Critical Correspondence invites founder of WXPT (We are the Paper, We are the Trees), taisha paggett, to discuss their most recent project, The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People, a large scale installation and performance platform presented by Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) during late October - early December, 2015. As a prologue to WXPT's two-part conversation, to be published in our March edition of CC, paggett offers a letter written to her collaborators and fellow participants just weeks before their extensive project filled with classes, workshops, talks, events, and performances. Included HERE is an audio radio feature on The School which specifically features the final performance, titled Meadow. These written and audio pieces provide anchors and counterpoints for WXPT's broader concerns, projects, and discussions.
From: Taisha Ciara Paggett Date: October 8, 2015 at 8:31:50 PM PDT To: WXPT Subject: on death and dancing, excavation and learning
(some thoughts brewing through my mind that i wanted to share with you all… please read. this email will be followed by some more tactical information about Saturday, in which Joy, Devika, Maria & Turay will each lead a session and we’ll squeeze in time to take a few more photos and discuss the opening on the 21st for those able to attend.) my friends, my colleagues, WXPT, there are a few things that i know or am coming into knowing. one is a loss of words. for many reasons, i have been losing them. sometimes i think that perhaps i’m simply losing my mind. but it’s not really that. my mind feels quite sound, stable, until i’m asked or made to speak. as i open my mouth, avenues upon avenues of disembodied language and thought-streams attempt to push through the gate like a Monday morning traffic jam. more often than not, what comes out feels disingenuous, incomplete. speech forecloses the stormy multiplicity of sensation and desire that’s brewing beneath. while i recognize the importance of conversation, of dialogue-speech-talking-words, especially in this time of rolling uprisings, where we living-dancing-breathing-bodies (“bodies”) on the margins are empowering ourselves to open up new conversations (and blogs! and salons! and chatrooms! and committees! and and and) and enact glacial shifts in power, i also see (eyes) it failing us. speech empowers, yes, but i sometimes can’t help see it also as an accessory to the same colonizing forces that we so deeply wish to capsize. perhaps more it’s the stability of speech/speaking that troubles me. maybe just maybe it is not the it-ness of speech, speaking, but the how of it. its velocity, its all over-the-place-ness, the way in which it stands in, again and again, for the holistic, comprehensive, multidimensionality of real-time experience. (even here as i find voice, use words, my own form sinks-shrinks-disappears backwards into the vinyl stickiness of the couch i’m laying on.) i communicate these thoughts on the cusp of the opening of this show, as i come to find words to communicate the importance of a movement school in this moment in time; to communicate why i want to remind people that we have a body, to remind people that the body, embodied thinking-being-acting, is on the verge of a type of irretrievable death, a death that we people rising up from the margins cannot afford to lose sight of, cannot afford to have erased. speaking of death and erasure, there is this word “body” which i’m learning to unmoor, hoping to retrieve in this process. to excavate. the body itself, in the context of Blackness, has been proven to be a contested site, one of pre-determined, inevitable death. power undone, abandoned, destabilized, vacated. conversely, "Black dance" stands up, rises up, pushes against gravity, as action, as an undoing, as an overdue unlearning-learning towards a deeply necessary resumption of holistic, comprehensive, multidimensional real-time power, agency and capacity. or in other words, possibility. the body is a thing to be collected, counted, classified, named, labeled. (Black) dance is what we are. Black dance is the void-no-longer from which we (un)learn to speak, from which we learn to stand. i am so deeply grateful to you all for trudging along this path with me. much of my process is a type of undoing to arrive at something new. this project in particular has challenged and turned me upside down in ways that i could not foresee. and in doing so, i feel that deep questions and new methods of thinking are rising to the surface. and i’m reminded that art making is not always about building things up. sometimes one must break (things) down. the experience of the four leading class last week was eye-opening and poetic and moving. i saw, in action, the importance of usurping hierarchies whenever and however possible, and the power of the (dance) company when those members are given space, not only as representable bodies (“bodies”), but as agents, capacitors (thanks Kim for that word), conductors. as a whole and individually, we are creating a space for deep learning across the living-thinking-breathing-acting body, creating a new layer of embodied discourse. the deeper we cut into the “ body", peer into it, examine and think and move and see from within it, the closer we get ourselves to this new dance of possibility. in unison, t
LACE presents The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People, a large-scale installation and performance platform by Los Angeles based artist taisha paggett. This project, which takes the form of a dance school, is shaped by the question, “what is a Black dance curriculum today?” The installation itself, developed in collaboration with artists Ashley Hunt and Kim Zumpfe, serves as a temporary dance school, performance space and home for dance company, WXPT (We are the Paper, We are the Trees).
The core of The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People is WXPT itself — a temporary, experimental community of queer people of color and allies, dancers and non-dancers alike. WXPT was conceived by paggett in early 2015 to expand upon the language and methods of modern and contemporary dance practices, to shift the ways dancers of color are positioned within the contemporary field, and to explore questions of queer desire, responsibility, migration and historical materials that inhabit our cultural imagination. The company consists of Joy Angela Anderson, Heyward Bracey, Rebecca Bruno, Alfonso Cervera, Erin Christovale, Loren Fenton, Maria Garcia, Kloii “Hummingbird” Hollis, Jas Michelle, Meena Murugesan, taisha paggett, Sebastian Peters-Lazaro, Kristianne Salcines, Ché Ture, Devika Wickremesinghe and Suné Woods.
In May of 2015, paggett organized evereachmore, WXPT’s premiere performance created for the Bowtie Project, a partnership between Clockshop and California State Parks to activate an 18-acre post-industrial lot along the LA River. Amidst the recent unfolding of state violence against Black bodies, evereachmore sought to forge new economies of resistance, and new sensations of time, space and togetherness.
Inspired in part by a “school for colored youth” that members of paggett’s family founded in early 20th century East Texas, The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People extends the praxis of WXPT into a curriculum and pedagogy. The installation at LACE takes up the form of a school as an artistic and social problem, building the school’s curriculum and infrastructure through physical and social sculpture, performance and image, where the roles of artist and viewer, dancing and non-dancing body, art and learning coalesce.
The School for the Movement of the Technicolor People will offer a program of workshops, weekly classes and micro-performances initiated by members of WXPT. The curriculum will be open to anyone, blurring lines between audience and participant, while especially encouraging queer people of color to join. Across the bodies of the company and the members of the public who join the school, the curriculum will build an accumulative performance score in weekly increments, culminating in the performance of a “collective movement choir” at the conclusion of the exhibition.