American Chameleon: The Living Installments
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About the Show
American Chameleon: The Living Installments is a hybrid multimedia living artwork, instigated by Nigerian-American artist Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, that explores the ever-evolving ways in which digitality intersects with the fugitive realities and shapeshifting principles that Black, femme, queer people employ to survive and heal. The work also operates as a digital archive, a porous public performance in interactive pedagogy where Kosoko and collaborators seek to locate a space for healing both online and off. Kosoko and collaborators host a series of events, including a film screening, discussion, and healing session, that aims to hold grief while also centering themes of liveness, beauty, humor, care, and joy.
The work operates as a flexible, digital commons. A pop-up community of organizers and practitioners center adaptive interactive learning as a means of creating sustainable, multi-tiered networks of care. Occurring, in part, on the alternative communications platform Discord, The Living Installments is an experiment in creating a flexible space where Black voices feel comfortable thinking and speaking out loud. It’s a virtual venue for biomythographic* liveness conjuring chameleonic possibility and entanglement.
*“Biomythography” refers to Audre Lorde’s foundational work entitled Zami: A New Spelling of My Name published in 1982, which combines history, biography, and myth, and holds a literary perspective that serves as a guiding light for complex narrative storytelling rooted in a queer, Black self-defined, feminist imagination.
There will be closed captioning for The Living Installments and the Meditation on Grief and Healing. The Living Installments will also have an ASL interpreter.
Creative and Production Team
Director/Co-Host Jaamil Olawale Kosoko Sound Design Everett Saunders Artistic Doula Jennifer Kidwell Co-Host Ebony Noelle Golden Archivist/Social Media/Usher Nile Harris Systems Administrators/Production Supports Ryan Jenkins, Vadim Nickel, Nile Harris Healing Session Facilitator mayfield brooks Video Projection, Design, Editing Meena Murugesan Film Co-Directors Ima Iduozee & Jaamil Olawale Kosoko Film Editor Alexis McCrimmon Reading Group Facilitators Malkia Okech, Lisa Jarrett, Amalia Dache ASL Interpreters Lavender Cygnet, Dresden Lamar
About the Artists
Jaamil Olawale Kosoko is a Nigerian American performance artist, poet, and curator originally from Detroit, MI. His creative practice draws from Black study and queer theories of the body, weaving together visual performance, lecture, ritual, and spiritual practice. Recent awards include: 2020-21 Resident Artist at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Choreography, 2019 NPN Development Fund Award, 2019-21 Movement Research Artist in Residence, 2018-20 Live Feed Artist at New York Live Arts, 2017-19 Princeton Arts Fellow, 2019 Red Bull Writing Fellow, 2017 MAP Fund recipient, and a 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Fellow. His works have toured internationally to South Africa, Europe, Canada, and throughout the US appearing in festivals and venues such as The Centre for the Less Good Idea (Johannesburg), Fusebox Festival (Austin), PICA | Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Tanz im August (Berlin), Moving in November (Finland), Within Practice (Sweden),TakeMeSomewhere (UK), Brighton Festival (UK), Oslo Teaterfestival (Norway), and Zürich MOVES! (Switzerland) among others. He is the author of two chapbooks: Animal in Cyberspace and Notes on An Urban Killfloor. His poems and essays have been included in The American Poetry Review, The Dunes Review, The Broad Street Review, among others. Season 1 of his interview-based podcast, American Chameleon can be found on all podcast platforms. In Fall 2020, he will be the Alma Hawkins Visiting Chair in the World Arts and Cultures Department at UCLA (Los Angeles, CA). Visit jaamil.com or follow @chameleon_coalition on Instagram for more information.
mayﬁeld brooks improvises while black, and is currently based in brooklyn, new york working as a movement-based performance artist, vocalist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. they studied contemporary dance at the school for new dance (sndo) in amsterdam, moving on center in oakland, ca, and holds a mfa in interdisciplinary performance from uc davis and a masters in performance studies from northwestern university. mayﬁeld was a 2017 artist in residence at movement research new york, a 2019 dance and process (dap) artist at the kitchen nyc, and is currently an artist in residence at the center for performance research (cpr) and abrons arts center in new york. mayﬁeld teaches urban farming courses for farm school new york (fsny), and teaches & performs dance and vocal improvisation nationally and internationally.
Ebony Noelle Golden is an artist, scholar, and culture strategist whose work consists of site-speciﬁc performance rituals and live art installations that explore relationships between creativity and liberation. She relies on transparent and equitable partnerships with community members, institutions, and creatives in pursuit of social justice. In addition to her artists practice, Ebony is the CEO and Principal at Betty’s Daughter Arts Collaborative, a culture consultancy and arts accelerator that devises systems, strategies, solutions globally. Instagram: @ebonynoellegolden Web: bettysdaughterarts.com.
