“Retrieving” at Disjecta

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Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to present a new work, entitled Retrieving, with artist and Feedingsmiles business owner, Elisa Roberts. In addition to my performance, there were 6 other performances by some amazing young artists (all students at PNCA). Overall, the event felt so sacred to me. Performances collided and occurred simultaneously, as each artist expressed their own story and artistic meditation through their work. It was like rising above the mundane to see how our worlds touch, collide and separate all at the same time. For me, it was a reminder that I am one of many on this earth; I was thinking a lot about how my experience matters, but at the same time, it doesn’t. When I say that it doesn’t matter, I mean in the sense that my experience is not the only one, and it certainly is not the beginning nor end of my reality.

For my piece, Retrieving, I was playing a lot with elements that I have not consciously employed yet in my practice. It was a first-timer for a lot of different media: movement/dance, direction and spacing, text/literature and sound. I have used parts of these mediums in other performances, but never intentionally, all together. The performance was about the connection between past, present and future, questioning the idea of the line and linearity.

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My performance partner and I moved in circles: Elisa backwards and counter-clockwise, while reading parts of Toni Morrison’s Beloved forward, while I walked forward and clockwise, reading Beloved backwards. We would periodically rip out pages that we read and stuff them in our mouths and continue reading. After emptying the pages from our mouths into a jar, we began a movement piece, where I mirrored Elisa’s movements, all the while maintaining one point of contact (either through the finger tips or back to back).

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While I am still processing the piece, now that the energy of it is out of my head and into the world, I know that Retrieving had to do with the past and present colliding, happening at the same time, mirroring each other imperfectly. I choose Morrison’s Beloved because one of the elements in the work that has always stuck with me is how the past can haunt you, and until you confront the bodily presence of that pain, you cannot move forward. I am also thinking about how we can often make very painful decisions in our best interest (and in the best interest of our loved ones).

My thinking as of late, has been on the Middle Passage and the suicides that took place during that voyage. Ultimately, I have been meditating on the choice of death via suicide within the context of the Atlantic Slave Trade as not a fear-based action to an ending, but rather, as a confident choice made out of resistance to leave the current reality and return to home (wherever home may be). Retrieving is just one articulation of this larger thought and I am interested in seeing how this inquiry continues to unfold. In the mean time, I am happy and grateful to have such an awesome community of artists to share it all with.

New Performance at Disjecta this Coming Sunday!

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Next Sunday, I will be performing a new work in collaboration with Elisa Roberts, the creator of Feedingsmiles. Departing from a previous performance, Sound Beings (performed at R/SF), this work is a meditative piece that uses movement and text to reconsider the linearity of consciousness raising and progress.

Please come join us, as there are a number of amazing Portland artists collaborating in this performance. Hope to see you there!

Creating Art by Making Nothing

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I have been on break for the past month, in between semesters. While many ideas have moved through my head, I have done- well, made- nothing. When I hit these moments of what seems like creative unproductivity, I have a tendency to shame myself with disappointment. I wonder why I didn’t use my time “properly”. So what have I been doing the past few weeks? Reading. Reading, sleeping, eating and spending time with my loved ones.

While I am a fan of “the work ethic”, which is something both my mother and my grandpa strongly live by, I try to remind myself that work comes in many different forms. Now, I know how this thinking can be a slippery slope. There is always Artist A, who simply works when inspiration strikes and they cannot force it, but it just comes like magic. And there is also the Artist B, the person who works no matter what. Everyday they make an effort, even when it feels like squeezing water from a potato. Why? Because of work ethic and the need to create.

So what happens when your practice doesn’t fit either A or B? That would be me- somewhere in between. I personally don’t like waiting for inspiration to hit. Usually inspiration hits when I am playing and toying around with other areas of my practice. But my productivity doesn’t exactly look like Artist B either. I am not always drawing, painting, photographing, collaging or performing everyday. But the same gears I use inside to make those works continue to turn regardless. Perhaps most of my work happens in my head, first. My brain is like a cow, chewing on an idea for hours or days, and then that idea evolves into another idea, then another, until I put something down in my journal and think some more, or do research.

So these past few weeks, this is what I have been working on in my studio: I have been reading about the spiritual practices of different women of color writers. Okay, so someone is rolling their eyes, I’m sure. Here we go, another fluffy, woo-woo, spirituality, creating, goddess, earth, art, create, art, yoga, feelings kind of art discussion. Yes, this is that, but it doesn’t mean it’s any less valid. I use intellect and theory to justify the work I make in a modern context, which allows the work to expand and talk to other artists and their work. But its initial growth comes not from my head, but feeling, intuition, a hunch or curiosity: what if I do this and put this next to that…? I think many artists work this way, but don’t call it ritual. To me, it is ritual. It is self-designed, experimental ritual. It is a very personal process of creation that vibrates from within, to the exterior and back into the interior.

Ultimately, what I read, see, do and feel subconsciously infuses my work. It is like stacking food for later inquiry. So in short, these past weeks, I have been filling my reserves with food for the now and the future. I have to let myself run apart and crash together like water. Water is not always consistent, and that’s ok, it flows nonetheless. My artistic rhythm and flow is enough, just as I am enough. Give yourself permission to work how you work and trust it’s all for something. You probably won’t see it right away, but time and space from now, you will see. I am certain of this.