“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.

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