I'm an artist, educator and activist particularly interested in learning from tactics, props and gestures used as protests. I use this blog as a platform to archive and communicate examples of what I call 'gestures of defiance'-exciting, urgent and relevant actions that link protest histories and present radical potentials. On this blog I'm simply compiling and reposting examples I find as they happen. Months may go by with out a post but the blog as an archive is still active.
“The possibility of destruction is always implicit in the act of creation.”From Saul Alinsky’s, (1971) Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals.
Keith Hennessy’s performances suggest that anger should be understood as a critical tool and site of resistance, rather than as an affliction; and he celebrates anger’s power to move things. Hennessy’s work unearths the power in refusing the very things that have been refused to us. And then, we are also asked to find love inside of our anger and resistance. Perhaps it is a tall order, but at this point, postponements are inappropriate and dire. As a queer, anarchist-feminist, dancer, performer, scholar, community-organizing-circus-freak, Hennessy is demanding a confrontation and ready for a revolution.
Keith Hennessy/Circo Zero’s performance, Turbulence (a dance about the economy) is a critique of current political and economic lunacies. Turbulence is a politic, a protest, a ritual, a cleansing, and a “coming out.” The piece features unstable superstructures, with one body clamoring around on the backs of many. Performers are blinded by their own grandiose, golden masks as they climb over one another in the most precarious fashion; it’s an image resonant of greed, of unsustainability, and of human torture. In a fit of ecstatic rage, the performers scream about inane sub-prime rates and transnational working conditions and the never-ending state of war that we can’t ever seem to find our way out of. Turbulence is an exercise in brute force, coercion, and inexcusable excess. It is a picture of poverty and depletion. It is class warfare. It is a kind of embodied resistance against nonsensical exertions of power and enduring economic inequities. Our once infallible socioeconomic superstructures are now crumbling all around us, revealing capitalism as fragile, unstable, and vulnerable. Instead of saving it, maybe we should push it over the edge? What will it take?
Hennessy is calling us to the crumble.
So-called “political art” is often misunderstood as intrinsically didactic, heavy-handed, and somehow in opposition to “pure” aesthetics and practices in abstraction. However, Hennessy’s work cuts right through these unfortunate and outdated polarizations. Hennessy, like most contemporary performance artists, clearly understands his work as more than just a spectacle for an audience. He approaches performance not as an isolated domain but as an integral part of the sociopolitical terrain from which it arises. Aesthetic practice is political practice. Artistic process is social process. Thus, audiences are neither “safe” nor separate from Hennessy’s blazing inquisitions. His is a socially engaged art practice that understands and presents itself as a channel for connection, in a way that transcends traditional performing arts forums. Thus, Hennessy is both an artist and a community organizer in that he has installed a nomadic, performance-protest-occupation that moves and takes over…
Movement out of stasis. Out of status quo.
Turbulence is the provocation instead of the answer. Can we resist the humanistic compulsion to telegraph or prescribe what comes after the revolution? Maybe the revolution is already happening. Maybe it is not a consolidated event but things that happen in tiny pockets of time and space. Maybe this night, right here in the theater is part of the revolution. It is an urgent beckoning. Are you ready?
In his own urgent beckoning for a revolution, the late, great community organizer, Saul Alinsky wrote, “Together we may find some of what we’re looking for –laughter, beauty, love, and the chance to create.”
Cassie Peterson is a New York-based writer, thinker, and lavender menace. She works as a psychotherapist by day, and moonlights as a dramaturge, essayist, & performing arts critic. Her extemporaneous musings and critical inqueeries can be found on her art & theory blog, Self & Other, as well as being featured in various performance publications.
Peterson, Olivia Jane Smith and Elizabeth Zimmer are New York Live Arts’ 2012-2013 commissioned writers, contributing ‘Context Notes’ for each season artist and for the New York Live Arts Blog. Knowledgeable about the practice of art making, they all work as writers and educators. They were invited to write these notes less because they know every artist’s work intimately but, because they like to frame questions, spark discussion, and find meaning for themselves and others within the experience of seeing live work. Like our audience members, each writer is deeply curious about what contemporary artists are trying to say. Their writings–commissioned works in their own right–aim to spur a deeper dialogue with our artists, the content of their work, and each work’s relationship to a larger cultural environment.
Join the conversation: Oct 4 at 6:30 Come Early Conversation: Resistance (A conversation about the economy) with Amy Whitaker, author of Museum LegsOct 5 Stay Late Discussion: Creating “Turbulence” with Keith Hennessy and Carla Peterson (Artistic Director, New York Live Arts)