Saturday, September 08, 2007

Litany for Survival

Amiri Baraka's

Friday, September 07, 2007

working my rainbows (essays about performance studies)

CARRIE MAE WEEMS Untitled Outtake from The Kitchen Table Series 1990
silver gelatin print
edition of 5
28 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches

So sistas and brothas, you may have figured out now that one of the major tenets of peformance studies is that performance happens everywhere and is not just confined to theater spaces. Cars perform, organs (kidney, liver and such) perform, nature performs, technology performs, so on and so forth. Objects perform, art pieces perform, etc. Above you find a photo created by the brilliant Carrie Mae Weems. Anna Deveare Smith calls Weems a visionary. I am amazed (but not really) by how Weems captures time, emotion, tension, and narrative in this photograph. This photo moves, like cinema, like water, like relationships.

How is this photo performing? What is it doing? What motion is created in stillness? Is stillness a figment of our imagination? Can emotion stand quiet motionless? Should it? Where is the breath in this photo? How do the bodies house the breath? Release it?

The bodies in this photo perform: guilt, disappointment, blackness, womaness, shame, fear, confusion...I have always been drawn to hands how the hands flail in delight, protect from too bright sunlight, welcome a lover, feed, birth, create, cleanse, break apart. here the girl's hands communicate feelings of fear, regret, timidness. The mother's hands communicate authority, power, strength, tiredness.

The bible in all of its complicated and layered symbology could possibly stand in for father/husband figure seemingly absent in the picture. what does the presence of the bible say about black men, black community when objects take the place of people?

we could talk about light, the grain/texture of the photo, the shadow behind the little girl, how the scene resembles an interrogation room, why weems chose black in white instead of color, how the eyes speak or mute narrative, the fact that the glass of possibly liquor, possible cola (who knows) is the closest item to the audience/spectator and what that means to the overall composition of the work.

Interestingly, I want to take a moment to share a poem not about any of those ideas directly (or maybe in tandem with) the kitchen table.


here, my knotty hair becomes a slick black street


here, i learn this little light of mine here,


two times two becomes four for the first time for me


here, i want to lean over and taste the sun of yellow walls here,


i am taught how to stir gravy with an arm akimbo, a cock-eyed knee, and an ear holding somebody's gossip


here, was the first time i "made" my books with aunt shellie






here, we sing a poem through greasy fingers and sideways grins



i learn about strawberries and how not to be called a ho



we celebrate my first period with play-coffee and cheese grits



i say i'm grown everywhere else but here

Calendar of Events

  • June 1- Official Launch of Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative
  • May 10, 7 pm, Gumbo YaYa @ Roses and Bread Women's Poetry Reading, Performance/Body Insallation, Brecht Forum NYC
  • May 10, all day, Experimental Theatre Final Performances NYU
  • May 7-8, all day, Gumbo YaYa, MA Symposium NYU
  • April 23, 6 pm Gumbo YaYa, -ism Gala NYU
  • March 26, 7 pm, Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues, Tisch School of the Arts, Forum Series
  • Feb. 7, Brecht Forum, 730, moderating NO! film screening
  • Jan. 4, Common Ground Theatre, 8 pm, performance art night---Holding Space (a love poem for Meghan Williams)
  • Dec. 12, Ripple in Brooklyn, 8 pm, sharing poetic vibes for a jazz/blues show
  • Oct 27, Duke University, 9:45 am, Women Engage Hip-Hop Panel
  • Sept 14, PS @ Tisch, How Much Can the Body Hold
  • Sept 19, Righetous AIM, NC A & T
  • August 31-Sept 2, 75TH Highlander Anniversary
  • Anti-prison Industrial complex performance, Durham, NC
  • April 30 Shout Out, Carrboro, NC
  • April 24 Fingernails Across Chalkboard Reading, Washington, DC
  • April 14 Poetry Month Reading, Durham, NC
  • 3/31 Ringing Ear Reading, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Wednesday 3/21 - 7 pm Miller Morgan Auditorium, Performative Healing and the Work of Ntozake Shange, Lecture