Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Soundings, Seams and Visual Sonics

Soundings is born from my deep amazement at how we walk in this world. Maferefún Ana-Maurine Lara, Samiya Bashir, Leigh Gaymon-Jones, Kiyana Horton, Amanda Johnston and Senalka McDonald for the beautiful beginnings.

In a few weeks I travel to Miami to do the third performance of Soundings. It’s a public visual performance installation that speaks about memory, history and power as located in the black female body. I have visioned the piece to happen in multiple locations: Brazil, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Nigeria, the United States and on a ship crossing the Atlantic (yes, breathe.....). I am forever in search of the threads, connections and in creating physical evidence of our existence, our power, the movements of our bodies in the world, the mark, the vévé. The performances are all videotaped—the camera is another witness. Eventually the geographies will meet as multi-channel videos that reveal the complete visual sonics: fathoms, seams, syncopation (mother of dissonance?).

I began this project almost two years ago and thought it might quietly disappear as I have felt unsure about the language I am looking for—how do we access collective deep knowledge and then make that physical? I return to the performers to understand the piece. Sometimes we need other people to remember for us. Carole tells me that the work is about connecting that space of erasure between Africa and the Americas. She says, “I’m the summation of what came before me so that I can be here today.” And how to visualize that summation?

What does it look like when you know ‘You are’?

Another performer reminds me that the seams are important.
How to include these?

Performers are asked to 'describe the color of your deepest power'. I create 'fathoms' of these colors.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Following you here...

Ife Head Lands (still from performance video)

It has been a day of starts and stops. And so I am looking for the connections, the lines and the drawings these lines might possibly become. Yoruba creation myths talk about how we choose our journeys in life, all important events like our own births and deaths, and parents and other major markers and then we must touch the tree of forgetfulness just before we are born. We walk this journey to prove that we have chosen a good path in life. Elegua indeed. There must be a drawing in here somewhere.

I made a new performance video ‘Ife Head Lands’ and burned two copies of the dvd. Two. Today I realize that there may only be two copies in existence forever as I seem to have lost the files into the netherworld of my computer. Is it possible to reconstruct the film in exactly the same way again? It will be an almost-identical twin the second time around. Or maybe not a twin at all. These themes in the work take on a life of their own. A face painted to look like an Ife Head is a way to understand the artifact and the person that came before. And then I suppose the artifact has something to say. I found and it found me. This dance choreographs itself into my body and onto the landscape of paper that surrounds me. Sometimes I want to give away all these creations so that I can start fresh, clean, clear.

But it’s impossible. They always find you. I prayed at the ocean in Miami this spring, thinking I am not ready for all these stories that wake me at 5, 4, 3am. The message was something I should have known already, ‘be thankful for the stories that come to you.’ This breath is a responsibility, this body. The air can pull you to your knees, make you change directions open doors close doors open doors.

Astrologer Anne Ortelee says we are in a time of double negatives. So the unexpected two doors closing is actually an opening. But breathe first. And we are supposed to be writing down our dreams for insight. Last night I remember dreaming about an email that said: Following you here has been becoming. Is it a clue? Or not not a clue? From the same friend who told me ‘I love being around black people’ one evening in Jamaica. I hear that in my core, knowing I have felt that before on the island of Santo Domingo, that specific sensation of my own weight in the world, past and future. It is something that the land absorbs, that is etched so that our very existence resounds, booms. And the sound is deep house. I have never had that, heard that here in the same all-encompassing way. It is deep knowledge.

Like Tisa Bryant’s Autodidact: “Self-knowledge is a disavowal of contested spaces, elbowing a way in. Back door! Disremembering, unremembering as a reasonable response to trauma: either I don’t remember feeling anything about not seeing myself in every book I opened, or I just realize I wasn’t (supposed to be) there. But we look at each other, and know, you and we, are here, and here, and here.”

Following you here has been becoming. As in the drawing has been happening for a long time now? As in when you find it, it will have been waiting for you? They found you here? They did not not find you here. Yes, we looked at each other.

