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

30Mar/21

deadbird / the public grief altar: can anybody help me hold this body

devynn emory’s interactive exploration of grief takes place March 31 – April 3 (photo by Reilly Horan)

Who: devynn emory, Okwui Okpokwasili
What: Multidisciplinary project and live conversation
Where: Danspace Project Zoom, Prospect Park
When: Premiere screening and live talk: Wednesday, March 31, pay-what-you-can ($0-$20), 7:00; interactive installation: Prospect Park, April 1-3, free with RSVP, noon - 4:00
Why: This week, Danspace Project is hosting the premiere of mixed Lenape/Blackfoot transgender choreographer, dance artist, bodyworker, ceremonial guide, and acute care and hospice nurse devynn emory’s film, deadbird, which was originally scheduled to be presented as a live performance at St. Mark’s Church last spring but has now been reimagined as a multidisciplinary, interactive experience, both online and in person. The film will be streamed on March 31 at 7:00, preceded by a one-time-only live conversation between emory and Brooklyn-based writer, performer, and choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili (for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, Bronx Gothic). The work deals with the medical industrial complex and end-of-life care and offers viewers the chance to “grieve in honor of the bodies and spirits who are our teachers as they leave this plane,” with emory joined in the film by a mannequin voiced by Julia Bennett, Neil Greenberg, and Calvin Stalvig, sharing intimate tales of death and near-death.

Grief altar will be accepting offerings April 1-3 in Prospect Park (photo courtesy devynn emory)

Then, from April 1 to 3, people are invited to Prospect Park for the public grief altar: can anybody help me hold this body; details are available upon registration, but the official website notes that “these altars will be tended to by local BIPOC artists honoring the land they reside on and creating space for your visit.” The Brooklyn altar will be tended by emory and Joseph M. Pierce (Cherokee Nation). The ever-evolving work, which will continue on to Philadelphia, Portland, and Los Angeles, also features an online archive where anyone can make their own offerings as part of a communal “collection of items placed in honor of our loved ones to hold the accumulation of our collective grief, to witness one another as we gather, and to celebrate our resilience. our grief can be holy if we let it.” We’ve all suffered from different kinds of grief over the last year; as emory writes, “let us awaken to the call to grieve as an essential act of embodiment so that we remain resilient and connected to our awakening bodies, and each others’.”

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