“Marching On: The Politics Of Performance” Exhibition

Storefront for Art and Architecture

poster for “Marching On: The Politics Of Performance” Exhibition

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Storefront for Art and Architecture presents Marching On: The Politics of Performance by Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson, beginning with a performance by the Marching Cobras of NY at 5 pm.

Marching On: The Politics of Performance explores the histories, driving forces, and legacy of marching and organized forms of performance. African-American marching bands have long been powerful agents of cultural and political expression, celebrating collective identities and asserting rights to public space and visibility.

Historically rooted in military training exercises and combat formations, African-Americans formed marching bands and drumlines to honor military service in U.S. conflicts and highlight the absence of civil rights despite sacrifices to defend the nation. While their movements, costumes, colors, and iconography have radically expanded since the nineteenth century to incorporate other forms of performance including dance lines, hip-hop, and step choreography, they still remain connected to a lineage of marching as political expression.

Commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson have created a research project and exhibition that explores the crucial role of the community’s collective movements as acts of both cultural expression and political resistance. The project was inaugurated with a series of performances that interwove echoes of the 1917 Silent March against racial violence with references to the revered Harlem Hellfighters. These performances were developed in collaboration with the Marching Cobras of New York, a Harlem-based after-school drum line and dance team, and presented in partnership with the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance as part of Performa 17.

For the exhibition, Roberts and Wilson combine the many layers of the research and performance project into a spatial installation. Continuing and expanding upon the theme of camouflage, the exhibition displays volumes of custom-printed fabric in hybridized patterns. In part, marching bands served as a form of camouflage that enabled African-Americans to gather and occupy public spaces when otherwise prohibited during the era of Jim Crow segregation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In response, the exhibition’s patterned textiles merge military camouflage with the geometric paving patterns of Marcus Garvey Park, the site of the inaugural Marching On performances. Changing color along the length of the gallery, the fabric creates pockets of space for thematic topics related to the history of race and urban public space. By layering photographs and text into the graphic patterns, the exhibition’s fabric panels play with the oscillation between visibility and invisibility.

Marching On ultimately celebrates historical and contemporary forms of marching by revealing on the power of this type of movement to articulate cultural heritage in moments of rapid change.

Bryony Roberts is an architectural designer and scholar. She earned a BA from Yale University and an MArch from Princeton University. Her work has been supported by the Graham Foundation and was featured in the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. She has published widely in design and mainstream publications, and has taught at Rice University, SCI-Arc, and the Oslo School of Architecture. In 2015, she was awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. Roberts’s practice integrates architecture, art, preservation, and performance to activate and critically engage historical buildings and urban spaces. With projects at sites such as Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, Federal Plaza in Chicago, Government Quarter in Oslo, and Neutra VDL House in Los Angeles, her practice operates across many scales, from temporary installations to urban design. This range aims to foster social activation of historical sites and critical discourses on how we preserve and change existing structures.

Mabel O. Wilson is an architectural designer, artist, and cultural historian. Her transdisciplinary practice Studio & has been a competition finalist for several important cultural institutions including the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (with Diller, Scofidio + Renfro). She is a collaborator with Höweler + Yoon for the design of the Memorial for Enslaved African American Laborers at the University of Virginia. She has authored Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture (2016) and Negro Building: African Americans in the World of Fairs and Museums (2012). Exhibitions of her work have been featured at the Art Institute of Chicago, Istanbul Design Biennale, Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s Triennial. She was recently one of twelve curators contributing to MoMA’s current exhibition Frank Lloyd Wright at 150.She’s a founding member of Who Builds Your Architecture? (WBYA?) a collective that advocates for fair labor practices on building sites worldwide. At Columbia University she is a Professor of Architecture, a co-director of Global Africa Lab and the Associate Director at the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS).

The Marching Cobras of NY are a youth performance group based in Harlem that includes a 25-person drum line and a 25-person dance line. The Marching Cobras will be the lead artists involved in the performance and exhibition. Workshops with the group will guide the collaborative design of the live performances. Their mission is to “enrich lives of youth by providing opportunities for artistic expression and leadership development through music, marching band, step, dance, and much more.”

#marchingon #politicsofperformace @storefrontnyc @marchingcobrasofny



from April 14, 2018 to June 09, 2018

Opening Reception on 2018-04-14 from 17:30 to 19:00

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