You, me, twin dvds, Ife Heads, what I found when they found me. The body is the axis, mine, yours, not not ours, the weight of it, the drawing of it, the becoming and the sound of doors open doors close doors open.

Jump at 3am

Jump (detail)

Annelize Machado and Surabhi Kukke as Ife Heads
in the workshop performance of Incidents at the Two Two Hotel
at Co-Lab, Austin, TX. 2009

The beginnings in the Co-Lab studio


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Incidents at the Two Two Hotel

The Ife Heads (Surabhi Kukke and Annelize Machado)

Incidents at the Two Two Hotel: a science fiction experience, a future world where inhabitants live in a hotel called the Two Two that consists of two sky-high towers built on an artificial, floating island made up of the plastic detritus of centuries. Movement in this landless future is most strongly determined by language proficiency. Inhabitants may access as many floors of the hotel as the languages they speak. There is also shadowlandic, a phonic and hybrid language spoken by the hotel porters. This is a post-post-apocalyptic world: land masses have gone under, there is no firm ground, no dirt or sand to speak of—except in the outlier colonies where piracy is rampant (there is a profitable trade in sand).

The audience is seated on the island.

Movement happens on the island and in the sea around them.

At Co-Lab space in Austin, performers worked with a ten-minute excerpt of the script which tells the story of The Porter whose Brother is traveling to meet him from the outlier colonies. The Brother imagines a new and glamorous life at the Two Two, while The Porter longs for the sand his brother will carry with him. Ife Heads who are at once marketwomen and statues know the future and the past and serve as witnesses to this journey. They also sound the death cry when the Brother’s body washes up at the hotel lobby/beach. The Tourist, who speaks poor French, catches the first glimpse of the body.

(THE BROTHER has been slowly circling the island, he becomes entangled in the sand bags. A dance of the floating IFE HEADS and THE BROTHER as he meets his death at sea.)


(through the lens of her camera)

Faites vous le voyez?


To see. Not what it used to be.


Un cadavre. Cette horrible!


(looking through the lens)

Cette une tragedie.


I feel horrible.


Mais porquoi? This is not your tragedie.


IFE HEADS (Surabhi Kukke and Annelize Machado) are a combination of marketwomen and statues. They wear bathing suits under long flowing dresses that carry the striations of the IFE HEADS. Their faces are painted with these striations as well, in neon pink and gold. They speak in high, long tones.

THE PORTER (Azure D. Osborne-Lee) works in the lobby of the Two Two Hotel, comes from a family of porters, speaks shadowlandic. Is trickster, Elegua, crazy, sane, manic. Charming. A hustler. His speech is disjunctive and shadowy; he speaks in rhymes and broken sentences.

THE BROTHER (Matt Richardson) is THE PORTER’s brother. He is journeying to join him from the outlier islands via boat. He is queer and fabulous and in search of his own freedom which he believes he will find at the Two Two Hotel. He leaves his mother to join his brother. He journeys with bags of sand, as sand doesn’t exist on the island of the Two Two Hotel. He dies during the play which is indicated by a change in speech—he begins to speak as if he is bobbing in the sea, between breaths. He also comes back to life.

Visual notes: THE BROTHER carries/drags spray-painted gold bags of sand (with striations).

THE TOURIST (Gwendolyn Ferreti) is from what once was Africa. She claims to be from Dakar. She has managed to slip into the French-speaking floor of the hotel, though her French is poor. She is concerned with living a glamorous life. She photographs, films her experiences in the lobby to have proof, evidence. She has sex with THE PORTER, she thinks she loves him.

Surabhi Kukke, Annelize Machado, Gwendolyn Ferreti, Azure D. Osborne-Lee, Matt Richardson, Wura-Natasha Ogunji

Many Thanks to Sean Gaulager at Co-Lab, Ana-Maurine Lara (Dramaturg) and Nicole Vlado.