Marching On: The Politics of Performance
Tuesday February 20, 2018 – Saturday April 7, 2018
With Bryony Roberts, Mabel O. Wilson, and the Marching Cobras of New York, commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture
Marching On: The Politics of Performance by Bryony Roberts, Mabel O. Wilson, and the Marching Cobras of New York, commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, 2017.
February 20th – April 7th, 2018
97 Kenmare Street, New York, NY
February 20th Exhibition Opening:
Press and Members Preview: 6 pm – 7 pm
Public Opening: 7 pm – 9 pm
#marchingon #politicsofperformance @storefrontnyc
Marching On: The Politics of Performance explores the 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.
Commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson collaborate with the Marching Cobras of New York, a Harlem-based after-school drum line and dance team in a new project that interweaves echoes of the 1917 Silent March against racial violence with references to the revered Harlem Hellfighters in order to celebrate the crucial role of the community’s collective performances as acts of both cultural expression and political resistance.
Marching On will be inaugurated with a series of performances presented by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance as part of Performa 17 in November 2017. The performances are free and open to the public. Read more about the performances here.
Rooted in military training exercises and even combat itself, marching bands and drumlines were historically used to acknowledge military service in African-American communities and the absence of civil rights despite sacrifices to defend the nation. These performance forms have radically expanded since the nineteenth century to include dance lines with hip-hop and stepping choreography, but they remain connected to a strong political lineage. The symbols, iconography, costumes, colors, and movement used throughout this history reflect various understandings of social and cultural perceptions and actions. Addressing both historical and contemporary meanings, this exhibition celebrates the medium of marching performance, focusing in particular on the power of such performance to articulate heritage at a moment of rapid change.
About the Artists
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 navigates her transdisciplinary practice between the fields of architecture, art, and cultural history. She is a professor of architectural design and theory/history at Columbia University’s GSAPP, where she directs the graduate program in advanced architectural research. She co-directs GSAPP’s Global Africa Lab and the Project on Spatial Politics. She also holds an appointment as a senior fellow at the Institute for Research in African American Studies. Wilson’s design experiments, scholarly research, and advocacy projects focus upon space, politics and cultural memory in black America; raciality, technology, and aesthetics; and the globalization of architectural practice.
The Marching Cobras is 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.”
Marching On: The Politics of Performance is commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture.
Curator: Eva Franch
Associate Curator: Carlos Mínguez Carrasco
Strategic Development: Jinny Khanduja
Programs Producer: Max Lauter
Marching On: The Politics of Performance is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Storefront’s programming is made possible through general support from Arup; DS+R; F.J. Sciame Construction Co., Inc.; Knippers Helbig; KPF; MADWORKSHOP; ODA; Rockwell Group; Roger Ferris + Partners; Tishman Speyer; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts; The Greenwich Collection Ltd.; the Lily Auchincloss Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; The Peter T. Joseph Foundation; and by Storefront’s Board of Directors, members, and individual donors.
Photo: The Marching Cobras’ drum line in Harlem, 2014. Courtesy of Carlo Allegri/Reuters.