Visiting Artist | February 25 - March 11th, 2020
3 RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness
New York-based multimedia artist Edisa Weeks came to MANCC for the first time to develop her latest work 3 RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness. During her residency, she engaged in multiple Entrypoints with local organizations, museums, and community members, as well as School of Dance students and faculty.
When it premieres in 2021, the work will be a seven-hour interdisciplinary interactive experience that integrates dance, live music, text, two visual installations, community conversations, and shared meals to examine how America has protected, promoted, and pursued life, liberty, and happiness, and how these rights manifest in the body. During her time at MANCC, Weeks focused on the Liberty section of the work.
3 RITES: Liberty is a solo performance where Weeks is connected like a puppet to objects that have informed the Black experience in America: bible, black dildo, blonde wig, sandals, watermelon, gun, light bulb. She alternates between black face, white face, storytelling, and visceral dance to dig into the pathologizing of African Americans and the foundations of liberty in America. During her MANCC residency, Weeks worked on writing stories for the objects and embodying the stories through movement and songs. As our nation continues to grapple with confederate monuments, fake news, economic stratification, and the lynching of Black people, 3 RITES: Liberty insists on a reckoning with our past and present.
While in residence, Weeks visited the Knott House Museum in Tallahassee, where a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation took place on May 20, 1865. She also attended the Tallahassee Community Remembrance Project's event, "Strange Fruit: From Surviving to Thriving in the Jim Crow South,” which included a lecture by Professor Darius Young on the history of lynching in America, followed by a panel discussion with Dr. Henry Lewis, Althamese Barnes, Doby Flowers, and Kent Spriggs, and moderated by Lorraine Warren.
Weeks and her collaborative team participated in the Invisible Lives tour at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, which focuses specifically on the perspectives of enslaved people. They also visited FAMU’s Meek Eaton Black Archives to see the Komics, Koon, and Klan (KKK) Collection, the Kinsey Family Collection, and the Montague Collection. The team met with Clint Byrd, Executive Director and Curator of the Montague Collection.
Weeks also hosted a Roots Party, to which she invited people to join her in the journey of making 1,865 roots out of paper and twine, while sharing conversations and a meal from Tallahassee vegan restaurant Soul Veg, as part of her commitment to support local businesses owned by people of color. The roots were integrated into the installation and set design for the 3 RITES: Liberty work-in-progress showing at FSU.
In addition to these multiple site visits, Weeks held two work-in-progress showings. The first took place in an outdoor location at the home of wildflower enthusiast Eleanor Dietrich. For this showing, Weeks was connected to the trees and ground surrounding her. The showing gave Weeks and the creative team new insights into the Liberty character, methods for engaging the audience, and ideas for a background sound score. Weeks then hosted a showing in the School of Dance where she integrated a story she wrote while at MANCC, as well as new methods for interacting with the audience. Guests attended from across campus and the Tallahassee community, including Clint Byrd and Doby Flowers, who was FSU’s first African American Homecoming Queen in 1970, and helped initiate the creation of FSU’s Civil Rights Institute in 2018. Creative Advisor James Scrugges facilitated a post-showing discussion about the work, race issues, and representation.
As part of MANCC’s Embedded Writers initiative, Jerome Dent, Assistant Professor of Communication and Africana Studies at Tulane University, joined the residency. Support for the Embedded Writer was provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The full work, 3 RITES: Life, Liberty, Happiness, will premiere in Fall 2021, at 651ARTS in Brooklyn, NY.