Wednesday, August 29, 2007

working my rainbows (performance studies essay)

Unpacking the Crawl or Another Look at Global Positioning

By maneuvering through Manhattan in a kinesthetic position of lowness, Pope.L poignantly engages with ideas of mobility, space, agency, and identity which grow out of repeated experiences of state violence. In doing so, Pope.L’s crawls provide a lens through which viewers experience a performance of lack which contextualizes and complicates the ontological dilemma of black masculinity. His crawls ask viewers to intimately engage with the muck and the mess flung as everyday trauma against the bodies of black men. In a way, this performance of lack demands that participants revel in lowness, or at least imagine such a position, as if a ton of bricks were strapped to her back.

But what does Pope.L want to stir and agitate in the bodies of the co-participants who view and perform his project on lowness and lack? As Pope.L crawls and crawls one can not refrain from thinking about how long his crawls will persist before the subjugated body revolts against the prescribed position in society. Why doesn’t Pope.L finally just stand up as an assertion of visibility, verticality, and mobility? Why isn’t there a point of self-actualization in this performance piece when Pope.L creatively re-imagines the future positioning of the black male body on the rough and uneven terrain he crawls over?

These questions are concerned with action and agency denied to black men. Literally the curb-high view the crawl inhibits what the crawler can see ahead of him. Maybe Pope.L wants us to consider the dismal possibilities for the future of black men who can not see a block down the street, in this prostrate position. It is possible he wants us to think about how this quasi-blindness is inextricably linked to black men’s possibility for future self-efficacy. In essence, Pope.L wants us to imagine the historical and current context of embodied immobility that black men experienced in the past as well as here and now.

Lepecki tells us, “Pope.L tackles the question of presence by positing as its condition of possibility the stumble of being and not being never fully belonging to itself,” (93). Pope.L’s crawls are a choreopolitcal statement aimed at activating the community in hopes to unearth collective responses to this physical and societal problem. He reminds his audience of the important role the community performs in shifting the paradigm that makes the position of lowness a daily reality for black men. Did any of the crawl participants reach down to offer Pope.L help off the ground? Did anyone on the street speak up or speak out or help the brother off the ground?

One could assume that this crawl is symbolic of the subjugated positions of other oppressed people in society. Moreover, the crawls remind us of the tendency towards numbness and immobility in the face of repeated trauma. Pope.L’s crawls provide the visual by which communities can remember or experience the space of lack; however, he does not ask us what we are going to do to change this reality. One could only hope that by experiencing this global positioning participants and performers creatively work to dismantle the infrastructure that makes this dance possible.

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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
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