The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at New York University is now in its sixth year of EMERGENYC, the Hemispheric New York Emerging Performers Program focused on “artivist” (artist/activist) performance. EMERGENYC aims to support the development of “hemispheric” artists through a program of workshops and events between April 20 and July 13, 2013 (see our Schedule of Events for details). We work with talented, committed and highly motivated young performers/activists/artists 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. Subversive media interventions, such as those created by the Yes Men, artistic interventions such as the Guerilla Girls and Fulana’s If You Fear Something, You’ll See Something poster campaign are examples of innovative conjunction of art and political protest. Drawing on this vitality, the program will enable 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 July, participants will take part in weekly workshops led by George Emilio Sánchez as well as by invited artists such as Susana Cook, Fulana, The Yes Lab, Pamela Sneed, Peggy Shaw (Split Britches), Daniel Alexander Jones, Paloma Mc Gregor, Soomi Kim, Patricia Hoffbauer, ACT UP, and others. The program will also include a teach-in on Performance (“PerforWHAT?”) led by Hemispheric Institute Founding Director and NYU University Professor Diana Taylor. (List of workshop leaders is still growning. Check emergenyc.org for updates.)
We ask applicants to define social issues that are important to them and to find a bridge to communities around those issues. Past participants have explored themes of racism, racial stereotypes, and racial violence; LGBTQ rights; war and human rights; gender and sexuality; religion; and gentrification, among others. They have created performance pieces around these issues, interviewed members of various communities, and led workshops in community programs (such as GLOBE/Make the Road New York), etcetera.
The program is divided into three phases. Phase 1: every Saturday 10am-2pm from April 20th to May 25th, participants work 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 (10am-5pm) from May 26th- June 2rd, participants work closely with leading activists, artists and scholars, and explore specific tactics for work in the field (street performance, interviewing, videotaping, seeing other people’s work, etc.). Phase 3: Saturdays June 8th - July 13th participants refine their work for a final presentation, building on the strategies explored through the workshops. Performance presentations (evening of Monday, June 24th): participants share their strategies, performances, and experiences in a public forum.
EMERGENYC is designed for emerging activists/artists/performers who live in (or can easily commute to) New York City. Applicants must have prior experience in activism and/or various performance genres. The program welcomes applications from individuals enrolled in the City’s colleges and universities AND from those who are not currently pursuing formal higher education.
The 2013 cohort is:
"EMERGENYC was such an important experience for me—both in the short term view of last year and in the long term view of my development as an artist and an activist. Last year was tough in a lot of ways, in part because it was such a big transitional year—my first year out of college, my first time living on my own. It was really easy to feel lost in all of that. EMERGENYC came at the perfect time: I found myself in a community of artists who were focusing on asking big questions about discrimination and identities and how to use performance to address both. Suddenly I had a supportive group of people encouraging me to try new things and challenging me to think more creatively and radically about power, politics, and performance. That community was incredibly important, and I plan to keep working with people from the program in the future. In many ways EMERGENYC fundamentally changed the way I think about my work. That's probably the biggest long-term gift that the program gave me: the ability to root my work as an artist in my activism. For a long time I've struggled to unite the two; at times I even thought that I had to pursue either one or the other. Emerge also helped me think about new possibilities for "artivism" in performance and to start thinking about what I can do now, with the resources that I have at the moment. There's really no other program like this."
"EMERGENYC was the artistic and political opportunity I needed to start getting myself together as an artist and activist. I met people around the city doing amazing, fierce, and interesting work. I was pushed to hold myself to the vision I had for a better and more just world. It inspired me to see myself as part of a long tradition of creators and people who use art to challenge the status quo. Since EMERGENYC, I've stayed in touch with both the other students in the program as well as the teaching staff - EMERGENYC was a chance to work with legends in the field, artists I've always admired, and learn from them. I couldn't recommend it enough for people who are looking for a thoughtful and challenging artistic experience."
"I had an incredible time as a participant of EMERGENYC. Prior to the few months we spent together, I had never spent so much time with other artists. I really forged some strong bonds with some of the members, and have done shows with a few already, my art has been strengthened immensely. The only true way for me to sum up my experience is to say that I have never undergone so many transformations in such a short amount of time. I found my artistic voice as an adult in EMERGENYC, and that has been invaluable (and needs to be replicated in every city). I can't wait to give something back to this program."
"After spending so much time with my fellow Emergers, a community was formed which I appreciate immensely. I can see how this is going to play a CRUCIAL role in my future development as an artist."
"This is dream combination - Hemi and George created the space to build a vital community, and at the same time I felt we were each pushed to strengthen and specify our own individual voices/impulses. I never felt that anyone was trying to get me to tailor my work to a particular style, idea, etc - I always felt I was being pushed to work at the top of my game as an artist, activist, and intellectual, whatever I decided MY game was. The uniting factor in this community is that each of us are confidently, passionately, intelligently doing our OWN work, and supporting fellow artists who are also doing their own work. There is nothing more inspiring than working with artists who are confidently letting their brilliance run wild, and constantly encouraging other artists to do the same. Making the connection to the Hemispheric Institute has had a big effect on me - being exposed to and having the opportunity to immerse myself in an activist community that is fiercely artistic AND intellectual, that is connected to the art/performance/theatre world as well as academia, where folks are working at the top of their creativity and intelligence at the same time - this has felt like a kind of salvation. The struggle to be an activist in the theatre world and an artist in the activist world was one that I, and I think many of the other participants, articulated at the beginning of the program, but I did not realize that I also felt intellectually understimulated with my current collaborators and communities. When I'm with Hemifolk (at work and at play), I feel challenged intellectually, stimulated creatively, and fired up and supported as an activist."
"The way in which the space was almost immediately cultivated as 'safe' by everyone in the group, not just the facilitator, is extremely rare, and maybe one of the strongest components of the program. I have never ever been in such a non-oppressive space."
"I would describe the experience as a program grounded in theater of the oppressed, supported by multi-media artists and activist mentors, that support emerging artists in developing their artistic abilities and form community in real and tangible ways. I would describe it as an opportunity to look at oppression in the world and within myself. As an opportunity to push past the competitive lines drawn in NYC that create isolation and battling for crumbs, to forming genuine community. I would describe it as real love—for sure. I describe it as a space facilitated by George and supported by an amazing team of well rounded folks who genuinely care about us. It's artistic but more than that. Hence the performance is another step in the process vs. the culmination of the process. This will change your life!"
EMERGENYC 2013 is supported by funds from the Rockefeller Foundation's Cultural Innovation Fund.