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Future Plan & Program Performances
September 12, 2013 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Art Department and the Institute of African American Research at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill are pleased to present an evening of performances and video with Future Plan and Program. Founded in 2011 by Steffani Jemison, Future Plan and Program is a publishing project featuring literary work by visual artists of color. Future Plan and Program has published eight books, including Truth and Greatness by Steffani Jemison, Ticket to the Unknown by Jina Valentine, and The Internal Objects by Szu-Han Ho. Through performances, readings, and conversations at ThreeWalls (Chicago, IL), Southern Exposure (San Francisco, CA), Project Row Houses (Houston, TX), the Houston Museum of African American Culture (Houston, TX), the Studio Museum in Harlem (New York, NY), and other venues, the artist-authors have sustained an ongoing dialogue about text as image, narration and description, and language in time.
Tonight’s program includes You Completes Me, a performance by Jemison featuring Houston-based actor and artist Autumn Knight; Surplus Performance, a performed reading featuring Ho with the support of local musicians and performers; and Foucault for Aphasics, a video by Valentine that explores intentional misreadings of philosophical texts. The performances will be followed by a discussion with the artists moderated by John Bowles (Art Department) and Renee Alexander Craft (Communications Studies Department).
“You Completes Me” is an ongoing narration project by Steffani Jemison. Tonight’s iteration features Houston-based actor Autumn Knight, Jemison’s long-form poem, and the silent melodrama “Scar of Shame.” Excerpted entirely from street fiction novels, the poem mirrors the novels’ narrative structure and tropes, as well as their themes of mobility, kinship, violence, prayer and love. The poem is dynamically interpreted by Knight and paired with a portion of Scar of Shame, a “race film” filmed in 1926, released in 1929, and restored by the Library of Congress in 1990. In the film, the male protagonist, Alvin, is a handsome and ambitious composer from an upper caste family. His foil, Louise, struggles with her working-class background and daydreams about a better future. When she is confronted by the advances of her stepfather, Spike, and his friend, Eddie, her life and Alvin’s become increasingly entangled.
Steffani Jemison is an interdisciplinary artist whose work considers issues that arise when conceptual practices are inflected by black history and vernacular culture. Jemison uses rigorous formal methods to explore her interests in the politics of serial form, the limits of narrative description, and the tension between improvisation, repetition, and fugitivity. One body of mixed media works employs acetate as print medium, glazing, or support; another uses transcription of found and staged conversations as a generative process. Steffani also organizes social and archival projects; the most recent of these is her collaboration with Jamal Cyrus, Alpha’s Bet Is Not Over Yet, an exhibition, reading room, and discussion space inspired by the politics of early 20th century African American periodicals.
Steffani Jemison is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art, LAXART, Laurel Gitlen, Team Gallery, Gallery 400, the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts, and other venues. Recent performances, screenings, readings, and lectures include the Museum of Modern Art, ThreeWalls, and the Menil Collection. Her work is currently on view at the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery, Sydhavn Station, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Recent publications include Artforum, Art in America, Mousse, and Flash Art. Steffani has participated in artist residencies at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, Project Row Houses, the Core Program at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She received a BA from Columbia University and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem.
The Internal Objects is an inner monologue written in catalogue form. Through anecdotes and associations, it tells the story of a reclusive radiologist through the objects and images that accumulate around him. Ecstatic descriptions of the material properties of things transport him through time and memory. As a reader of x-ray images, with their transparency and coded evidence, he finds an antidote to the impenetrability of other people.
“Surplus Performance,” the performed reading of The Internal Objects, establishes a point-counterpoint relationship between the voice of the main character “K” and the accumulation of objects and noise around him. The voice of K, reading in English, is poised in a duet against a series of performers who read stories from current editions of a Mandarin language daily newspaper. Accompanying the amplified sound of each performer’s voice is a customized instrument of snare wires that rattle with the vibrations of the voices, like a distant drum roll. A snare instrument is added with each additional news story reading, and the vibrations increase as the performance unfolds. Piles of newspapers are scattered amongst the seated audience, and more piles are added with each additional news story. The voice of K faces a growing accumulation and excess of noise as he continues to makes his way through the text. The audience finds itself in the midst of the intensifying rattle and din, surrounded by more and more piles of newspapers and vibrating snare instruments. The experience for the audience mirrors the increasing sense of both isolation (as newspaper piles cut off lines of sight) and acoustic immersion. The contrasting voices of the more personalized account in English and the journalistic account in Mandarin both compete and complement one another through differences in intonation and meter. At the same time, the vocal sounds become abstracted through the snare vibrations.
Szu-Han Ho’s work in sculpture, performance, installation, and writing address the practice of exchange in diverse collaborations and constellations. After receiving a B.A. in Architecture from UC Berkeley, she launched a three-year collaborative project integrating art installation, speculative proposals, performance, and agricultural research on a 250-acre site in West Texas. Ho’s current research and production interests revolve around the shared metaphors of economics and ecology. Her work has recently been presented by the University of New Mexico Art Museum (Albuquerque, NM), Julius Caesar Gallery (Chicago, IL), SOMA (Mexico City, MEX), the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts (El Paso, TX), MoMA Studios (New York, NY), The Center for Land Use Interpretation (Los Angeles, CA), Alogon Gallery (Chicago, IL), and UCLA Wight Biennial (Los Angeles, CA), among other venues. Recent projects include an Interchange Workshop (Taller de Intercambio) between Culiacán, Mexico and Albuquerque, New Mexico; CORO ARROYO, a composition for choir based on the desert dawn chorus; and The Internal Objects, an inner monologue in catalogue form published by Future Plan and Program. She studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she received an MA in Visual and Critical Studies and an MFA in Film, Video, and New Media. Szu-Han lives and works in Albuquerque, NM and is currently Assistant Professor in Art & Ecology in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico.
The piece Foucault for Aphasics is the first of the current body of work, which deals with intentional misreadings of philosophical texts—and how aphasics, atopics, and others who’ve lost their “logical” sense of ordering information might parse language, revealing other orders. In this aphasic’s reading of Foucault’s “What is an Author,” each letter on each of the 15 pages was read & recorded individually and the letters of each page are excerpted–ie all the “a”s on page 1-15 appear in sequence, followed by all the “b”s, etc. The first version is from the English translation, the second is the original French.
The writings of Michel Foucault have been dissected, analyzed, and repurposed by too many other authors to name here. It is Gilles Deleuze’s Foucauldian analysis that relates directly to this work as he insists that if the text, the statement, the word is further reduced to the smallest utterance we find something akin to the essence of the text. If we examine the individual word frequency in a text like Foucault’s What is an Author, and particularly the unique words (those occurring only once in 15 pages), does it give an overall sense of the text?
Or perhaps, we strip down the language to even barer elements. Should an aphasic attempt to find sense in Foucaudian language, perhaps they would re-sort the entire text based on sound patterns created by letter combinations, or by text patterns formed by the individual form of the individual letter on the page. It’s not my intention here to suggest that such method for reasoning through philosophical texts should replace more traditional means. However, this form of textual analysis reveals at the very least a particular poetics inherent in what is an author otherwise obscured by the “content.”
Jina Valentine has exhibited widely in the United States and internationally, including The Drawing Center, The Elizabeth Foundation, Marlborough Gallery, and The Studio Museum in Harlem. She received the Joan Mitchell MFA Fellowship and has participated in residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Cité Internationale des Arts, Sculpture Space, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Stanford University. She is currently an Assistant Professor at UNC Chapel Hill.