Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project w/ Theaster Gates
red, black and GREEN: a blues
Apr 12–14, 2012
“A haunting yet inspiring view of the ‘hood and what environmental justice looks like in under-resourced communities.”
– The Couch Sessions
Oakland-based spoken word and dance artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and Chicago 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. Directed by Michael John Garcés, Joseph is joined on stage by Gates, dancer/actor Traci Tolmaire, and musician Tommy Shepherd.
Bamuthi conducted field research for the project over several years, with interviews and community events, including in 2009 while performing the break/s at MCA Stage. The stage is set as an installation, open for public viewing during museum hours. The installation and performance have four inter-related parts representing the four seasons, four cycles of life, four rooms of a house, and the four cities with the Life is Living festivals Bamuthi convened: Chicago, Houston, New York, and Oakland. The audience moves through the stage set before taking their seats.
Bamuthi is a 2010 inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, which annually recognizes 50 of the country’s “greatest living artists” and the 2011 Alpert Award winner in Theater. He is artistic director of the 7-part HBO documentary Russell Simmons presents Brave New Voices. A gifted and nationally acclaimed educator and essayist, he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities, with adjunct professorships at Stanford University, Lehigh University, Mills College, and the University of Wisconsin. Bamuthi is founder of Youth Speaks, which mentors 13-19 year old writers and curates the Living Word Festival and Left Coast Leaning. He is the co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one day festivals designed to activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life through hip hop arts and focused environmental action. The MCA Stage has presented Bamuthi in two earlier works: Word Becomes Flesh (2006) and the break/s: a mixtape for stage (2009).
Theaster Gates is a Chicago-based artist in performance and installation, urban planning and design, and the traditional fine arts. His 2009 exhibit at the MCA Chicago, Temple Exercises, built of wooden boards recycled from a factory in Chicago’s post-industrial heart, encouraged their view in the light of Modernist Art and other cultural traditions which depend on scrap for survival. The installation housed performances by Gates and his music project The Black Monks of Mississippi.
To read more about the project, follow MCA Stage Up Close, a blog documenting MCA Chicago performance projects in progress.
Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes, no intermission
This project is made possible by the Contemporary Art Centers (CAC) network, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), with major support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. CAC is comprised of leading art centers and brings together performing arts curators to support collaboration and work across disciplines, and is an initiative of NEFA’s National Dance Project.