Cipher Study 1 – Whiteness

Cipher Study 1 – Whiteness was an installation performance piece in Bodies on the Line Exhibition curated by Rhiannon Evans MacFayden at the Berkeley Arts Center, August 2019.

Cipher – “a secret or disguised way of writing; a code; a zero; a figure O; a gathering of rappers, beatboxers, and/or breakdancers in a circle, in order to jam musically together.” This project begins my exploration into the codes (ciphers) and processes (algorithms) that hold up the structure of the capitalist project. What are the realities that lie beneath these codes? If we follow the process back (de-encrypt) what realities do we find? 

Algorithm 1 is a movement exploration of the processes of encrypting and decrypting the ciphers of Cipher Study 1 – Whiteness. What are the realities that lie beneath these codes? If we follow the process back (de-encrypt) what realities do we find? How do our bodies hold the code and the reality and the algorithm that lies between? 

Cipher Study 1 begins with the question – How would my Dutch ancestors respond to the destruction their first corporate project unleashed in the “New World” with their arrival in 1628? During a residency at EMPAC in Troy, New York, I found that I had Dutch ancestors who had arrived in what is now called New York in 1628. They began building their wealth in the beaver fur trade and then moved into real estate, which began the displacement of the area’s First Peoples, who had been there for more than 10,000 years. This study draws from texts, research, dream imagery and builds on and draws artifacts from Reconstruction Study Project and the many collaborators that contributed to the six performance studies that begin in 2015. Special thanks to musician/composer David Boyce for launching Reconstruction Study Project with me in 2015, to dancer/choreographer Byb Chanel Bibene for coming on the journey, to Regina Evans for imbuing the costumes with spirit, to Modesto Covarrubias for inspiring Reconstruction Study #2 with his Waiting Room installation, to Dawn Holtan for teaching me to knit, to Evelyn Ficarra for the improvisations and explorations of sounds she recorded during our EMPAC residency. Physical and conceptual traces of these collaborators and the influence of artists working in ritual performance, especially Ellen Sebastian Chang and Amara Tabor Smith and the artists in the House Full of Black Women collective, Dohee Lee, Regina Evans, all breathe in this work.

Voice Recordings

Thanksgiving Prayer – Karonhyawake Jeff Doreen, May 30, 2013

Tree of Two Woods – Translation/Voice Byb Chanel Bibene

Dutch Ancestor Lament – Translation/Voice Nan Stitger (written by Chris Evans inspired by Sojourner Truth’s writings)

Music and Sound 

Chris Evans in improvisation with Evelyn Ficarra, including some prepared piano sounds recorded with Myra Melford

Previous Performance Artifacts

Yarn – Reconstruction Study Project #2

Veil – Reconstruction Study Projects #1, 4 and Reconstructions Performance Ritual