Voices of Strength Seen and Heard in NYC!

Posted in Uncategorized | October 2, 2012 | by emilyharney | (1) Comment

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After several years of conversations and planning, it is difficult to believe that the New York stage of the Voices of Strength tour has come and gone. In addition to striking performances, choreographers Nelisiwe Xaba, Kettly Noël, Gbahihonon Nadia Beugré, Maria Helena Pinto, and Bouchra Ouizguen participated in a series of thought provoking conversations and social events.

Because this important group of artists is largely unknown in the United States, MAPP wanted to explore intimate opportunities for the community to meet the artists off-stage. Much more potent than the “see and be seen” cocktail party, MAPP held an informal welcome gathering at Pangea Restaurant, and in partnership with New York Live Arts, organized thematically-relevant discussions pre and post-performance, and hosted an Artists Exchange Luncheon with New York City based dance-makers. At these events, participants were able to have one-on-one interactions, which sparked rich dialogue and enhanced viewings of the performances. For example, attendees at the welcome gathering gained insights into the conceptual underpinnings of the props. Maria Helena Pinto shared that the work “Sombra” emerged from her decision to use a common household item, a bucket, literally and figuratively to render her as faceless and anonymous.  Kettly Noël and Nelisiwe Xaba also shared anecdotes about how their blossoming friendship, and the challenges of shifting from oral or written conversations to movement conversations, fomented the critical layers of collaboration necessary to build the work “Correspondances”. Not only were the artists generous about sharing that information, but their individual passions about making work became extremely pronounced. These conversations rendered a more profound authenticity to the (already powerful) experience of their voices on-stage.

 

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Perhaps indicative of a zeitgeist, the premier of these works fell concurrently with performances by Nora Chipaumire and Faustin Linyekula (also contemporary artists utilizing complex personal narratives to confront one-dimensional stereotypes of Africa). As a result, many provocative questions and insights arose throughout the week. Audience members were challenged to recognize their own assumptions about “African dance”, and then break those assumptions down in order to embrace the multi-dimensionalities of these women and their unique perspectives. Several recent reviews took on all of these works as if they were in conversation including:  “Lessons Learned: Transcribing the African Reality through Dance” by Azza Satti and “Out of Africa” by Deborah Jowitt.

As scholar Joan Frosch articulated so succinctly, “The encounters across American cities and towns will have been brief but all the more precious for that. These artists will not only sharpen our capacity to perceive, but to imagine anew. Indeed, the decolonization of perceptions, practices, institutions, and histories is a pedagogy far from finished.” Certainly, New York has been left with their voices ringing in our ears.

The tour continues to Washington D.C. (October 4-5), Minneapolis (October 10-13), and San Francisco (October 19-20). You don’t want to miss it!

a note from Bamuthi

Posted in Uncategorized | March 15, 2011 | by emilyharney | (1) Comment

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i am wishing you all in chicago with me right now…
Theaster’s  iteration of urban development embodies the principles that we seek to manifest with Life is Living, and through red, black and GREEN: a blues.

read this  for deeper context:
Regarding the rbGb set…think Legos. Large, repurposed wood puzzle pieces that assemble and reassemble in the shape of different structures that are linked to the piece’s geography. Chicago architectural geometry, Houston’s row houses, New York’s brownstone stoops, California coastline…

Trace a narrative that encompasses the building and deconstruction of these archetypal frames…

With each reconstruction we also fashion a different projection surface(s), in a different physical location on stage, in a different shape, perhaps with video cut to match the unique shape of corresponding structures…flat like the earth next to water, tall and tetris, like the negative space in chicago’s skylines…

Think redeemed wood…built in hydraulics…built in speakers… pull out drawers that hide a potter’s wheel or a surface for tapping or surface for drumming.

pictures soon…
much love
b

Being “inside” the practice

Posted in Uncategorized | February 4, 2011 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Sekou Sundiata’s America Project has had lasting effects throughout every part of MAPP – perhaps most significantly on our ideas of community engagement and the role of the arts in civic dialogue. Above my desk I have a strip of paper taped to the wall that reads, in Sekou’s words, “the intersection of art, imagination, humanities and public engagement” to remind me to think about all of those elements when building programs to support public interaction with artists. One of the ways we’re striving to continue his vision is through something currently called “The America Project Knowledgebase” which we’re building in partnership with the design and research firm Buscada.

The Knowledgebase is meant to support the evolution of The America Project by learning from and connecting practitioners of The America Project methodology through the creation of a web-based resource and a range of publications (from email blasts to a documentary film, for example). Through it we’re looking to understand more how people are using the Teaching Method and how it intersects with their own practice, and then to feed this information back into the world to inspire new practices of collaboration, creativity and citizenship. Again and again and again….

One part of building the Knowledgebase (among many) is in-depth interviews with practitioners we know are already engaged in this work. Yesterday we had a meeting with Buscada to discuss the strategy we’ll employ in these interviews and spent quite a while talking about ways that we can keep the interview “inside” the practice, rather than “about” the practice. How can we set up part of the interview as a simulation of practice to get people out of their heads and thinking in a more indirect way? Maybe it just means walking through a neighborhood while talking? Or dancing while talking? Or for a teacher, being in the classroom where they do their work? If their practice is largely collaborative, does it make sense for the interview to be with multiple people? What does it mean for an arts presenter or someone who runs a community organization?

We’d love to hear your ideas.

Rabbit vs. Hare; Body vs. No Body

Posted in Uncategorized | July 21, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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On Monday evening, we gathered a group of people to have a discussion around some of the ideas that Ralph Lemon is exploring in his new work How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, premiering and touring this fall.

Joined by Ralph and dramaturg Katherine Profeta (who Ralph refers to as his “advocate for the audience” in his process) we read and talked about a couple short stories which are but two parts of the amalgamation of elements floating around the work: The Hare in the Moon (as mentioned in Jorge Luis Borges The Book of Imaginary Beings) and the Uncle Remus stories The Wonderful Tar Baby Story and How Mr. Rabbit Outwitted Mr. Fox.

Like any good conversation, we ended up with more questions than answers.

Each of the stories features a rabbit whose body is “thrown”—one into the fire to gain enlightenment, and one into the briar patch for survival. So, is there a way to understand them as the same rabbit—the striving for survival the same as that toward enlightenment? Can the clever trickster be as wise as the selfless Buddhist?

The Hare’s act of giving his body to feed a supplicant is one of generosity. But it is done for spiritual reward. Does the fact that there is reward somehow lessen the act of generosity? Is enlightenment the same as generosity? Is Brer Rabbit just as enlightened as the Hare? Are the Uncle Remus stories more understandable by us, coming from a Western, and particularly American perspective—for us is struggle a crucial element of the quest for enlightenment?

The ideas of enlightenment, grace, transcendence are present throughout How Can You Stay…,  but a key question is how do explore them through the body when it is impossible to achieve them physically? How can you DO something which pushes the body in that direction? How do you perform without “being” in the body?

NYC premiere screening slideshow

Posted in Uncategorized | March 8, 2010 | by emilyharney | Leave a Comment

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Thanks to all who came out to the NYC premiere screening of finding the 51st (dream) state: Sekou Sundiata’s America Project last Wednesday. It was an inspiring time and we look forward to continuing the dialogue about the relationship of art making and creativity to citizenship.

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