- Performance Curation and Communities of Colour:Open Reflection, Closed Report, and an Interview with Jane Gabriels
Part I: My perspective
I probably should not have agreed to do this report on Configurations in Motion: Performance Curation and Communities of Colour, held in Montreal this past June. Writing a report feels in conflict with the way I have carried the meeting with me. My job was to co-curate this public event—to provide openings for those working to make space, hold space, fill space for others. What could be learned from the people dedicated to positioning Indigenous, Black, and people of colour at the centre of curating performance? In many ways, this third iteration of Configurations—and the first in Canada—was for the people doing this work on a long-term trajectory. Reporting, I thought, is part of the work. I should do it. It will be good to give Configurations a public profile, a face, some more airtime. So I thought.
In this context, I think I was wrong.
What crucial connections and knowledges are better kept to the realm of personal exchange between participants? Where does representation end? Where/when does the work stop?
One of the valuable aspects of Configurations was that it was not all shared with or for the public. It was for those who were invited. As Co-Curator with Dr. Thomas F. DeFrantz, I invited Indigenous, Black, and curators of colour working in Canada to create performance opportunities and audience-building strategies for Indigenous, Black, and artists of colour. Our budget allowed for two people from central and western Canada, four from Ontario, and two from Quebec. The decision on whom to invite was entirely up to me. Tommy invited five people working in the United States.
I put out feelers, asked for recommendations, and talked it through with Jane Gabriels and MJ Thompson—event initiators, grant writers, organizers, and facilitators for Configurations in Montreal, which was part of Thompson's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) -supported project Performance, Scholarship, Presence: Conversations in Critical Dance Studies. We considered locations, heritage, and culture. Also of particular importance to me was generational difference. I invited a couple of people I knew previously, but for the most part I reached out to people I had not met and who had not met one another, often despite working in the same city.
What was so valuable to me was the coming together with colleagues doing similar work. We often make the mistake of assuming we already know everyone there is to know—if not directly, then by a degree or two of separation. We are wrong. There are so many people we do not know, never mind the people we do not see or recognize. Meeting new people is critical. Meeting new people, I think, is the point. We meet our own selves again through new people. This is proven time and again in the work of making marginalized people visible—historically, contemporarily, to funders, and even to other marginalized peoples. Out there is someone you do not know, doing something that might make you or someone else consider something new. What is the potential of bringing the unconsidered into view?
Working to make excluded people visible and to frame/validate their contributions can be lonely, and even tiring and repetitive to the point of, dare I say, boredom. Is it wrong to say that? Maybe, but I am going to say it anyways because I think it is important to name the boredom. It is the feeling I had when anticipating this writing. The beauty of Configurations and its responsive nature is that it puts Indigenous, Black, and people of colour at the centre. It foregrounds meeting new people who understand the boredom and the joy—not to mention the fatigue and rewards. Our conversations moved forward and allowed for depth, [End Page 73] for vulnerability. There were Canadian and American perspectives in the room—meeting together for what felt like the first time—and we talked about the similarities and differences on either side of the border. We discussed the fabrication of the border and its origins...