work is that it’s able to remove truly profound and moving mathematic concepts from the stasis and inaccessibility created by academic jargon. In superposition, Ikeda makes the data that swarms around us visible, audible, and sublime.

The Walker will present Ryoji Ikeda’s superposition Friday, October 24 and Saturday, October 25, 2014 in the McGuire Theater.

superposition , 2012. © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

superposition, 2012. Photo: © Kazuo Fukunaga / Kyoto Experiment in Kyoto Art Theater, Shunjuza

After Relentless: Penelope Freeh on Rosas danst Rosas

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dance artist Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Wednesday night’s performance of Rosas […]

A 1993 performance of Rosas danst Rosas. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos.

Rosas danst Rosas. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos.

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, dance artist Penelope Freeh shares her perspective on Wednesday night’s performance of Rosas danst Rosas by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker / Rosas. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Rosas danst Rosas is a seminal work for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker; it is the piece that catapulted her onto the international stage as well as the impetus behind forming her company Rosas.

Known now for her relentless use of repetition to exhibit and reframe her quotidian movement, De Keersmaeker started it here, demonstrating virtually every repetitive iteration possible with four bodies. (Specifically four female bodies, but more on that later.)

Rosas danst Rosas begins with a slow burn of floor work. Performed in silence, it is a study in duration, cut through with crackling, rapid-fire gesture. The women move with languid sensuality then flop, drop and roll in the blink of an eye. Virtuosic for even a single performer, this section amplified by four is exponentially so. Tiny variations begin and, because of all the repetition, we can track and even anticipate them. One by one the women leave the group, still connected by movement synchrony or counterpoint. There is anger, defiance, even grumpiness.

Scene change to a stage set with groupings of chairs. Now we really comprehend the feminine as each dancer claims a seat and executes vamping gestures including a cupping of a breast. This sequence is brash and confrontational while also numbing and defamiliarizing as the speed increases. Hair is loose and messy. Sexuality and power are underscored musically and to great effect as the performers stop on a dime at the end of the section.

The chairs are moved upstage and so begins where I really fell into this work. A trio ensues upstage near the chairs as the fourth performer sits on an end. The trio dances in unison until De Keersmaeker separates, coming downstage and into a hallway of light. Like the beginning, again we see connection in separation, distance amplifying and bolstering movement relationship. Many variations occur, more hallways of light, more downstage vs. upstage action.

And so it goes until the fourth dancer joins and yet new ways of patterning take hold. Two women maintain a ground, gently traveling back and forth, while the other two, in opposing squares of light, execute emotional and experiential gestures*. (*There is a sequence of gestures. The emotions are employed too, inherent to a gesture. As gestures repeat, the dancer seems to feel each one again, like it’s new, and yet there’s a cumulative effect.)

There are repeats inside repeats. Movement phrases constantly recur, as do whole passages. I love this micro and macro use of duplication. Again the sound score supports the dance and buoys the dancers. The demand for endurance is unforgiving and yet exhaustion works to get the point across.

Movement washes over us, coming from upstage to down and sweeping across in wide arcs. The dancers spread apart then suddenly converge like a flock of birds creating contrails. Eventually one by one they opt out, collapsing into individuality.

Another satisfying, stop-on-a-dime finish; blackout.

And after, work lights fade up as the dancers, separated by their respective conclusions, respond to the moment. Reminiscent of Toto exposing the man behind the curtain, it is a raw and revealing scene. Echoing gestures from earlier, these are far less dancerly, far more sweaty and necessary. And as quickly as this work was long and took its time, it was over.

Rosas danst Rosas continues in the McGuire Theater tonight (Thursday, October 16) and tomorrow night (Friday, October 17, 2014).

Thinking and Rethinking Rosas danst Rosas

It’s been six years since Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas last visited the Walker: in 2008, they performed the artist’s early work Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982) for one night only. This weekend, the Walker will welcome De Keersmaeker back for the fifth time in twenty years […]

Rosas danst Rosas, 2009. Photo by Herman Sorgeloos.

