Apr 26th 2019

As part of the Commons Artist Project entitled Parts of Speech, a series of experimental lectures take place at sites of assembly throughout Chicago and address the use of public speech to mold opinion, forge intimacy, marshal authority, and orchestrate movements.

What can gestures and expressions convey that language cannot? Artist Steffani Jemison will reflect on this question in a performance that engages with the rich history of mime and the role of mimicry in addressing audiences. To those unfamiliar, mime might seem to impose severe limits on what can be conveyed; in fact, like many forms of dance, ritual, or theater, the practice seeks to liberate communication from speech, establishing bonds that transcend language. Jemison will focus on mime ministry, which combines physical theater and gospel recordings and, in the past two decades, has become a fixture of African American church congregations. Drawing on the work of Étienne Decroux, who popularized mime in the mid-twentieth century and pitted physical movement against language, Jemison will ask how we can use our bodies to amplify and extend the reach of speech.

Parts of Speech is by Public Fiction (Lauren Mackler) with Triple Canopy. The Commons Artist Project is organized by January Parkos Arnall, Curator of Public Programs, with Christy LeMaster, Assistant Curator of Public Programs.

Lectures are presented by Steffani Jemison, Hari Kunzru, Tomeka Reid, Astra Taylor, Christopher Kulendran Thomas, and Julio Torres. The exhibition includes artwork by Rami George, Liz Magic Laser, David Levine, Nicole Miller, Rodney McMillian, and Videofreex.

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