reflections from 7a*11d presentation of ‘a series of movements’ [Toronto 2018]

October of 2018, for Toronto’s international festival 7a*11d,

I presented an iteration of  ‘a series of movements‘:

time shifts. the body moves. a black disabled body moves. queerly.

Reflecting a continued corporeal exploration of the intertwining legacies of race and disability, i offered solo selections from compositions that navigate the seemingly pedestrian, transitory and performative ways one moves and is moved through the world.

Writers Geneviève Wallen and Francesco Gagliardi  were commissioned to reflect on various presentations of the festival. Both writers’ full reflections can be found on the festival website under “tender considerations” and “RE:FRAMING” respectively.

Here are their reflections on my presentatio:

Geneviève – 

Barak adé Soleil’s a series of movements [Toronto] is a work deeply rooted in love, one

that attends, protects, acknowledges and most importantly amplifies more than one

voice. The acknowledgement introducing the performance highlighted the urgency in

recognizing the multiple ways in which bodies are connected to one another, and the

importance of carving space for plural ways of being. To further emphasize his plea, adé

Soleil requested that the members of the audience enter the theater in an order and

pathway that was predicated on social access and mobility—pressing on socially

constructed hierarchies and one’s attentiveness to able-bodied privileges. Adé Soleil’s

movements examined various forms of actions from crawling, rolling, leaning, to using

mobility devices, and ultimately standing. The artist’s connection with the public was

meant to be multilayered; at times it was gentle and other times more confrontational,

all while investigating the weight of different stages of verticality. Even while

underscoring his bodily rapport with architecture and the public space, he also

highlighted how one’s humanity and desirability can be easily dismissed through

numerous societal intersections, one being disability. Adé Soleil also intentionally

brought to the surface the violence of ongoing archival and cultural erasure.

a series of movements [Toronto] is based on the seminal work of well-known Belgian

choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve

Reich (1982). The footage in Reich’s notorious piece Come Out (1966), featured in De

Keersmaeker’s choreography, originates from a too familiar story of extreme physical

abuse and systematic anti-Blackness. Indeed the words “come out” were

decontextualized from the infamous sentence by Daniel Hamm from the Harlem Six: “I

had to, like, open up the bruise and let the blood come out to show them”.[20] This gut

wrenching sentence was a testament to the police brutality endured by Hamm and other

Black males while being unjustly incarcerated—he being one of the eldest, nineteen

years young. He had to take this intense measure, opening up a bruise, to reclaim his

humanity and get medically treated for his injuries. Reich had access to this testimony in

a facilitated exchange with the civil rights activist, writer, and

curator Truman Nelson. [21]  By removing the context and applying auditory distortions

to the words “come out”, the history was lost, and capitalized on by individuals who

would further Daniel Hamm’s erasure from the collective consciousness—individuals

such as De Keersmaeker. The appropriation by adé Soleil of movements from Fase, Four

Movements to the Music of Steve Reich and of techniques applied in the work Come Out

was an attempt to take back what has been lost—a voice, a place in the collective

imagination, legitimacy—while bridging the past and the present. More than fifty years

later such narrative is still an intrinsic part of collective fear, loss and anger.

Moreover, adé Soleil contracted an ASL interpreter to translate while he was reciting his

revised version of the looping piece Come Out. He explained that sign language is a

choreography in itself that has the power to amply what is linguistically difficult to

communicate, and in this case it added a visual language to Black male experiences, in

order to tap into embodied memory.[22]

footnotes as indicated via bracketed numbers [20 – 22] referenced —

[20] The story of the Harlem Six is a narrative of Black male teenagers and young adults—Wallace Baker, Daniel Hamm, William Craig, Ronald Felder, Walter Thomas, and Robert Rice—wrongly convicted for the murder of a white couple who were shop owners in Harlem. Daniel Hamm’s statement is from an interview he did with Truman Nelson after his first night in a police station for the little fruit stand riot, in 1964.To learn more about this story see James Baldwin’s article “A Report from Occupied Territory”, published in the Nation magazine in 1966.

[21] Nelson sought out Reich to help him edit several tapes with interviews featuring the Harlem Six, their mothers, and the police, in order to write The Torture of Mothers and support legal procedures. In exchange for his labour, Reich asked that if he found something interesting, he be allowed to use it for his art practice. The resulting sound collage Come Out was used to help raise funds for the Harlem Six’s retrial, but mainly became Reich’s big artistic break. See Brent Hayes Edwards, Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination (Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA & London, England, 2017), p. 246.

[22] Barak adé Soleil in discussion with the writer, November 2018.


Barak adé Soleil a series of movements [Toronto] 7a*11d 2018 PHOTO Henry Chan.

Francesco:
“While these pieces [referring to other works within the festival] managed to deploy
certain aspects of the theatrical framing to their own advantage, it is no coincidence that two of the festival’s most successful pieces succeeded, at least in part, precisely because they put this framing at the very centre of the work’s content. In a series of movements [Toronto] Barak adé Soleil engaged with the architecture of the theatre by navigating the hollowed out main space on the second floor using a variety of mobility aids: crutches, a scooter, a manual wheelchair. In the central section of the piece, the artist lent his body to the recorded voice of Daniel Hamm, one of six African American teenagers arrested in Harlem and convicted of murder in 1965. Hamm, who was exculpated three years later, recounted how, in order to convince the police that he had been beaten up whilst in custody, he had to “open the bruise up, and let some of the blood come out to show them”. A section of Hamm’s recorded testimony was used by American composer Steve Reich in Come out, composed in 1966 for a benefit in support of the Harlem Six. Standing on crutches in the middle of the room, the artist fiercely wrestled with Reich’s composition, dubbing along with the looped segment “come out to show them” until the phrase’s pent-up pain and anger hatched its cathartic double: “come out to shoot them”. The piece, which had started in the ground floor lobby with the reading of a “c/krip” acknowledgment inviting the audience to explore the space with an awareness of the “diversity of bodies” in its midst, came to a breathtaking, drawn-out finale when the artist left the room and proceeded laboriously to climb down the emergency exit stairs on his wheelchair, before disappearing into the street crowd. “

Author: Barak adé Soleil

contemporary artist, independent consultant and curator. working within community.

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