Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those affected by generations of structural violence. You can help »

The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2021

All Issues
OCT 2021 Issue
Critics Page

notes towards becoming a spill

Shikeith, archival photograph (undated). Image courtesy the artist.
Shikeith, archival photograph (undated). Image courtesy the artist.

notes towards becoming a spill
Rockaway Beach Entrance At Beach
110th St, Queens, Ny 11694
October 23 – October 24, 2021

notes towards becoming a spill is a semi-autobiographical, experimental opera performed at the shore of the Atlantic ocean. It is a narrative revealed through the dancing body about transformation and the histories that haunt Black queer men. Establishing the performance at the Atlantic ocean advances my constructions of "blue spaces," which have existed as sites of refuge and protection, adjacent to the emotional geographies of queerness. Just as blue light is a form of therapy to treat low spirits, our proximity to bodies of water generates better mental health. Even further, Black queer people's relationship to water exists in many ways, from the act of submersion during baptism, cruising for intimacy at dilapidated ship piers, and the refuge of the Atlantic when choosing bodily death over enslavement.

As an artist following in the lineage of conceptual artists such as Félix González-Torres and David Hammons, who constructed minimalist installations and sculptures, I will use the color Haint blue, light, and space to interrogate and develop materiality around the Black queer experience. My specific use of Haint blue within this and other activations comprise a larger constellation of site-specific works spanning the United States, referencing its deep-rooted history from the Gullah in South Carolina and Georgia. “Haint” is also Southern vernacular for ghost or spirit that has not moved on. Created from indigo, one of the common crops of the American South, the Gullahs originated the color as a spiritual marker in their homes. Additionally, Alvin Ailey, David Marriott, Julie Dash, and Robert Wilson are the artists and scholars who inspired me to envision this performance. Their works around spirituality, reconciling psychic wounds and histories, are also within the grammar of my studio practice.

Sonically, notes towards becoming a spill is inspired by the sensual blues and spiritual moaning of the Black church, which have fueled the jerking and rolling contortions of Black ecstatic movement and dance. An abstraction or blurriness emerges in these instances that I want to set the stage to replicate. This concept of an enigmatic state of being is describing the fluidity sought in the story. The spill, in the production, symbolizes boundlessness in mind and body as the principal performer repossesses themselves through four acts of revision.

As a first-timer working in performance, surrender is involved in actualizing the work just as it speaks to the processes occurring within the story. The live show brings about various hurdles but also beautiful moments you could never be prepared for. It is evocative of the microphone getting passed around the church's pews, where spontaneity is the driving power behind the ecstatic arising. In any event, I can not be afraid to see myself spill in the making of the work; I must surrender to it.

In the same way, this is my hope for the audience that encounters notes towards becoming a spill. I aspire for this production to be a transcendent experience in the wake of extreme turbulence. I trust the voices of the chorus will stimulate the soul as the bodily movements of the dancers evoke parables of the sea. I hope the presence of blown glass is the reminder of breath within a period of uncertainty. After all, this work is my note to live every day with passion and, like the ocean, constantly revise myself into my own making.

Contributor

Shikeith

Shikeith is an artist who was born in Philadelphia, PA, and lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA. He received a BA from The Pennsylvania State University and an MFA in Sculpture from The Yale School of Art.

close

The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2021

All Issues