“Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos”

“Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos”

Beginning May 15, 2015-June 20, 2015
The Great Hill – Enter at W. 106th Street & Central Park West
Fridays & Saturdays
Performances every 28 Minutes between 12–5:30pm

Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos is a cycle of musical, dance and spoken word poetry performances that evoke “black joy” at the permeable boundary of northern Central Park. Black Joy is commissioned by Creative Time for their six week exhibition “Drifting in Daylight”.

Invoking the history of Central Park, the legacy of hip-hop, the Great Migration, New Orleans ‘second line’ parades and contemporary racial politics, Marc Bamuthi Joseph has composed a vibrant and participatory performance that moves through the Park’s paths, congregating regularly under a parachute-turned-revival-tent for moments of intimate performance and celebration from 12:00-6:00pm every Friday and Saturday beginning May 15.

“The project for the Creative Time Central Park exhibition is a refracted, self-repairing second line called black joy in the hour of chaos,” Marc Bamuthi Joseph.

Marc Bamuthi Joseph is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, poet, curator and educator, whose body of work focuses on social action and community revitalization. Drawing inspiration from hip-hop, slam poetry, and contemporary movement, Joseph is known for using these art forms to create performative works that invite dialogue around broad social issues cultivate a collective voice for under-represented communities, and facilitate self-determined social change. Joseph is the founding Program Director of the exemplary non-profit Youth Speaks, which mentors teenagers in writing, and is a co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals designed to activate under-resourced public parks, with the intention of promoting peaceful urban life through hip-hop, the arts, and focused environmental action. Joseph is currently completing new works for the Philadelphia Opera, Chatauqua Symphony, and South Coast Repertory Theater. He is the Chief of Program and Pedagogy at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

The second line is composed of 5 performers, each responsible for executing a text and movement based score that I will compose in collaboration with choreographer Jacinta Vlach and the performers themselves. The score is 60 minutes in length, is broken into two cycles, and features both small solos in disparate locations around Central Park’s Great Hill as well as cohesive ensemble performances at the same site. As inspiration, the score considers re-framing the matter of black life through the lenses of joy, passing, and migration… asks can we imagine a Confederacy of Museum Milers advancing on Harlem? Can we suppose a Harlem Union, returning home in defeatCan we expose the border politics of black music in a northward- bound mourning? What did our grandmothers leave behind that’d be pretty handy right about now?

“Says… We’re going to describe a particular ecstasy to you. Kids like Trayvon or Jordan or Mike or Oscar would have trouble finding the words we’re using, but no difficulty finding the feeling… In addition to the 5 moving performing bodies, a rotating string trio will perform a Daniel Bernard Roumain composition near the center of the Hill, filling the hill with violin and cello score for the entire duration of the installation. The mover/poets will orbit both the trio and a large parachute of original design. 

“A parachute?…

“Yes, so…

“Beyond the choreographed narrative, at the participatory center of black joy is a 35 foot wide parachute. I am designing a process of invitation and execution with artist Brett Cook that encourages willing citizens of the park to individually document their favorite occasion of black joy. This documentation will take place on individual pieces of cloth placed around the entire perimeter of our parachute, and once complete, will be given to CT volunteers who will stitch in the ‘personal statements of black joy’ into the parachute. At 20 and 40 minutes past every hour, in the midst of this activity, 41 volunteers will lift the parachute off the ground, and in a rigging modality of David Szlasa’s design, transform the parachute into a large ‘revival tent’ of a size to accommodate about 100 people. The black joy second line will then enter the tent, performing one of their cohesive ensemble scores in a temporary theater of witness, accompanied to the music of the string trio.

“Black joy will demand a rigorous choreography of stories, personalities, techniques, and pedagogies, and will benefit tremendously from a cohort of creative individuals who can skillfully employ both performance and a community interfaceThe performers in the piece are Adia Whitaker, Donté Clark, Dahlak Brathwaite, Afaliah Tribune, Traci Tolmaire, and periodically during the 6 week run of the installation, I will enter the fray as wellScholar Dr. Christina Knight will further contribute to the environment of inquiry by authoring contextual writing for online distribution and onsite display. Finally, we are inviting 6 Harlem-based institutions to each hold court for a few hours on each Saturday of the exhibition. These include the nurses of Harlem Hospital, the programming body of the Schomburg, the teachers of the Harlem Empowerment Zone, and the curatorial team of Harlem Stage,” says Marc.

The Harlem community is invited to salons and picnics around the artwork on the Great Hill lawn.





Leave a Reply