Sunday, June 3, 2007
We started out at DiverseArts Little Gallery and migrated to Bolm Studios where a group of us gathered to listen to and share with this month's featured artist, Sharon Bridgforth.
Sharon's new production - the text installation love conjure/blues is about to go up in two weeks and we took this opportunity to learn about her process and the thinking behind this important work. Sharon presented us with a history of the piece, as well as two delicious excerpts from the performance. Within all of that this is a little about what we learned.
love conjure/blues began back in 1998, and its first incarnation was as a book, published by RedBone Press in 2004. Sharon identified her process as one of listening to the ancestors, and letting the work develop from feeling. Etta James, Jimmy Scott and H-Bomb Ferguson are some of the many voices that came through to her during the development of this piece, and that influence her work - as do her ancestors - both her family (with their strong legacy of storytelling) and the Black Indians of Louisiana. Where art becomes a party, becomes ritual.
Sharon described blues as sacred as ritual, as ritual itself, as making magic. Her work, directly embodies the blues and jazz - both in its content and form. For both in her text and in the elaboration of her text in four-dimensional space, Sharon is using polyrhythmic time and space. Where ancestors and spirits are as real as the embodied characters, and where a character is the same essential self through time.
One of the participants reflected back to Sharon that the process of her work makes her a conductor. This directly tied into what Sharon discussed in terms of sound. Where language is about music, and songs act as transition. In love conjure/blues specifically, sound becomes a soundscape for the text. And the text lives in a circle. And the circle is key, because place informs ritual, which informs the magic of the work itself.
The fundamental question informing Sharon's (and Jen Simmons - one of Sharon's key collaborators in love conjure/blues) is: how does spirit interact with humanity interact with people in the room interact with technology? For the answer, we will have to wait and see the performance on June 15th - when Sharon will be asking audiences to be fully present to her work, as she gives fully back to them.
Some of the questions I asked included: At what point does sound become language? How does place inform your work?
Sharon responded by saying that feeling is the point where sound becomes language, that it's a slow rise from the inside to the out. And that place absolutely has a huge role in her work - both in terms of her relationship to place (in particular New Orleans, Los Angeles and Memphis), and to what place does in setting context for her narratives.
I asked participants what Sharon's work evoke for them? Folks responded by saying that Sharon's work evokes a sense of the familiar, a pushing of form, dance, "serious play", ritual, memory, Abbey Lincoln, risk-taking, honor, and big-legged women.
Yes. Yes. and Yes.
RedBone Press, Lambda Literary Award winning author of the bull-jean stories, Sharon Bridgforth is currently touring The love conjure/blues Text Installation. A recipient of the Theatre Communications Group/National Endowment for the Arts Playwrights Award, Bridgforth is Anchor Artist for The Austin Project (produced by The Center for African and African American Studies, U.T. Austin). For more information go to: http://loveconjureblues.com
About her work:
THE love conjure/blues TEXT INSTALLATION IS A MULTI-MEDIA PERFORMANCE. Bridgforth has collaborated with filmmaker Jen Simmons, composer Helga Davis, and a stellar cast and crew to create a film that will serve as a digital environment that she will narrate LIVE inside of. This presentation will bring to life the reality created in love conjure/blues, that the past, present, future, the dead, the living, and the unborn coexist/tell the story in concert; and it will offer an interactive environment that will support the audience as responsible witness-participants...
Jen Simmons' work lives in the liminal spaces between the convergence of film, live performance, and the web. Simmons has created and will install the love conjure/blues film that is the digital envirnoment that will house the performance. Join in the fun as we step into a world of raucous gender bending/jook joint singing/Prayer circling/sexually liberated/deep loving fun!For more information about love conjure/blues visit the website: www.loveconjureblues.com
An excerpt of her work:
"it was a hot night after a hot day. the peoples was in they finest/fresh pressed and set for whatever bettye's was about to bring. it was rib night/the start of the week-end..." an excerpt from love conjure/blues (c) Sharon Bridgforth, published by RedBone Press (http://www.redbonepress.com )
Watch videos of love conjure/blues
To learn more about Sharon Bridgforth's work, visit her website: sharonbridgforth.com