All posts tagged: race

Us, THEM, and High-Risk Dancing

By Tiffany E. Barber In darkness, a live, punk-influenced sound score saturates a converted sixty-nine-seat black box theater in New York’s Lower East Side. The source: electric guitarist Chris Cochrane positioned upstage right.1 Upstage left, a spotlight illuminates two young male dancers from above. One sits in a chair and the other kneels, dressing bandages on the first dancer’s right knee. They wear cool-colored tank tops, loose-fitting khaki pants, and sneakers. Writer Dennis Cooper recites a text in an uninflected monotone alongside the dancers’ initial movements, cuing the piece’s sociopolitical implications: I saw them once. I don’t know when, or who they were because they were too far away. But I remember things, like what they wore, which wasn’t anything special—pants, shirts, regular colors—stuff I’ve seen thousands of times since. I wanted them to know something. I cupped my hands around my mouth and thought about yelling out. But they wouldn’t have heard me. Besides, I didn’t belong there.2 This opening scene sets the stage for Ishmael Houston-Jones’s THEM, an improvised composition at the intersection …

Lynching 2.0

The video found on the website of The Guardian, has a “tag” of Eric Garner’s name right above the full title: “‘I can’t breathe’: Eric Garner put in chokehold by NYPD officer – video.” The British newspaper’s logo sits in the top right corner of the video frame, while in the bottom is another designation: “Daily News.” These watermarks, proprietary claims on the video and its contents remain throughout the whole of the two minutes and forty-eight seconds video – not so subtle reminders of who owns this particular iteration of this specific event. There’s a title card disclaimer: “Warning: contains distressing images,” just before the video starts. The video itself is relatively low resolution – there is none of the crispness of high definition capture – and shot in portrait rather than wide-screen landscape, leaving the video itself to be columned by two large black empty spaces. The first sounds beyond the hiss of background noise consist of two voices – one diegetic (Eric Garner) and one non-diegetic – saying almost simultaneously “I aint do …