Thoughts on The Wreck:
Where do I go from now—2013?
1977 recording of Audre Lorde reading The Black Unicorn.
Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde in conversation.
Diving Into The Wreck.
What is present in this dialogue—histories, buried dreams, abuse, a submerging, a going down and into in order to come up and out of.
Distinctively black, the black experimental lineage, chronicling a black aesthetic.
Am I going into the black arts movement or am i going into the feminist movement—complicated answer—the black feminist movement.
The black feminist voice and the lesbian voice and the queerness of me bringing in Abby Lincoln and Max Roach and the radical scream of NOW;
of how I navigate beyond the dichotomies that they had to live in—black, lesbian, radical. I am all and none of this.
My personal wreck resides in the soul of chaos. Outside and inside—no separation.
The Wreck is our meeting place. Let us meet there. We live there anyway.
This is the year that my arm fell asleep. It feels like this; my fingers get all tingly and the arm goes numb when it is under stress or if I do too much heavy lifting. My doctor at Kaiser said it was a slight pinch to the nerve in my cervical spine, maybe. The doctor was not sure of his diagnosis nor was the Physical Therapist at Kaiser. I stopped seeing them both. I have been trying to maintain a low cost $15 per session acupuncture treatment regimen at Circle Community Acupuncture and it’s working slowly. My arm is slowly waking up, I think. I’ve never had an injury that was ongoing like this. I’ve been very lucky. Now that I’m 40 everyone is blaming it on my age.
I think it’s about waking up to my kinesthetic needs, delving into trauma present in the body and simply becoming more aware of what I am holding in my musculature, nerves, joints, blood, and cells. If it’s aging then it’s also a certain wisdom in the body saying pay attention and listen. I am a young elder and I am appreciating these subtle shifts. There is a lot to learn, a lot to pay attention to, and a lot to cherish. My arm is waking up slowly. It only falls asleep a few times a week now versus a few times a day. How do I keep paying attention when it completely wakes up?
I created the ADD Dance Project for artists who have had to deal with dreams deferred and who have some form of attention deficit disorder—real or imagined. Most artists experience all of the above but my particular interest is in artists who have been systematically excluded from society because of their race, gender, class status, and so on. I’m particularly drawn to artists who choose to claim beauty beyond capitalism, who use the body as the site for performance, who are fierce, radical, and non apologetic.
I also created ADD Dance as a way to flush out all of my ideas in one place. Currently I am working on a short piece as part of the Home Theater Festival (check out the link below) investigating sugar in relation to colonial rule in the Americas. I also felt like it would be important to remember and celebrate James Baldwin in that process. As a result, the piece will be a tribute to Baldwin but I’m still working on connecting the dots. And then there is Dirtstar—trash transformed, seeds sown, queer family forged—a group of dirty artists redefining “sustainability” in a queer context who I’ve been collaborating with for three years. We’re doing the third and final installment of our collaboration this year on June 19th at the Tenderloin National Forest as part of the National Queer Arts Festival in SF. And finally there is the continuous and ongoing engagement with an embattled environment called San Francisco. Last week, I went to an event called Black Love in Public in Oakland where black folks were invited to be intimate in public. Black folks from all over the bay area (primarily the east bay) showed up at 12 noon in front of Oakland City Hall and continually embraced each other for up to two hours. Whenever I told other people that I lived in San Francisco, they would say “How do you do it?” or “I had to move to Oakland”. One woman said, “Black people are an endangered species in San Francisco” and sadly, I had to agree.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
I have always been on the run, in numerous liminal spaces and I don’t think that will stop being the reality of my life. Being in between. It is not a comfortable space but it gives me compassion for myself. It allows for failure as a beginning point. It allows for regeneration. I have to step inside of what is not immediate and navigate impermanence. So I offer up a bio that will change and morph with time. As I read it over, it sounds distant. I want to say that now I am a working artist, living day to day, carving out space for myself to create. My desire is to throw away the carving knife and live inside of the creation. The reality is a desire thwarted by the necessities of survival. It’s two in the morning and I carve out this small space….
I start with the body. Immediate, vulnerable, overlooked, it is the foundation of my work. I create textured landscapes of movement/gesture, text and voice. My work reconstructs cultural memories from black, queer, colonized/marginalized histories. Characteristics consistent throughout each piece are collaboration, site specificity, audience engagement, risky physicality, interactive environments, and the creation of community through the artistic process.
My first solo performance art piece, “Born Again”, was created in 1992 while studying at the Trinity La Mama Performing Arts Program in New York City. “Born Again” chronicled my childhood acts of resistance to an evangelical upbringing using movement and text. As a result it became a signature trait of my work to integrate personal narrative and movement to critique oppressive circumstances. Early exposure to artists such as Robbie McCauley and Laurie Carlos, Karen Finely, David Wojnarowicz, Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane gave me examples of how to create a new kind of performance that provided access to a more visceral response while critiquing America’s political landscape.
I came to San Francisco in 1995 and began performing solo and in collaboration with other artists at small venues around the city. Since then, my work has expanded from solo performance to film, aerial dance, circus and can be currently defined, with a sigh of relief, as contemporary dance. In 2004 I was granted an artist residency at Headlands Center for the Arts and created my first evening length solo work, “Niggerati Story”. In 2010, I was granted a choreographer’s residency at the Djerassi Residency where I worked on “Fugitive Dreams”—my current full length work in progress.
FUGITIVE DREAMS: Queer memories of ancestors, ghosts, and outlaws
“Fugitive Dreams” was inspired by Ann Maria Weems, a young “mulatto girl” who escaped through the Underground Railroad dressed in “male habiliments”. I am re-imagining her story through a queer lens using the genre of “biomythograpy” coined by Audre Lorde.
“Fugitive Dreams” is a collaborative performance event and journey into other realms featuring installations of otherworldly portals bringing audience members face to face with performers who represent ancestral and contemporary imagined archetypes. After being led through the portals by an “ancestral chorus” of three dancers, the audience will be brought to the main theater to experience a series of vignettes based on shape shifting transgressors, fragmented memories of childhood captivity, dreams of freedom, and conversations with ancestors. “Fugitive Dreams” is an interdisciplinary, multi-media, site specific-indoor/outdoor performance.
The show’s general themes deal with being in-between worlds i.e. gender, race, life and death realms while engaging in raucous musings on freedom, safety, and being on the run. Imagery and sound sculpture include the colors black/grey/white, bursts of orange and purple (colors that signify Oya the Yoruban goddess of change and yams—her primary offering), story telling, dancing the non gendered body, sounds of trains, wailing, laughing, stomping about, bodies hunched over close to the ground, questions and gibberish, character archetypes of silent ghosts and apparitions, humming ancestors, fugitives, hip hop, and afro punk.