The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University has completed its second year of EMERGENYC, its Hemispheric New York Emerging Performers Program. This year’s theme focused on Activist Performance. As a part of the Institute’s Hemispheric New York initiative, the Emerging Performers Program aims to support the development of New York-based artists between the ages of 18 and 23 through a program of workshops and events that took place between April and June 2009. We worked with seventeen talented, committed and highly motivated young activists/artists/performers whose work functions as a vehicle for political expression and social change, and who examine the broad range of identities, practices and histories of the Americas (the western hemisphere, thus “hemispheric”) through genres such as spoken word, street performance, political cabaret, performance art, video performance, movement, and others.
New York City is a space of transformation in which expressive practices from throughout the Americas come into contact and combine into new artistic forms. The constant encounters and collisions of African-, Native-, Asian-, Latino- and European- American cultures that define the City, combined with the multiple political and counter-cultural movements that have flourished on its streets, are a key source of the artistic and activist innovation that has long characterized New York City. Experimental performance, hip-hop and salsa are powerful examples of the hemispheric fusions that the City’s neighborhoods have incubated. Anti-consumerism activism like Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping, artistic interventions such as the Guerilla Girls and Fulana’s If You Fear Something, You’ll See Something poster campaign are examples of the innovative conjunction of art and political protest. Drawing on this vitality, the program enables young activists/performers to work with leading practitioners in the field, to take interdisciplinary leaps, and to develop their own strategies to use performance for social change.
Between April and June, the selected participants took part in weekly workshops led by George Emilio Sánchez as well as by invited artists/activists such as Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Karen Finley, Anna Deavere Smith, Carmelita Tropicana, Dulce Pinzón, Lorie Novak, Fulana, Reverend Billy and Savitri D. One of the goals of this year’s series was to work in all five boroughs in New York City. We asked participants to define social issues that are important to them (e.g., globalization, the environment, the economy, racism, gender/sexuality, etc.), and to find a bridge to communities around those issues.
The program was divided into three phases. Phase 1: every Saturday from April 4th to May 9th, participants worked closely with George Emilio Sánchez in developing performance and activist strategies, such as Boalian techniques, performance art and site-specific interventions. Phase 2: intensive daily sessions from May 16- 23, participants worked closely with leading activists, artists and scholars, and explored specific tactics for work in the field (street performance, interviewing, videotaping, seeing other people’s work, etc.). Phase 3: every Saturday from May 30th to June 13th participants developed their work with communities of interest throughout the City, building on the strategies explored through the workshops. Final event (June 19th): participants whared their strategies and experiences in a public forum.
The 2009 participants were: Amelia Uzátegui Bonilla, Andrea Panichia, Dylan Levers, Flora Mendoza, José Pérez IV, Judith Angeles, Karina Claudio-Betancourt, Katharine Elkington, Leta Hirschmann-Levy, Liliana Padilla, Lis Mery Ramírez, Luisina Quarleri, Marcela Barrientos, Megan Hanley, Mieke Duffly, Nicole Kornegay and Zoe Lukov.
This program is free of charge.
The Hemispheric New York initiative was made possible from 2008 to 2009 by the generous support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. We greatly appreciate our partnership with The Public Theater and thank Liz Frankel for their continued collaboration with the Hemispheric Institute.