Rosas danst Rosas, 2009. Photo: Herman Sorgeloos

It’s been six years since Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her company Rosas last visited the Walker: in 2008, they performed the artist’s early work Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982) for one night only. This weekend, the Walker will welcome De Keersmaeker back for the fifth time in twenty years with her seminal work, Rosas danst Rosas (1983). This important piece, which has never before been performed in Minnesota, initiated De Keersmaeker into the dance world in the early 1980s and has continued to gain international attention in the decades since.

Rosas danst Rosas, Then and Now

While Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker continues to make new work, she also maintains a strong repertoire throughout her oeuvre to be restaged and re-performed by her changing company of dancers. By presenting these pieces again and again over decades, Rosas provides audiences with a path through which to connect similarities and progressions from one period of De Keersmaeker’s choreography to another. With Rosas danst Rosas in particular, De Keersmaeker seems to be continuing a dialogue about the work over time, offering space for reinterpretation while also maintaining the integrity of the original choreography, which still feels as relevant today as it did thirty-odd years ago.

In 1997, the piece was filmed by Thierry De Mey (who provided the original score for the piece) in an old technical school in Leuven, Belgium, casting a new light on the staging and sequencing of the four sections of Rosas danst Rosas and offering a cinematic interpretation of the work. In 2012, the piece was described and presented textually in a book co-authored by De Keersmaeker, titled A Choreographer’s Score: Fase, Rosas danst Rosas, Elena’s Aria, Bartók, in which the choreographer and performance theorist Bojana Cvejić created visual scores for four of De Keersmaeker’s most significant works, including verbal explanations, drawings, photos, and demonstrations by the choreographer. Both De Mey’s film and the 2012 book serve to further explore and even re-imagine De Keersmaeker’s original choreography and performance of Rosas danst Rosas.

In addition to these interpretative documentations of Rosas danst Rosas, the piece has received participatory attention in recent years through the Re:Rosas project. After pop star Beyoncé used De Keersmaeker’s choreography from Rosas danst Rosas in her 2011 music video Countdown, a discussion of De Keersmaeker’s work and the notion of it being plagiarized entered the mainstream media. As a sort of happy accident with the Beyoncé episode, Rosas danst Rosas reached new audiences, some of whom would not have otherwise been aware of the work.

In recent years, De Keersmaeker developed the Re:Rosas project in which she sets her choreography free to be interpreted by anyone, teaching the movements and choreographic structure of the piece to online audiences. She encourages anyone and everyone to film themselves dancing Rosas danst Rosas in their own way and to upload their videos to the Re:Rosas site. So far, nearly 300 videos have been uploaded, showing people of all ages and in various parts of the world performing their versions of De Keersmaeker’s choreography.

As Rosas danst Rosas has been performed over and over, not only by the Rosas company and its evolving group of dancers, but by people around the world through the Re:Rosas project, the movements take on new meaning when performed in different contexts and settings. De Keersmaeker’s original choreography involves four female dancers performing a four-part dance in which they first move while lying on the floor, then while seated in chairs, then while standing in a line, and lastly while moving through the entire space of the stage. The structure of the chair sequence is described in detail by De Keersmaeker on the Re:Rosas site and involves a quite mathematical repetition of movements where each dancer is assigned one of four positions which determines the order of set movements she must execute.

In Thierry De Mey’s film, the dancers’ drab costumes and the industrial setting suggest they are factory workers or prisoners of some sort, and their movements in the first two parts reflect a frustration and tiredness as well as a hint at femininity and even sexual repression when the dancers expose and quickly cover up one shoulder with their shirts. On the Rosas website, dramaturg Marianne Van Kerkhoven writes that the concept of femininity is a common theme in all of De Keersmaeker’s early works, and that these works refer to femininity and the transition stage between female adolescence and adulthood without directly referencing the feminism of the early 1980s. De Keersmaeker was only in her early 20s when she created Rosas danst Rosas and her other early works, so she likely placed her own position in life and its challenges and limitations into her work.

