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Posts Tagged ‘Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’

A Séancers Syllabus

Posted May 10th, 2018

Photo by Julieanne Harris

This weekend, Nigerian–American curator, poet, and performance artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko brings his latest work to FringeArts. Informed by the deaths of all his immediate family members, Séancers collapses lyrical poetry, movement forms, and discursive performance to explore how the American racialized body uses psychic, spiritual, and theoretical strategies to shape shift through loss and oppression.

Kosoko’s artistic practice is in many ways guided by his voracity as a reader and, in the case of Séancers, many of the works that inspired the piece were also pertinent to his grieving process, to seeing his loss in a greater context of cultural erasure and systemic oppression of Black people in America. At the top of a recent episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking, he offered, “I think of a quote by James Baldwin: ‘You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.’ And I think really situating myself inside of being bookish has allowed me an understanding to know that my story is not particularly unique.”

Below is a list of texts and works that inspired Kosoko to make Séancers—a mix of Black theory, poetry, performance art, and video art—along with links and quotes (some direct, some contextual) to help spark your own exploration into these illuminating sources.

 

Mumia Abu-Jamal and Cornel West, “The Empire Files: Black Radical Tradition”

 

James Baldwin, The Price of the Ticket (Viewing and Reading)

“If Raoul Peck’s fiery documentary I Am Not Your Negro piqued your interest in all things James Baldwin, then try this movie as a companion piece… This 1989 documentary is full of archival footage, recordings of Baldwin reading his work, old interviews, photographs and memories from friends like Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka. Although some scenes, like a recreation of Baldwin’s fight with his father, haven’t aged gracefully, the documentary’s focus on Baldwin’s personal and creative life humanizes this literary legend.” Monica Castillo, The New York Times

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Wake Work: An Interview With Jaamil Olawale Kosoko

Posted May 7th, 2018

Photo by Leni Olafson

Nigerian–American curator, poet, and performance artist is far more acquainted with loss than a person his age should be. At 34, he is the only living member of his immediate family. In a recent interview with the podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking, he detailed his tumultuous upbringing and the devastating losses that have marked his life. Kosoko is quick to note that his story is not extraordinary, that the pain and hardship he’s experienced is far more common than some might care to acknowledge. However, what is unique about Kosoko’s story is his ongoing journey towards “post-traumatic enlightenment,” which has seen him allowing grief to inform his artistic process and letting his work inform his healing process. “In grief work, you may know that in order to help someone move beyond a hard moment, there’s this idea of a transitional object,” he notes in the episode, adding, “That’s really what my creative work is doing for me.”

This weekend, Kosoko will bring his latest work, Séancers, to FringeArts and as the show’s title suggests it is one that approaches loss head on. Presented as a literal séance, complete with a different guest artist/theorist who helps frame the witnessing of each performance, it explores the ways in which the American racialized body uses psychic, spiritual, and theoretical strategies to shapeshift through loss and oppression in surreal and fantastical fashion. “I’m thinking a lot about trying to heal, strategies of survival that have been embedded in black thought, black life, really since black people landed on the Americas—about larger societal traumas and my own personal traumas and how they’re engaged in this dance,” Kosoko shared in a recent The New York Times profile. In this way, Séancers reaches beyond personal loss to encompass cultural loss as well, particularly those that relate to rituals, to old modes of congregating among African-Americans that Kosoko sees as extinct or dying.

Recently, FringeArts caught up with Kosoko to learn more about the theories and art that informs Séancers and what audiences can expect to witness.

FringeArts: What made you think up the title Séancers?

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko: My previous piece #negrophobia was described as a kind of séance as I toured it throughout Europe over the past couple years. It felt like a natural progression to lean more into themes of paranormal activity, loss, and resurrection as it relates to Black identities. Of course I’m also thinking a lot about Black theory, which has been incredibly healing and informative for me as a way to come to terms with personal and societal trauma. Black conceptual technologies such as fugivity (Fred Moten), afro-pessimism (Frank Wilderson), and intersectionality (Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw) have given me a deeper intellectual framework to ground the ideas and metaphors that are situated inside my new work, Séancers. Lastly, the work has literally become a way for me to stay in close relationship to my dead family. I’m the only living member of my immediate family.

Have a listen to an interview I recently did here.

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GO SEE us.

Posted May 25th, 2012

The promo pic.

Next weekend (May 31–June 2), contemporary dance companies  <fidget> and anonymous bodies team up to bring the world to us. Kate Watson-Wallace and Jaamil Olawale Kosoko will perform their new duet, anonymous bodies (yes the title does reflect the name of the company), Jaamil will perform his new solo, other.explicit.body., and <fidget> will perform Subject in Two Parts featuring Megan Bridge, John Luna, Lorin Lyle, Rebecca Sloan-Potash, and Annie Wilson. The show is at Christ Church Neighborhood House (20 North American Street–by 2nd and Market Streets). Check out details here. I caught up with <fidget> artistic director and choreographer Megan Bridge to get the skinny on us.

Live Arts: How did the title us. come about?

Megan Bridge: It seemed like the most simple, honest title we could think of. It’s just us. Nothing more, hence the period! It’s about our work and how it fits together. All the work deals with identity, or self-hood, or the fiction of all of that.

LA: How did the grouping of artists come about?

MB: Jaamil and Kate asked me to join forces with them, we all feel an affinity to each other’s work. We all have a dark side, we are experimental, edgy, often use social commentary, often use technology.

Megan in rehearsal with Annie Wilson.

LA: Tell us about the show.

MB: I premiered Subject in Two Parts in 2008 in a New Edge Residency at the CEC [Community Education Center at 35th and Lancaster in Powelton Village]. I am so excited to be doing it again. I never felt finished with it, and a lot of its ideas are still current to me. I’m interested in the idea of subjectivity and how that word is conceived of in philosophical or theoretical frameworks. The idea that the self is a fiction, that there is no unified subject but that we are created by layer upon layer of our experiences, relationships, exposure to media, a product of our environment. It’s not like there’s some core nugget of Megan-ness that is underneath all of these layers. I am the layer, the layers are me. As for Kate and Jaamil’s works, I have to say I know NOTHING about either of them, I can’t wait to see them next week in tech!

LA: There are lots of events surrounding the show. Why did you want to do this?

MB: Originally we had planned to run the show for two weekends, but as the date got closer we realized we didn’t want to spread our audiences too thin and especially over Memorial Day weekend! But we got an amazing grant for the space (Dance UP’s New Stages for Dance) and wanted to take advantage of having it, so we decided to do some fun stuff, get the word out about our show and t reach some of the tourist population in Old City over the holiday weekend. We’re considering it as an audience building opportunity to some extent. Also a way to get people to engage in more parts of the creative and production process with the open rehearsals, discussions, etc.

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