Reimagining Conversations Without Walls
August 14, 2020
The 2020 Conversations Without Walls digital series launches with two pre-recorded conversations broadcasted on YouTube Live: Ishmael Houston-Jones and Carol Mullins on Saturday, August 29th at 12pm ET and Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake on Saturday, September 12th at 12pm ET.
Initiated in 2011 by Judy Hussie-Taylor and Jenn Joy, Conversations Without Walls (CWW) are long-form, Saturday afternoon, roundtable discussions that provide context and insight into the work of Danspace Project’s artists and Platforms. The nearly decade-long series facilitates intergenerational conversations between writers, scholars, choreographers, and audiences. In this time when our physical doors remain closed and in person gathering is limited we are reimagining the CWW series as a digital program. Each episode of the CWW digital series will be broadcasted on YouTube Live and ultimately archived for the public on the Danspace Project online Journal.
The first two CWW of the series were recorded in May 2020 and the program was slated to launch only days after the police killing of George Floyd. Danspace Project postponed the release of these pre-recorded conversations to prioritize urgent action in direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement and to address issues of equity and anti-racism within the organization. This work continues and informs.
The first conversation of the CWW series is between choreographer and curator, Ishmael Houston-Jones and lighting designer, Carol Mullins and will be broadcasted on Saturday, August 29th at 12pm ET. The second conversation of the series features visual, video, and performance artist, Joan Jonas and interdisciplinary movement artist, Eiko Otake; two pioneers of performance. This CWW will be broadcasted on Saturday, September 12th at 12pm ET. Both conversations have been moderated by Judy Hussie-Taylor. These four visionaries pull from long canons of work that engage questions of momentous gravity. The developments they have made to the field of dance and performance should not be lost as new ways of working and presenting reveal themselves.
Carol Mullins and Ishmael Houston-Jones have long and formative histories at Danspace Project. In this talk the two discuss the 1978 fire at The St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, the aftermath of that tragedy, and the architectural and programmatic reconstruction of Danspace Project and its shared home in the Sanctuary. Houston-Jones recalls his humble introduction to Danspace which soon evolved into his curating the 1982 groundbreaking series, Parallels, which included works lit by Mullins. The conversation concludes with a live screening of Relatives (Super-8, short, 1989) directed by Julie Dash and filmed by Arthur Jafa. Relatives bears witness to a Black mother sharing space and stories of family history with her son as they attend to the tasks of their performance, his choreography cradling them in time.
The foundation of the conversation between Eiko Otake and Joan Jonas finds these celebrated artists forming a generative and collaborative new friendship. The two discuss the mutual influence of Japanese theater, dance, and literature on their work as they offer insight into making new work and connections in the maturity of their careers. As Hussie-Taylor brings to our attention, both artists have long histories of creating work that engages deeply with site and experiments with viewership; how the work is experienced and how the viewer experiences themselves within it—the performance or audience might be placed outside, observing from a long distance, or within a very small grouping—configurations of presentation that pose hopeful possibilities for future works in this unprecedented time of physical distance.
These artists, their questions, and archives of work have the potential to guide through some of the muck of this new day as they continue to create and carve brave paths.
*The CWW series will continue into the Danspace Project fall season with more announcements coming soon.