Nile Harris is a Brooklyn based interdisciplinary artist working in the intersections of theatre, choreography, and time based media. His work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo, Dixon Place, Secret Project Robot, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, Movement Research at Judson Church and The Watermill Center, where his commissioned installation, curated by Robert Wilson, was featured in publications such as New York Magazine, W Magazine, Art News, and Vulture. His work has been supported with residencies at Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Abrons Arts Center, and Otion Front Studio with funding support from the National YoungArts Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Art, and Pepatián. As a performer, he has performed for various artists including 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Malcolm-x Betts and in Broadway and Oﬀ-Broadway productions including The Inheritance and Occupied Territories.
Of Nigerian and Finnish descent, Ima Iduozee is a choreographer, performer and ﬁlmmaker based in Helsinki. His debut solo, This is the Title, premiered in 2012 and went on to garner international acclaim, touring in 15 countries across Europe, North America and Asia. Recent commissions include works for the Finnish National Opera (Don Giovanni 2020), Finnish National Theatre (Julia & Romeo 2018), French fashion house Aalto International (After Nature One 2017), Stockholm City Theatre (Purple Nights 2015) and Helsinki City Theatre (Perfect Day 2014 & Bonﬁre 2019). Iduozee has directed music videos for Finnish artists such as Malla, Yeboyah and Isaac Sene. His on-going ﬁlm project, Diaspora Mixtapes, is a series of video portraits that celebrate black cultural identity in the contemporary African Diaspora. In 2015, the annual honorary prize of the Finnish Critics Association, Critics Spurs´, was given to Iduozee, as an acknowledgement for the best artistic breakthrough of the year.
Ryan Jenkins is a Video Engineer at the Experimental Media and Performing Art Center in upstate New York on the Rensselaer Polytechnic campus. Over the last 12 years Ryan has been involved in the production and execution of over 500 events, residencies, film shoots, productions, and curated events. In conjunction with his role at EMPAC, Ryan also teaches at Hudson Valley Community College, and works as a cinematographer, colorist, and steadicam operator. He works very hard to not drop the camera, and lives upstate with his wife Nora and three children, Wyatt, Calder, and Wren.
Jennifer Kidwell is a performing artist. Recent projects – Underground Railroad Game (Obie Award, Best New American Theatre Work; 2018 Edinburgh Fringe First Award; Lucille Lortel, Helen Hayes nominations), Home (Bessie Award, Outstanding Production), Demolishing Everything with Amazing Speed, I Understand Everything Better (Bessie Award, Outstanding Production), Antigone (The Wilma Theater), A Hard Time, Superterranean, Fire Burns Hot: Little Reno!, I Promised Myself to Live Faster, 99 Break-Ups (Pig Iron Theatre Company), Dick’s Last Stand (Whitney Biennial 2014, as Donelle Woolford), Zinnias: the Life of Clementine Hunter. Pig Iron Theatre Company & Lightning Rod Special company member, Wilma Theater Associated Artist, & JACK co-founder. Published in movement research Performance Journal #45 and hyperallergic.com. 2013 TCG/ Fox Resident Actor Fellowship (with PITC), 2015 Leeway Foundation Art & Change Grant, 2016 Pew Fellow, 2017 Independence Fellow.
Alexis McCrimmon is an interdisciplinary artist, ﬁlmmaker and ﬁlm editor based in the Midwest. As Studio Editor for the Film/Video Studio, a post-production artist residency, at the Wexner Center for the Arts she has had the pleasure of working with artists from all over the globe, such as Ann Carlson, Rodney Evans, Pilar Mata Dupont, Hope Ginsburg, Bárbara Wagner, and Benjamin De Burca. Her artistic practice explores commodity attachment, phenomenological transformation, and the aesthetic marriage between commercial and ﬁne arts histories. Alexis has screened nationally and internationally including the Athens International Film and Video Festival, BFI Flare, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Frameline, East End Film Festival, and MIX NYC.
Meena Murugesan is an award-winning video and dance artist based in Los Angeles, via Montreal, Canada. Meena creates experimental non-linear narratives with moving images at the intersection of live performance, video art and social justice issues. Rooted in the movement practices of bharata natyam, improvisation and somatic bodywork, as well as the ﬁlm practices of contemplative documentary and collage, Meena centers a decolonial, anti-caste, feminist, queer, dravidian and melanated creative liberatory practice. Meena designs multi-channel video installations for live performance with directors/choreographers such as Jaamil Olawale-Kosoko, taisha paggett, d. Sabela grimes, Marjani Forte-Saunders (Bessie Award for Best Visual Design, “Memoirs of a…Unicorn,” 2019), Embodiment Project, Sita Frederick, Christopher Emile/No)one.Art House, Lionel Popkin and D’Lo among others, and is currently working on two self-directed performance/video projects – KARUPPU and The South Asian Melanin Project. Meena’s artistic work and designs have been presented at venues such as ODC, YBCA, Gibney, NYLA, Pregones Theater, Dixon Theater, Getty Villa, MOCA Los Angeles, Bootleg Theater, The Ford Amphitheater, Pieter, LACE, UCLA, Pearlstein Gallery, Black Star Film Festival, ICA Philadelphia, Opera Omaha, Colorado College, Tangente, MAI, Le Gesu, Monument National and others. Since 2002, Meena has been blessed with funding for video or dance work from organizations such as Pieter, we live in space, CHIME, UCLA, SODEC, CALQ, CAC and MAI.
