The Voice in Performance

 

I taught an undergraduate performance composition seminar in Spring 2017 called “The Voice in Performance” that culminated in a final performance of group vocal improvisations and original solo work.

the voice in performanceCourse description:

The voice is a body extending into the world; it is the world manifesting through a body.  The voice transmits linguistic messages as well as unruly sonic forces that exceed language. The politics of race, gender, and sexuality are sounded out through the voice.  Groups are formed and deformed through rituals of collective voicing.  This course will experiment with the voice as a malleable material for generating interdisciplinary performances.  The first half of the semester will be spent developing a solo performance with the performer’s voice as the primary medium of experimentation and the second half of the semester will be devoted to generating an ensemble vocal performance.  There will be short reading assignments for each class (authors include Anne Carson, Nina Eidessheim, Mladen Dolar, Adriana Cavarero, Roland Barthes, Fred Moten, Karen Tongson, and Bernice Johnson Reagon) but class time will be primarily devoted to experimental vocal activities (drawn from the work of artists such as Anna Deavere Smith, Justin Vivian Bond, Gelsey Bell, and Pauline Oliveros) as well as sharing in-progress material.  No prior training or interest in vocal performance is required although if you come with previously acquired vocal skills they will be honed and challenged.

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Song in the Expanded Field

On March 23rd 2017, I curated an evening of performance called Song in the Expanded Field at NYU’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at NYU.

Taking Rosalind Krauss’s 1978 essay “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” as a point of departure, the evening brought together three artists and writers to consider how songs are operating as material within contemporary performance. What is the promise of song? How do songs gather and disperse political feelings in our contemporary moment? What is the relationship between song and critique? Morgan Bassichis, Mariana Valencia, and I presented recent work alongside one another in an informal evening that aimed to explore the relationship between song, emotion, gender, race, humor, and politics.

Venessa Bravo

Photos of my performance from that night by Charlotte Curtis:

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Charlotte at the Grey Gallery, Part 2

 

Charlotte

Messaging head with knees, ass up. Legs over fingerboard, thighs, slap chords. Spooning, plucking, straddling, turning away.

I’ve had one full beer and two sips of a second.  It’s a Thursday and I’m alone in the apartment.  I just cooked dinner and miraculously didn’t want to die, actually deriving a bit of pleasure in nourishing myself.  Small victory.  A friend texted me that she was feeling fully grumpy and tired and I texted her back that I thought she was brave for letting herself be fully grumpy and tired.

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Pinko in Portland

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I was in residence at Institute for American Art in Portland Maine for two weeks in August working on and performing a piece called Pinko.

 

I made lonely dances, wrote love letters to Marx, planned meetings, and sang songs:

Dear Marx,

I was in a graduate school seminar where we read all of your Grundrisse notebooks.  Towards the end of the seminar, with about two weeks left in the semester, the professor, José Esteban Muñoz, suddenly died.  In a paper I presented in class I quoted letters you sent to Engles and Lasalle while you were working on Grundrisse about how you often felt too sick to write. In the weeks before he died, when none of us knew he was going to die, José sat in front of the class rocking back and forth giving meandering lectures on what we had read, occasionally pausing mid-phrase to gulp down some water from a large plastic SmartWater bottle or say a cutting aside about a text, an artist, a world.  He loved talking about your writing formally—about the semiotic labor of attempting to represent capitalist systems so as to encounter other potentially less violent ways of life.

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