devynn emory: deadbird + can anybody help me hold this body public grief altar – Danspace Project
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devynn emory: deadbird + can anybody help me hold this body public grief altar

two seated bodies- one human one mannequin, in chairs with a table in a field
Photo by Reilly Horan.


devynn emory’s latest work is a virtual conversation, film, public grief altar, and website archive. The artist encourages you to engage with all aspects of this work. If you can’t make it to the premiere, deadbird is available for self-streaming. See below!


Wednesday, March 31 | 7pm ET: deadbird film premiere & conversation with Okwui Okpokwasili
Sliding scale: $0-$20
*Registration has ended for this event. See below to register to self-stream the film.*

Thursday-Saturday, April 1-3 : Missed the premiere on March 31?
You can register to self-stream deadbird! Register for any day and watch any day between April 1-3! You will receive a link and a password to self-stream with your registration confirmation.

Thursday-Saturday, April 1-3 | 12-4pm ET: public grief altar: can anybody help me hold this body
The location in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, will be shared after registration.

About deadbird the film

is a new film by emory. It is part-critical commentary of the medical industrial complex that’s in friction with emory’s own ceremonial end-of-life care practice, and part-grief space for emory’s body as a hospice and COVID-19 nurse, spirit medium, and artist. deadbird is an invitation to “grieve in honor of the bodies and spirits who are our teachers as they leave this plane.” This work carries the complexities of death and dying, with a mannequin (voiced by Julia Bennett, Neil Greenberg, and Calvin Stalvig) playing multiple characters, telling stories of near-death experiences, pre-death visualizations, and transitions into the afterworld. On the evening of the premiere, emory will be joined by choreographer and writer Okwui Okpokwasili in conversation. Following the premiere, the film will be available for online viewing from April 1-3.

About the public grief altar: can anybody help me hold this body
the film will offer instructions to engage the public grief altar, called can anybody help me hold this body, tended by emory and Joseph M. Pierce (Cherokee Nation) in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park from April 1-3. The altar is an invitation to the public to be in ceremony together, to strategize how to hold a person’s last wishes, and practice grieving the layered pandemics of this time. 

Instructions on how to create a grief space of your own in another city or in a safe outdoor location near you will also be provided. The deadbird website will archive the living deadbird project and a gallery of altar offerings from the public collective grief altar project. Writes emory, “let us awaken to the call to grieve as an essential act of embodiment so that we remain resilient and connected to our awakening bodies, and each others.” For more information, visit

deadbird was scheduled to premiere as a live performance in Danspace’s Spring 2020 season. In response to the pandemic, Danspace has collaborated with emory to commission a reimagined life for deadbird. 

deadbird and can anybody help me hold this body begins in New York, and will extend this spring to the cities of Philadelphia, PA; Portland, OR; and Los Angeles, CA. In each location, the altar will be tended by a local BIPOC artist honoring the land they reside on.

Special Thanks to our community partner, Prospect Park Alliance!



The film will include closed captions. Automated captioning will be available for the live conversation. Please email to request CART live captioning or to plan your site visit to Prospect Park.

Please note: Face coverings must be worn to visit the public grief altar at Prospect Park.

was commissioned and is premiering at Danspace Project in 2021, and was a part of the Eureka Commissions Program by Onassis USA.

devynn emory is a mixed Lenape/Blackfoot transgender choreographer, dance artist, bodyworker, ceremonial guide, acute care and hospice nurse currently working as a COVID-19 nurse in NYC. emory’s performance company devynnemory/beastproductions draws from their multiple in-between states of being, holding space for liminal bodies bridging multiple planes of transition. Their formal dance training pulls on mathematical and mapped scores to support bodies decolonizing and bleeding human truths, opening peep holes and revelations for collective performers and audiences. They are currently working on a trilogy centering medical mannequins processing transitional mediumship. “deadbird” with its touring public altar can anyone help me hold this body will be first. Cindy Sessions and “boiling-rain” are to follow which are interactive storytelling projects with an elder mannequin holding a collection of grandmother wisdom. As a healer they have dual licenses in “western” and “eastern” bodywork and run a private practice sage-massage that offers end of life consultation, channeled counseling and hands on care modalities in conversation with thresholds. You can find their work at and sage-massage.

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