NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 80

m Sun Ra. m Gypsy and The Bully Door by Nina Mercder. 78 m D image 13 by Deneg Akpem. BRN-FALL-2013.indb 78 aesthetic locations of Black Theatre practice. The scholastic approaches to the new theatrical practices must reflect the kind of unwavering pursuit of the scholar/composer George Lewis to legitimize the “transformation of sonic symbols” in improvisational systems of music by employing an Afrological construction of critical tools that challenge the hegemony of Eurological constructions that support only the notational conventions of the Western musical tradition. What is suggested here is an examination and affirmation of inventive practices that can be identified as a brand beyond the popular intimations of African American drama. It may prove a daunting, and seldom profitable task…particularly for young black scholars in the academy who are mostly concerned with securing promotion and tenure and are uneasy about challenging the popular wisdom of a particular performance discourse. Clearly, without an appropriate aesthetic gauge, it will be difficult to critically evaluate the innovative objectives of the poet, Karma Mayet Johnson who directorially orchestrates the text, music compositions, lyrics, and choreography of her indigo, a blues opera to reconstruct and reimagine the popular narrative of the Underground Railroad mythology. It is an erotic tale infused with music and sensuous gestural movements that places at the site of resistance, two enslaved lesbian women who refuse to live in captivity. The time travel that begins in 1912 and proceeds backward to 1856 in Virginia is conjured with deep-woods rituals and heirloom quilts, tracing the travail of the lovers through the Delta Blues and reincarnation. Instead of Social Realism, this work might easily be branded as a sort Afro-Magical Realism. m Gutta Beautiful by Nina Mercer. Similarly, there is the work of performance artist/scholar, Deneg Akpem who identifies her inventive process as being part of the emerging Afro-Futurism movement which is rooted in history and African cosmologies. The Afro Furturist reach deep into African consciousness throughout the Diaspora to contemplate “blackness” and liberation in the process of imaging transformative actions that would be essential for the future survival of the African Diaspora. At the foundation of the movement is the music and philosophy of Sun Ra, the musician/guru who insistently advocated that “Space is the Place.” Other formidable iconic presences include Labelle, the female singing group of the 1970s who adorned “space-age” and “glam-rock” costumes for their performances. In addition, George Clinton and his Detroit techno sound of Parliament/Funkadelic, DJ Spooky and his Rebirth of a Nation remix, and the science fiction of Octavia Butler…and quite conceivably, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk could fit in the mix. Ms. Akpem, who considers her vision a revolutionary action, noted in a recent interview: “We’re looking at artists who consider blackness as it might exist in the future, but also looking at artists themselves—beyond the art works—and how the actual creation of the work, the methodology is an act of or path to liberation for the artist, by the artist on behalf of the artist, communities, black people, the universe.” 9/13/13 12:48 AM