Performance Commission: Mikrokosmos

Image courtesy Steffani Jemison
Image courtesy Steffani Jemison

Nottingham Contemporary is pleased to present Mikrokosmos: Another time, this time, one time, a newly commissioned performance by Steffani Jemison and Justin Hicks.

Part study session, part funk band, part opera, Mikrokosmos mines the canon of black American music. This performance uses Gil Scott-Heron’s “We Almost Lost Detroit” (1977) as the raw material for R&B songwriting. Like a game in which new words are formed from existing letters, these live compositions and re-compositions take the form of musical studies, samples, and improvisations. Inspired by Scott-Heron’s own ambitious songbook, Jemison and Hicks reflect upon a wide range of subjects, including Scott-Heron’s biography, police violence in the United States, and the nuclear catastrophe that threatened the city of Detroit in 1966.

In their performances and community collaborations, Hicks and Jemison consider listening, language, and learning through contemporary black American music. Mikrokosmos: Another time, this time, one time culminates a year of workshops and performances by Jemison, supported by Nottingham Contemporary, that consider the limits of speech and the politics of quiet, focusing on black American experience.

Performed by Steffani Jemison, Justin Hicks and Starr Busby.

This iteration of Mikrokosmos has been produced in collaboration with Western Front, Vancouver. The Performance Commissions are foundered by Arts Council England’s Catalyst Fund.

About the performers:

Steffani Jemison - Steffani Jemison uses time-based, photographic, and discursive platforms to examine "progress" and its alternatives. Jemison’s work has been presented in solo and collaborative exhibitions and performances at Mass MoCA, the Museum of Modern Art, the RISD Museum, LAXART, the New Museum, Triple Canopy, and the festival steirischer herbst. Other presentations include the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Whitney Museum, the Drawing Center, and Sprueth Magers. Her work is in the public collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum, and the Kadist Foundation. She is currently preparing video and performance commissions for the Jeu de Paume, CAPC Bordeaux, and Western Front.

Jemison was born in Berkeley, California, and is currently based in Brooklyn, New York. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2009) and a BA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University (2003). She is a 2017-2018 Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University.

Justin Hicks - Hicks explores identity, economics, marriage, labor, and religion through performances and compositions ranging from singer/songwriter-style presentations to interdisciplinary works and fine art exhibitions. His work has been featured at Lincoln Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, PS 122, Festival Steirischer Herbst, Nottingham Contemporary, Western Front Society (Vancouver, BC), Jack, Bowery Arts and Science, Invisible Dog, MoMA, NURTUREart, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Public Theater, and La MaMa. He was a member of Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space and was a performer and sound designer for the Obie award-winning (Abigail Deville, design) production of Prophetika: An Oratorio by Charlotte Brathwaite, a contributing songwriter / performer for Meshell Ndegeocello’s Can I Get A Witness? (Harlem Stage 2016) and was a 2017 PS122 Ramp resident.

Starr Busby is an experimental avant-garde soul singer, songwriter, composer and actor. She began her career at The Grammy Award Winning High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, TX and then went on to earn a bachelor of music and certificate in music theatre from Northwestern University. "Starr Busby has this beautiful voice which brings a distinctive new vocal quality to the sort of layering techniques made popular by tUnE-yArDs and Kimbra." -Soundfly. Recent credits include: Decolonizing My Vagina (New Ohio Theatre/Fridays on Ice); Moby Dick (workshop, Berkeley Repertory Theatre); Mikrokosmos (Steirischer Herbst, Graz); The Girl with the Incredible Feeling (Spoleto Festival di Mondi); The Offending Gesture (The Tank, Flint and Tender Series); La Mama Cantata (La Mama E.T.C., international tour) as well as various concerts and solo shows. She often performs with experimental soul band People's Champs and Grammy Award Winning musician Esperanza Spalding. Recently she released the single and video "Ms Bland", a tribute to Sandra Bland and all other lives lost to police brutality. Her music is available via iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and Bandcamp.