Sunday, July 20, 2014

Women to women

That night, we went to see the Sa Dance Company perform.  The house was full and performance was full to bursting with life – streaks of color and movement that simultaneously pulse with celestial abandon and the down-to-the-finger precision of Indian dance.  So who am I to talk about Indian dance tradition? Nobody.  But it was fab to see this group of mostly amateur but highly trained and experienced women cover ground from strict classicism to Bollywood exuberance.

Then on Sunday we went to the Kara Walker “A Subtlety” exhibition at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg. As much great stuff as we'd read about this, it was more amazing than we’d dared expect.

The full title was: "A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant."

Sugar baby, tar baby, Sugar Mammie Sphinx - sugar and molasses sculptures standing, melting, decaying and laying in wait, accusing and celebrating and remembering the people who worked, lived, and died in the sugar harvesting & refining industries. 

A history that stretches from the triangle of trade in slave, cash, and cane cargo from Europe to Africa to the Americas and back finds one end in this defunct Domino plant in Williamsburg, up and running until less than a decade ago.

There's so much written out there that I feel I can't add a lot to the conversation, especially since it's scarcely my story to tell.

There was a performance artist there, in green and black tiger print spandex, with a 'hidden' videographer (I didn't see him until later) getting footage of people's reactions to her as she walked the space.

At one point after she'd been there I don't know how long she let out a piercing scream standing in front of the sphinx who dominated the space (and most of the coverage of the exhibition).

She had a partner (also in spandex, black and yellow I think), who gave a simultaneous scream - no words, just an outcry - from the other end of the sphinx sculpture.

I don't know who they are or anything about them.  It wasn't this guy, who seems to have done something along similar lines, but including verbal statement and follow-up. But they were there. They were there on that day, as this art work was there, as generations of factory work happened there, and the work that built this place - this culture, this nation, this economy - happened, in the physical universe, for better and/or for worse, for a few hundred years.

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