Everett Saunders is a Composer, and Sound Designer specializing in collaborative processes, score and soundscape development for theater and ﬁlm. His approach to ﬁlm and theater is not only supported by his musicality, but his understanding of the distinct nuances of the genres. Working with directorial minds such as Damon Colquouhoun of Ron Howard’s Project Imagination and internationally renowned dance companies such as Urban Bush Women his unique understanding of musical dramaturgy and theatrical score development has impacted audiences across the nation. His latest and ongoing work in the production Memoirs of a… Unicorn, received a 2018 Bessie Award for Outstanding Production, and recently had its International premiere in Brussels, Belgium. Saunders was awarded a New Music USA grant to research and develop a 3-Dimensional Binaural Soundscape and Score for the performance work being Here. His latest work can be found within Urban Bush Women’s recent production of Hair & Other Stories, and as a composer and sound designer on choreographer Jaamil Kosoko’s multi-platformed project, Chameleon. Anchored in a steady collaboration with partner and choreographer Marjani Forté-Saunders (2020 FCA Awardee), and now emerging as 7NMS, the duo has produced 7 award-winning works over the last 10 yrs. 7NMS are also founding directors of ART & POWER (2018), a radical vanguard and platform for thought, innovation, and action.
Malkia Okech is an activist, Afrofuturist, and community archaeologist. She is currently a Digital Producer for the local creative agency Mighty Engine. She is also the Associate Producer for Black Spatial Relics, an artist residency and annual convening exploring slavery, justice and freedom and has been working as a Humanities Consultant for Scribe Video Center’s Precious Places Project. She is a curator in the Philadelphia Black arts collective, Bad Apple Commune. Her interests include the cross-sections of multi-modal archaeology, art, cultural heritage, and decolonization. Malkia conducts social justice work as an anti-capitalist and abolitionist with the goal of fostering radical imagination.
Lisa Jarrett is an artist and educator. She is Associate Professor of Community and Context Arts at Portland State University’s School of Art + Design. She is co-founder and co-director of KSMoCA (King School Museum of Contemporary Art) and the Harriet Tubman Center for Expanded Curatorial Practice in NE Portland, OR, and the artists collective Art 25: Art in the 25th Century. Her intersectional practice considers the politics of difference within a variety of settings including: schools, landscapes, fictions, racial imaginaries, studios, communities, museums, galleries, walls, mountains, mirrors, floors, rivers, and lenses. She exists and makes socially engaged work within the African Diaspora. She recently discovered that her primary medium is questions.
An Afro-Cuban American scholar and assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania, Amalia Dache teaches in the Higher Education Division. Her experiences as a Cuban refugee and student traversing U.S. educational systems—among them urban K–12 schools, community college, state college, and a private research-intensive university—inform her research and professional activities. Dr. Dache’s major research areas are postcolonial geographic contexts of higher education, Afro-Latina/o/x studies, community and student resistance, and the college-access experiences of African diasporic students and communities. She is lead editor of Rise Up! Activism as Education, published in 2019 by Michigan State University Press. Her most recent article, “Ferguson’s Black radical imagination and the scyborgs of community–student resistance,” appeared in The Review of Higher Education in 2019. Dr. Dache was named a 2020 NAEd/Spencer Foundation Post-doctoral Fellow for her project, “Mapping Public Housing and Urban Higher Education Accessibility and Enrollment in Philadelphia.” In 2019, she completed Rockefeller Institute’s Richard P. Nathan Public Policy Fellowship where she conducted research on racial, transit, and economic factors inhibiting access to local postsecondary education in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate, New York. She received the Association for the Study of Higher Education’s (ASHE) Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year award in 2014.
Kosoko has also created a Syllabus for Peace, a reading series for audiences to more actively engage with the materials that have influenced Kosoko’s work. These materials were put together by both Kosoko and the American Chameleon Reading Series moderators.
Click on these links to navigate the contextual content:
Chameleon is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by EMPAC / Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY; the New York Live Arts Live Feed Residency program; and the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, in partnership with Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Tanz im August/HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Züricher Theaterspektakel, and NPN. Additional support for The Living Installments was made possible by PICA and Fringe Arts. New York Live Arts’ Live Feed Residency program is made possible with additional support from the Joseph and Joan Cullman Foundation for the Arts, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council with special thanks to Council Member Corey Johnson, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, and the Shubert Foundation. Chameleon is also made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional development support for Chameleon was made possible, in part, with commissioning support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, through the Movement Research Artist-in-Residence Program, as well as the Bates Dance Festival, Gibney DiP, pOndersoa, D.O.C.H., Within Practice (Stockholm), the Centre for the Less Good Idea (Johannesburg, South Africa), PassaPorta International House of Literature (Brussels), Studio 303 (Montreal), the National Center for Choreography (Akron, OH), and Red Bull Arts Detroit.
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