Sunday, February 08, 2009

Up From the Depths

Up, from the depths, but only temporarily. I was trying to think of the right word to describe this quarter, this January and February, the steep and suffocating mound of work, and the feeling of being buried and being unable to get out from under it, to imagine a way out of or around it, and I realized, when Chris was here a few weeks ago, that I'd mentioned it in a conversation with him: vivisepulture. Which, I reminded myself, will be a title of a new project. Slowly, surely, I'm climbing up out of it, eyeing my way out of it at least, but there's still a long, ascending incline to go. And blogging, which I love to do, unfortunately has to come last on the list. But rather than let this month (Black History Month, no less!), pass by without at least an initial post, here I go.

My English 383 blackboard workMy English 383 blackboard work
Blackboard work, after my lit class (one of the few fun things I do every week)


A weekend ago, Tisa Bryant and Duriel Harris were in town for the final week of Jennifer Karmin and Amina Cain's month-long festival at Links Hall, "When Does It or You Begin? (Memory as Innovation): Writing, Performance, & Video Festival." I caught the Friday night set, which brought together Tisa's and Duriel's performances, as well as video clips by father and son team Bryan & Jake Saner and Chi Jang Yin.

I've read Tisa's book, Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007) in various versions, but I'd never heard Tisa read from the book, and it was a revelation; she read from the Dido chapter, and the charged narrative, which gathers tremendous force all the way up through its final words, a figurative and literal gathering up of the disparate (black) voices she imagines in the London in which that story-essay is set, are still resonating for me. Duriel performed a selection from a new project, "Unquiet Borders & on the Air, a Gallows," which imagines the moment following Emancipation and preceding Reconstruction, in a way that only the multivocal, multivisional Duriel can. The two video pieces worked less well for me, in part because I thought both could have used a bit more context in the form of an introduction, and in the case of the Saner piece, The Inaudibles, which focused on young and older political activists, the divergent strands didn't really come together in the short sliver that I saw. In the post-show talkback, both Tisa and Duriel offered some cogent thoughts in response to the lively questions that moderator Tony Trigilio was asking, particularly in relation to how historical memory, cultural memories, and the lived, everyday experiences of regular people, could be viewed in relation to each other.

Here are some photographs from the event:
Amina Cain introing event, Links Hall
Amina Cain introducing the event
Tisa Bryant reading, Links Hall
Tisa reading from Unexplained Presence
Duriel Harris, Links Hall
Duriel, performing her work
Clip from Saners' film, Links Hall
A still shot from the Saners' film, The Inaudibles
Talk back at Links Hall
The talkback (l-r): Amina, Tisa, Tony, Jake and Bryan, Duriel, and Jen.


The following night, I went to a forum and community discussion, presented by The Silver Room and Tres, on the "Social Responsibility of the Artist" at the Silver Room, in Wicker Park. The panel featured artists Theaster Gates, Jon Bollo, Maritza Cervantes, Courtney Jolliff, and Krista Franklin, among others. Hector Rivera and Sandra Ivelisse Antongiorgi moderated. I won't attempt to recap the discussion and Q&A session except to say that the panelists and most of the audience came down on the side of social responsibility, while also agreeing that artists ought to have as their primary concern doing the best work possible. The l'art pour l'art crowd was a decided minority. Some photos:
Artists' panel, Silver Room
The panel (Krista is wearing the white sweater)
Audience at panel, Silver Room
Audience at artist' panel, Silver Room
The audience at the forum
Late set at the Silver Room
The DJ getting ready for the post-forum party
Late set at the Silver Room
Post-forum viewing and partying

I'll end there, and try to post photos from Tisa's, Krista's and my trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we caught the Jenny Holzer and Theaster Gates exhibits, which were closing on February 1.

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