Baraka de Soleil tackles race and disability in a performance-art lecture tomorrow

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Baraka de Soleil pulling ropes forward during Start a Movement End the Movement at Gray Arts Center, 2012 - COURTESY OF EXTINCT ENTITITES
  • Courtesy of Extinct Entitites
  • Baraka de Soleil pulling ropes forward during Start a Movement End the Movement at Gray Arts Center, 2012

Performance artist and self-described "creative practitioner" Baraka de Soleil addresses the distinct and intersecting legacies of race and disability, often by using dance as a tool to explore the aesthetics of each. Tomorrow (Friday, February 19) at Gallery 400 he will conduct "The 'Good' Body (Chicago Edition)," a lecture presented by Bodies of Work, an arts and culture organization within the University of Illinois at Chicago's Department of Disability and Human Development, as part of its "Exposure" series.

Soleil will not ask audience members to sit neatly in rows or politely turn off their cell phones. Rather, he encourages those attending to influence the trajectory of the lecture by texting him questions and observations while it's taking place. Soleil hopes to weave narrative, song, and performance into a presentation about forced black migration, one part of a larger narrative that will tie together the stories of historic black figures such as Harriet Tubman with more contemporary figures like Rodney King and Venus and Serena Williams.

Although "The 'Good' Body" has previously been performed during Middlebury College's Clifford Symposium, Soleil brings a local focus to his "Chicago Edition," incorporating recent acts of violence and other politically charged events transpiring here.

The lecture will also be influenced by Soleil's fellowship with the 3Arts University of Illinois at Chicago Residency. "The artists we work with are interested in exploring how their unique bodies, minds, and senses can affect both content and aesthetics in their chosen medium," said Carrie Sandahl, director of Bodies of Work. "They unapologetically claim a disability identity and create their work because of disability, not in spite of it."

Assistive services such as language interpreters, real-time captioning, personal assistants, and audio descriptions will be provided to disabled audience members. Soleil is interested in how these accompaniments will aid those who are disabled, but he's also curious about how these additions might influence the translation of his performance for audience members who do not identify as such.

"Having assistive devices utilized during the lecture is really exciting (and essential) because it will also ask of those that may not necessarily use those devices to understand what it means to integrate them into the experience," said Soleil. "This resonates for me aesthetically as a part of the performative experience within the lecture. What will it mean to have these people and devices 'performing' in ways that facilitate the transmission of information I'm offering? What does it mean for my words, my voice, my actions to be reinterpreted in multiple ways?"

"The 'Good' Body (Chicago Edition),"  Fri 2/19, 2 PM, Great Space (fifth floor) at Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria, 312-996-6114, gallery400.aa.uic.edu, free.


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