Surinder Martignetti is the Manager of Performance Programs at the MCA.
The first thing you notice is his skin.
If it were soil, his is the earth brown you’d want to sow in.
A Chicago son, hard times, he does not blink.
So think of this brother brown, now see this mother black.
See how dark the day becomes when you bury the son?
—Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Oakland-based spoken word and dance artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Chicago-based visual artist and activist Theaster Gates collaborate to create a multimedia performance and visual installation addressing environmental issues from the perspective of communities of color. The performance, red, black and GREEN: a blues (rbGb), is presented at MCA Stage, April 12–14. The visual installation, a stage set created by Gates titled The Colored Museum, will be open for museum visitors to explore during the performance week. Over the coming weeks, visit this blog to explore ideas of community, the environment, and art through interviews, videos, images, and interactions with Bamuthi and Gates.
We invite you to answer the questions Bamuthi raises in his work: “What sustains life in your community?” and “What is your relationship to life in Chicago?” Our guest bloggers will include Kate Dumbleton from Chicago Jazz Ensemble along with community partners Jacinda Bullie from Kuumba Lynx, Mike Hawkins from YOUmedia, and Robbie Q from Young Chicago Authors. Additional perspectives come from our presenting partner MAPP International’s Emily Harney in addition to MCA voices including Curator Naomi Beckwith; Curatorial Assistant Stephen Bridges; Performance Programs Intern Eboni Senai Hawkins; and Carron Little, one of the Lead Artists of the MCA’s teen program The Creative Agency.
In the meantime, enjoy this video introduction to the project by MAPP International Productions:
I have spent the last week and a half wrapping up and reflecting on the Dance Exchange performance. It was wonderful to interact with so many different and interesting people. In the process I think I learned a few things about the universe, the history of atomic testing in the US, and about myself. I hope that in the past week that you have also had a chance to think about the issues and themes presented.
One (of the many) things I was working on for this production was wrangling different groups of volunteers for this very large scale production. The Tea Servers: a core of volunteer dancers who have been working with the company all week, and the Provocateurs who were discussion leaders during the second act.
Over the performance week I had the chance to get to know the Dance Exchange company members, crew, and all the volunteers. I met, had great conversations, and now worked with some really amazing, talented, beautiful, and interesting people. I am usually so caught up in making sure that everything goes smoothly, that everyone has what they need, and trying to solve problems before they happen that I don’t often allow myself to step back and appreciate what is happening around me. Friday night at the end of the show I held a little thank you reception for everyone in the cast, circling the room chatting with different people over strawberries and cider. I finally allowed myself to stop worrying, and just enjoyed talking about the performance in a room full of new friends.
And it struck me later as I was driving home, at 11 pm, exhausted and happy…oh right…this is why I do this job…And I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me.
You have seen the tea servers and provocateurs in rehearsal, now watch a clip from one of the performances.
Our presentation partners, the Chicago Humanities Festival, recently shared with us the musings of Gordon Kane. In addition to collaborating with Liz Lerman on The Matter of Origins, Kane is a professor of physics at the School of Art & Design and is Director of the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics. His words are oddly soothing — leading us to believe that we can understand the complexities of science on our terms.
“Many people, perhaps most, want to gain insights into questions about the meaning of life and our place in the universe. As we have understood our universe better we have seen it apparently does not provide a base for meaning for our lives. It is not that physics does not tell us anything about meaning, but that the answer is not what we thought we wanted to hear. What we learn is that the meaning should arise from our relations to other people, rather than outside.”
As individuals immersed in the world of art making, we already believe in the intrinsic value of what we see, hear, and work tirelessly on every day. To get out of our heads a bit (and escape the office), we shifted our focus to patrons in MCA’s galleries.