With the Re:Rosas project, the content of the dance changes as different bodies perform the work in different settings and spaces all over the world, even while the movements remain similar to De Keersmaeker’s original choreography. De Keersmaeker seems curious to see other interpretations of her work, perhaps inspired by Beyoncé’s copy just as Beyoncé was inspired by De Keersmaeker’s choreography. In a 1999 interview with Walker Performing Arts Curator Philip Bither, De Keersmaeker mentioned the change involved when different dancers perform a piece in a different time than the original staging, and she seems interested in the way different bodies respond to her movement in different ways and can even change the piece entirely. As generations of audiences continue to learn about De Keersmaeker and her history through the performances of her early works, De Keersmaeker also learns from the perspectives of new audiences and new casts of dancers performing historical pieces.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Once. De Keersmaeker performed Once at the Walker in 2005. Photo: Gerard Ufaras.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Once, which the artist performed at the Walker in 2005. Photo: Gerard Ufaras

De Keersmaeker as an innovator and educator

What makes Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker unique as a contemporary choreographer is her commitment to education and her practice of making dance education accessible to younger generations of dancers. Through educating the public about dance, as well as by providing resources to the dance community, Rosas continues a conversation about De Keersmaeker’s work while contributing to an environment of sharing and learning. Rosas has partnered with other Belgian and European arts organizations on several education initiatives, including Bal Moderne (a workshop in which the public learns a series of short choreographies with little or no dance experience required, with the goal of experiencing simply the pleasure of dancing), Dancing Kids (a weekly dance class offering for children, taught by Rosas), Lasso (a network of education, cultural heritage, social welfare, and arts organizations to share best practices in arts education and form partnerships), and RondOmDans (a project in which Rosas introduces high school students in Brussels to contemporary dance and performance through lectures, classes, and rehearsal visits).

One of De Keersmaeker’s most successful and influential education projects has been the creation of the P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) school in Brussels, which she co-founded with the Belgian National Opera De Munt/La Monnaie in 1995 and continues to oversee as Director. P.A.R.T.S. is a contemporary dance training program and a laboratory for creative exploration that emphasizes a dialogue between dance and music, theater, and other art forms. Students develop their own independent artistic voices through a two-year training cycle followed by a two-year advanced research cycle which include a schedule of short workshops on topics from dance technique to caring for the dancing body taught by internationally known and respected choreographers and teachers. Upon visiting the school, one will notice the relaxed, yet intellectual atmosphere within the expansive studio spaces and student lounges. Countless languages are spoken in the hallways, as the students at P.A.R.T.S. come from dozens of countries throughout Europe and across the world. Lunch is provided to students in a cafeteria that serves meals to support a healthy, macrobiotic diet, and the curriculum seems to emphasize body awareness and health.

De Keersmaeker has designed P.A.R.T.S. not to teach her specific style or repertory, although these may be included in the workshop schedule, but rather to foster a productive environment and a space for experimentation for the next generation of movement-based artists. She seems always to be interested in the possibility of artists inspiring one another and continuing the conversation she started in her early 20s with the advent of Rosas. As she continues to educate the public with her repertoire of dance works and younger generations of dancers through P.A.R.T.S., De Keersmaeker succeeds in strengthening a legacy of teaching, thinking, and rethinking …a legacy that fosters an ongoing dialogue with the public and the world about her work.

Open Veins of Hip-Hop: Ana Tijoux at The Cedar

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern and Radio K DJ Sam Segal shares his perspective on Ana Tijoux […]

Photo: Nacional Records

Photo: Nacional Records

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Walker Performing Arts Intern and Radio K DJ Sam Segal shares his perspective on Ana Tijoux and Maria Isa at the Cedar Cultural Center on October 4, 2014. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments.

