‘Still Here’ screen art series plumbs race, isolation and catharsis
Montserrat College of Art is streaming a series of temporal, digital experiences Nov. 16–21 as part of the screen art series “Still Here.” A continuation of its “Here” series performed over the summer, “Still Here” explores the isolation of quarantine and the experiences of community and social justice in a time when people are separated.
Six artists will air live and prerecorded performances around these themes every day this week. The performances can be seen at any time after they air on the Montserrat Galleries Vimeo page.
New York City-based composer, performer and artist M Lamar presented “Deathlessness” on Nov. 17, a piece he’s been working on since 2014. Using his signature operatic, gothic style, the video piece moves between time periods exploring sexualized violence against black bodies.
“Around 2009, I started using this term ‘Negrogothic’ to describe my work, which is to evoke the Gothic novel in the sense that it’s about horror and romance simultaneously existing … but within a kind of transatlantic Black experience,” says Lamar. The piece moves across a number of different time periods and experiences but ties into the contemporaryracial justice movement. Lamar points out parallels between the sexualization of lynchings and the current police brutality killings.
Artist Jeffrey Augustine Songco performed his piece “Dress Rehearsal” live for the first time on Nov. 16. Part of Songco’s artistic practice is his development of the Society of 23, a brotherhood in which he plays the role of each brother for various art pieces and actions. In “Dress Rehearsal,” he physically plays with paper cutouts of each brother, enacting a rehearsal of one of the Society’s rituals.
“It is an American male artist playing with toys,” says Songco. “And I think that goes well with this idea of self-fear, this idea of being quarantined and stuck at home and exploring our relationship with the world in the privacy of our home. And yet, we can have the internet and these streaming services to help us connect with each other.”
“Still Here” provides a platform for viewers to not only experience works of art during the pandemic, but also to reflect on and evaluate their own positions in these narratives.
“I’m hoping for a kind of catharsis,” says Lamar. “I would like for people to have a deeper moment with themselves around these images and tableaus and scenarios that I’m creating visually and musically … It will hopefully evoke, in a beautiful way, all the horrors of being human.”