Photographed in the former Fulton Correctional Facility in the Bronx, shortly after it was decommissioned.
Photographed in the Old Bronx Borough Court House, as it was undergoing renovation.
Photographed at The Fortune Society, Queens NYC.
Filmed in the Old Bronx Borough Court House, as it was undergoing renovation.
Filmed in the Former Fulton Correctional Facility in the Bronx, shortly after it was decommissioned.
so that the mind and body may think differently
so that the mind and body may feel, and move
we begin with a word that must be removed
omitted moving forward so that we may ask different questions of our work and of our seeing.
To visualize complex structures of systemic bias and criminalization, we must first discern how bodies are contained. Words may prevent a proximity to these bodies, burying them underneath terms.
Words are slippery and scandalous, bastards even at times
We must first attempt to examine how criminal is where crime and punishment meet—the term itself a replacement for our desire to be separated from the undesirable, however deemed. How it is easier to codify a body as criminal only when we have allowed ourselves to believe that crime and punishment may only be located in someone else’s body// in some other’s body.
But what of a hand, as it is gently placed over another? Does the prison waiting room still detract from that moment of tenderness?
Or what of an outstretched hand as it extends toward an empty chair or rests on a slumped shoulder in need? Do we see or do we allow ourselves to see abandonment and loneliness if covered in the shell of a prison? Can we still conjure up love within these walls?
The narrative of criminal has a way of slipping into the most quiet, innocent of moments, particularly when black and brown bodies are thrown sharply upon such an environment. But the body still finds a way of betraying such entrenched bias. A careful study of gesture tells us that these places, whether they be the court’s, jail’s, schools, hospitals or any other space warehousing bodies, are lying to us. The criminal justice system relies on our belief that it must be imposed in order to enact rehabilitation—another term that in and of itself is a lie when it seems evident that to imprison is to punish—to remove, not restore, what little humanity we permit ourselves to see in the marked body. But a hand will still open with grace or grip with tension no matter what closes upon its body. A bend in the neck, a light step in a direction, a short gaze, a straightened spine, an arched eyebrow, an ever so slightly opened mouth… tell us something language cannot. Within these gestures the term, criminal, dissolves so that we may see ourselves in a body, their bodies, no matter how contained, restricted, or controlled. A body in multiplicity.
This project is an exercise in seeing more clearly… in moving more closely to one another to see how our bodies may convey a certain truth. That even in containment the body can express beauty.
We have used performance to strip down personal stories to a language before sound, before utterance—sometimes the most essential elements reside there. At times we feel concretized in our words, our labels, our understanding of things, we are trying to understand things through the words we attach to them. And oh, how much it limits us.
So we begin with a word which must be removed.
Don Quixote, Book 2, Chapter XII
Regarding the strange adventure that befell the valiant Don Quixote and the courageous Knight of the Mirrors
Upon their chance meeting in the woods, Don Quixote and the Knight of the Mirrors share autobiographies and tales of heroism. Then, surprisingly, the Knight proclaims his victory over a Don Quixote that he has already encountered, in a battle that has already taken place. In this, he assumes title of conqueror of all knights—Don Quixote’s glory, fame, and honor having already transferred onto his person. Another Don Quixote, therefore, supposedly roams the land, claiming to be the real Man of La Mancha. But how can this be?:
DQ: You should know that this Don Quixote whom you have mentioned is the dearest friend I have in the world: I could even say that I value him as I do my own person, and by the description you have given me, which is detailed and accurate, I can only think that he is indeed the one you have conquered. On the other hand, I see with my eyes and touch with my hands the impossibility of his being the one…
Stunned and enraged by the tale, our hero challenges the Knight of the Mirrors to a battle – one in which vanquishing the Knight proves his proclamation false and restores the true, unblemished history of Don Quixote of La Mancha. But in facing the Knight of the Mirrors, does Don Quixote defend himself against a valiant challenger or this projection of a lie? Maybe what Don Quixote sees in his opponent’s suit of mirrors is not an image of himself, but the deception that he must reckon with—one that he must obliterate. If another knight who claims to be Don Quixote exists, then in this mirrored knight is an opportunity for Don Quixote to defeat his reflected self; to prove himself alive.
Imagine your history told, but without your voice… outside your own body – your very existence questioned. I ask myself how I would confront this narrative? Must I chase this story down… defeat it? How can it be so easy for you to make me into a lie? Is this image you display for me, of me, in this mirror, there so that I may see myself as a lie? I should mirror back to you this deceit—assist in portraying this false world, but slow it down, pause it so you have to look at the lie more intently. I should echo your belief in me as deranged, but amplify it so loud it becomes distorted. I should tilt the way you see my surroundings, and refract the floor, walls, and ceiling so your own environment is thrown out of balance.
In your mirrored armor, there is always, only a lie. Rather than reveal its surroundings, thus expressing some truth, its surface simply reflects your own desires and fears, ambitions and failures. It really is your own seeing, your self-image, that fills the mirror. In your mirror, the one you’ve held onto so tightly, you’ve attempted to show me an image of myself that is not quite my own. Mirrors are strange in that way… detailed, accurate, and convincing as Don Quixote explains, but deceptive in its origin.
Nevertheless, I am still left with the questions: if you have constructed a false me who roams the streets, then who is it that I am meant to see in your mirrored armor. More importantly, how do I bring myself to meeting this other me? Is it my responsibility to don the armor and challenge him? Where, when, in which battle do I restore my image?
DQ: “Well the same things happens in the drama and business of this world, where some play emperors, other pontiffs, in short, all the figures that can be presented in a play, but at the end, which is when life is over, death removes all the clothing that differentiated them, and all are equal in the grave.