The Dominican-American writer Junot Diaz was once asked whether he only writes to a Dominican or Latino audience. The interviewer, Jasmine Garsd from NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast, pointed out how much Spanish goes untranslated in his work, and she questioned whether this was a move to limit his audience to members of his community. Diaz wholeheartedly disagreed. “There’s always a space in any piece of art for a completely random person that you didn’t imagine to fall in love,” he said. I wonder if when Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux was writing the songs she performed on Saturday night at the Cedar, she imagined that a white, non-Spanish-speaker from Minnesota could connect with them so deeply.

Tijoux was accompanied by the guitar, bass, drums, and percussion of a live band, as well as samples from her percussionist’s laptop. She began the night with the title track off of her new album, Vengo (I remember enough high-school Spanish to know that means, “I come”).  Sampled pan flutes cried out on their own before the band dropped in a sharp Andean groove. Any of the audience’s previous associations between the pan flute and sterile, generic “World” music left the building. The instrument became anthemic, and Tijoux’s relentless flow locked into rhythm with it immediately.

Later in the set, she broke out “1977,” a single from 2010 that the audience may have recognized from its appearance in an episode of Breaking Bad. The beat was based on a sample that sounded straight out of a Morricone Spaghetti Western score. Tijoux seemed to be reclaiming this music from a film industry that often used it to Orientalize and demonize Latin Americans.

The packed crowd was about as enthusiastic as I’ve ever seen at the Cedar. Gone were the crossed arms, muted head nods, and desperate attempts to avoid eye contact that I was used to at indie-rock shows.  Groups of friends around me embraced and danced without shame. Hands waved in the air without any desperate prompting from the performer on stage. It made me think: when people characterize Minnesotans as shy and insular, who do they really think of as being “Minnesotan?” Maria Isa, the opening performer, referred to herself as a Sota-Rican, seeing no contradiction between her Puerto Rican and Minnesotan identities. Her music fused traditional Puerto Rican Bomba music (itself a pretty syncretic genre), R&B, and classic Twin Cities backpack rap.

Ana Tijoux grew up in France after her politically active parents were exiled during the Pinochet coup. Yet, she finds a balance between her French and Chilean identities in hip-hop. She managed to combine conscious rap, traditional Chilean folk music, the protest anthems of Victor Jara, and the feminist theory of Beauvoir. With hip-hop’s sampled beats and total lyrical freedom, it makes sense that the genre would attract artists looking to express their multiplicity.

Ultimately, though, I didn’t spend my night tallying up Tijoux’s influences; the music was too fluid and engaging for that. No, I spent my night dancing and vowing to learn how to speak Spanish again.

By Invitation: Maia Maiden on Scaffold Room

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Twin Cities dance artist Maia Maiden shares her perspective on Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room. Agree […]

Okwui Okpokwasili, during an Open Rehearsal of Scaffold Room at the Walker. Photo: Gene Pittman

Okwui Okpokwasili during an open rehearsal of Scaffold Room at the Walker. Photo: Gene Pittman

To spark discussion, the Walker invites local artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View Series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, Twin Cities dance artist Maia Maiden shares her perspective on Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments.

Some of you may need an invitation for this, some of us won’t. Or some of us may need an invitation for this, some of you won’t. Whatever box you may fit into, check that one and move into the box of the Scaffold Room. Enter black art in a white space. Now take away the undertones and hidden messages of what that could mean and deconstruct. Literally, black art: black creator, black artists, black content, black structure (physical and mental). Literally, white space: white walls, white floors, white lights, white box. With permission and without definition, Ralph Lemon enters the space to tell a story of blackness. From his own mouth, he discovered something… This is why it is partially a lecture and a musical. From the lens of a black man enters the presentation of a black woman to the world. Unapologetic for his experiences and outlook, the connections between literature, music, radical politics, sexual exploration, and Beyoncé will make you question your opinions on how you entered the white space. Tap into what you know (well, maybe). Ask questions about what you don’t know (well, maybe not). Find your box… by invitation.

Previous
Next