Last week our class had the opportunity to meet Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a well known spoken-word poet, dancer, and playwright, who is also an art administrator himself. He came to speak to our cohort about his passion for his craft and also about his role of administering the arts he is involved with. We were also required to attend his recent show at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, peh-LO-tah -- a futbol framed freedom suite...
I must say, I honestly didn't know what to expect going into the show but having a little bit of background about Joseph as an artist and seeing his strong work ethic earlier in class, I was eager to see what the performance would be like and I came out of it having an experience that was beyond my expectations. In his performance, Joseph combines his experiences as an African American and intertwines it with the logistics of his favorite game soccer, or futbol. He strategically narrates his stories within the complexity of the game through the performers dance moves that combine hip-hop, modern dance, and the folk dances of South Africa and Brazil. For him, the game is where he feels the most free, when his feet are above ground and he can feel the rush of scoring a goal and hearing the crowd cheer. Some current topics he touches on in the performance are Black Lives Matter, the NRA and gun control, and Police brutality. His poetic lines from the show will resonate with me and even though I'm not into sports, I definitely will look at soccer a little differently now. The lines that really got me, I'll summarize them because I can't remember them word for word.
An important component of soccer is obviously knowing how to run and making sure the ball ends up in the goal. He says, "they tell me to run, but how can I run when he President who has sent these Protectors are out to hunt me. I can't run." The show further explores the power dynamics set in play in the American judicial system, power dynamics of White Privilege, and social and economic strains, which are all a part of the capitalist system that is designed to keep everyone from winning. Americans suck at soccer, the screen reads during the middle of the performance, "but we excel at basketball where it only takes one star player to lead the team to a victory, unlike soccer where we all have to work together or else we all lose." I encourage you all to read more about pen-LO-tah!
Spoils, 2011. While the performance was held at the MCA, I decided to go earlier to see Michael Rakowitz's Enemy Kitchen can get some free Iraqi food! This installation explores, "the connections between hostility and hospitality as veterans of the Iraq War serve Iraqi food to the public." The food is served at this food truck on paper plate replicas of china that were found in Saddam Hussein's house and were sold on the internet and bought by the artist himself over eBay. The artist, "encourages us to consider major questions about how we relate to our so-called enemies by eating from the same plate."
Enemy Kitchen. The rest of the exhibition by Michael Rakowitz, Backstroke of the West, is also an interesting look into power dynamics. Here are some of the pictures from the exhibit.
"Based in Chicago, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz makes work that explores recent contested social, political, and cultural histories. Drawing on personal experiences and research on these subjects, as well as history and popular culture, Rakowitz creates illustrated objects, installations, and performances that invite viewers to contemplate their complicit relationship to the political world around them, recognizing that hospitality and hostility are interlinked."