This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

15Sep/20

EMILY JOHNSON: THE WAYS WE LOVE AND THE WAYS WE LOVE BETTER — MONUMENTAL MOVEMENT TOWARD BEING FUTURE BEING(S)

Emily Johnson rehearses for site-specific livestreamed performance on Jeffrey Gibson installation at Socrates Sculpture Park (courtesy the artists and Socrates Sculpture Park; photo by Audrey Dimola)

Who: Angel Acuña, Nia-Selassi Clark, Linda La, Denaysha Macklin, Annie Ming-Hao Wang, Angelica Mondol Viana, Ashley Pierre-Louis, Katrina Reid, Kim Savarino, Sasha Smith, Stacy Lynn Smith, Paul Tsao, Kim Velsey, Sugar Vendil, Emily Johnson/Catalyst
What: Livestreamed site-specific performance from Socrates Sculpture Park
Where: Socrates Sculpture Park Facebook and Zoom
When: Wednesday, September 16, free, 6:45
Why: The centerpiece of Socrates Sculpture Park’s “Monuments Now” exhibition, which comes along at a time when statues across the country are being torn down because of the honorees’ real or perceived ties to slavery, racism, misogyny, or colonialism, is Jeffrey Gibson’s Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House, a three-level pyramid-like psychedelic structure of plywood, wheatpaste posters, steel, and LEDs, with pronouncements on all four sides: “The Future Future Future Is Present Present Present,” “Respect Indigenous Land Land Land,” “Numbers Numbers Numbers Too Too Too Big to Ignore,” and, simply and to the point, “Power.” Gibson, a Colorado-born Mississippi Choctaw-Cherokee painter and sculptor who received a 2019 MacArthur Foundation Genius grant and is based in Hudson, New York, incorporates elements of the pre-Columbian Mississippian architecture of the ancient city of Cahokia, queer camp aesthetics, and the Serpent Mound of Ohio in the forty-four-foot-high structure. In addition to the massive work, which can be seen from quite a distance away, Gibson has curated events that activate the sculpture. Violinist and visual artist Laura Ortman (White Mountain Apache) played atop the ziggurat on July 24; on September 16, Bessie Award-winning multidisciplinary artist, land and water protector, social justice activist, and Guggenheim Fellow Emily Johnson will host a special evening that seeks to offer regeneration, renewal, and transformation during these challenging times.

Jeffrey Gibson’s Because Once You Enter My House It Becomes Our House will be the site of a special performance on September 16 (photo courtesy Emily Johnson)

Johnson, who was born in Alaska of Yup’ik descent, creates immersive, interactive works, such as Niicugni, Shore, and The Thank-You Bar, that combine dance with other artistic forms, constructed around a deeply heartfelt connection with the natural environment, civic responsibility, and Indigenous cultures. In August 2017, Johnson presented Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars, an overnight gathering on Randall’s Island that included storytelling, dance, discussions, kinstillatory rituals, and the preparing and eating of food. For The Ways We Love and the Ways We Love Better — Monumental Movement Toward Being Future Being(s), taking place September 16 at 6:45 at Socrates Sculpture Park, Johnson is unable to bring together a large, participatory group in person because of the pandemic; the park will be closed to the public during the performance, but it will be livestreamed over Facebook and Zoom, where people can form a virtual community. The event begins at the shore of the East River estuary with words from artist and activist Nataneh River, after which Johnson will walk to Gibson’s installation, where she and Angel Acuña, Nia-Selassi Clark, Linda La, Denaysha Macklin, Annie Ming-Hao Wang, Angelica Mondol Viana, Ashley Pierre-Louis, Katrina Reid, Kim Savarino, Sasha Smith, Stacy Lynn Smith, Paul Tsao, Kim Velsey, and Sugar Vendil will activate the work through storytelling, invocation, movement, and light. The evening concludes with the planting of tobacco in tribute to the land, which was previously known as Lenapehoking, the homeland of the Lenapeyok people. The event is free, but donations can be made to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women and the White Mountain Apache Tribe Covid-19 Relief Fund in conjunction with the performance.

“Monuments Now” continues through the end of the month with Paul Ramírez Jonas’s communal grill Eternal Flame and Xaviera Simmons’s word-based The structure the labor the foundation the escape the pause as well as Nona Faustine’s cancel-culture billboard In Praise of Famous Men No More, with the second and third parts of the exhibit, “Call and Response” and “The Next Generation,” arriving in October; you can see a slideshow of the current works here. Johnson’s next Kinstillatory Mappings in Light and Dark Matter outdoor ceremonial fires at Abrons Arts Center are scheduled for October 8, November 12, and December 10 at 7:00.

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