What can be conveyed through physical gestures and expressions but not in language? How can the exaggerated frown of a painted face or the dramatic twist of a torso be understood, if not through words? Steffani Jemison will reflect on these questions in a performance that engages with the rich and various history of mime and, more generally, the role of mimicry in addressing audiences and intimates. To the uninitiated, mime might seem to impose severe limits on what can be conveyed; in fact, like many forms of dance or ritual or theater, the practice seeks to liberate communication from speech and establish bonds that transcend conversation. Jemison will focus on mime ministry, which combines physical theater and gospel recordings and, in the past two decades, has become a fixture in churches with African American congregations. Drawing on the work of Étienne Decroux, who popularized mime in the mid-twentieth century (and pitted physical movement against language), she’ll ask how we can use our bodies to amplify and extend the reach of speech.
On Similitude is a component of “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition hinges on six experimental lectures, which will be live-streamed only at the museum; edited documentation will be available on Triple Canopy's website at a later date. “Parts of Speech” is being published by Triple Canopy as a series in Two Ears and One Mouth, a forthcoming issue that examines how we speak and listen and who has the right and capacity to be heard.
- Steffani Jemison is a visual artist and educator living in New York. Her recent work approaches privacy and opacity as strategies of abstraction and political resistance. She currently is a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. She has exhibited and presented her work at Jeu de Paume (Paris), CAPC Bordeaux, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Drawing Center (New York), LAXART (Los Angeles), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art (Copenhagen). Her work is in the public collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Kadist Foundation. Jemison was the Arthur Levitt Jr. ’52 Artist-in-Residence at Williams College in spring 2017, and she has received awards from the Art Matters Foundation and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.