The Contemporary Arts Center’s This Time Tomorrow performance art festival takes over downtown Cincinnati this week | cultural | Cincinnati

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Photo: Bruce Tom

“Mother/Faceless Boy” by Juni One Set

After a slimmed-down offering in 2021 and a canceled iteration in 2020, performance art festival This Time Tomorrow returns to Cincinnati theaters April 6-10.

A project of the Center for Contemporary Art, This Time Tomorrow (TTT) expands the potential of performance art with wide reach, commissioning a variety of artists, blending different mediums and asking big questions of its audience. . Events take place daily at venues such as the CAC, Carnegie, 21c Museum Hotel and Mercantile Library, with an all-night “Late Night Hub” at the CAC serving as an after-party venue, and the “Goetta- Institute” offering lunchtime conversations. with artists at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Tickets are available online for individual performances and start at $5; COVID requirements may vary for each event or venue and are listed on the ACE website.

Click to enlarge Drew Klein, curator of This Time Tomorrow - PHOTO: ANDREAS WARD

Photo: Andreas Ward

Drew Klein, curator of This Time Tomorrow

“I think any center of contemporary art that’s worth a damn need should not only be a place of approved genius, but also a breeding ground for cultural thought,” Drew Klein, the TTT curator who first made performance art synonymous with the CAC with the first Black Box Series in 2011, says CityBeat. “We want to be a laboratory for artists to come and collaborate with us to develop new projects that speak with the times, themes that are relevant within our community but also across the world.”

Artists span this geography as well, with local, regional, national and international representation. Britni Bicknaver, a seventh generation Cincinnatrist, is trained in sculpture. His piece “Special Collections: Reflections on the Mercantile Library” is, however, a new work centered on sound art, commissioned by and presented to the CAC and the Mercantile.

“How we translate history, the idiosyncrasies of places, the synchronicities of this world, are all topics that interest me and that Mercantile’s article is really about,” says Bicknaver.

Originally on the list for the unrealized 2020 TTT, Bicknaver found the additional two years of time a boon for further research and reflection. John Milton’s epic lost paradise has been particularly inspiring, she says.

“I realized the correlation between the fact that I was obsessed with this text and what I was going through, as someone in a pandemic, literally driven out of a co-created world, a paradise, our 21st century Eden. “, she says. “The other side of that, and the other thesis that I explore in the piece, is really about the idea that our world is mostly not a paradise for many groups of people excluded from our world.”

Formatted as a 30-minute audiobook narrated by Bicknaver – who also refers to herself as the artist and creator of the piece – “Special Collections” comprises 13 chapters, with different voice actors ranging in age from 9 to 70 years appearing in each chapter. As the work progresses, the public moves through the Mercantile Library, itself woven into the fabric of the sound art work. References to the area’s first indigenous residents, Galileo, space, books from the Mercantile’s collection and the Apollo 8 mission are sprinkled throughout, and Bicknaver has hired local singer-songwriter Brianna Kelly to create an accompaniment. musical.

“What I want people to take away is an understanding of how everything is connected,” she says. “Being a Cincinnatian, I love this city and I’ve done a lot of art about this city as well. I think an appreciation for the history of this city that’s getting lost, and also, this piece is a love letter to the Mercantile.

New York artists Steffani Jemison and Justin Hicks perform collaborative musical works under the Mikrokosmos banner. Their offering at the TTT also addresses the aural experience: “One Giant Step,” presented at the CAC, draws on the melody found in Nina Simone’s 1969 performance at Morehouse College of “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” .

In the video for Simone’s historic performance, she skillfully plays the piano, a delight evident in her body language and that of the band. When the camera pans over the huge audience later in the video, they are jubilant and celebrating. Simone tells the audience about the black orchid corsage on her wrist, which she saved and brought with her to Atlanta from the previous night’s show in New Jersey.

The orchid became a symbol for Jemison and Hicks that became the ethos of their work.

“We could imagine the care taken in bringing this article to another group of people that feels relevant or helpful to them,” Hicks says. “Imagine, if she took care of this orchid, what do I care about, that I then share with the world in (this) way? How are we actually going to get this orchid from Nina Simone and bring it to another group of people?

Simone’s friendship with author Lorraine Hansberry as well as Hansberry’s respective work also proved essential to Mikrokosmos. In particular, they turned to the speculative game of Hansberry What are the flowers for? (unpublished during his lifetime), which struggles with the concepts of beauty and value.

“While our research is extensive, the performance framework is very simple,” says Jemison. “There is no need to read or prepare to enter. The way our live work plays out really stages an experience of learning and growing together that takes place between players.

The CAC describes the “One Giant Step” experience as performers going through “a series of conversations, tutorials, exercises, and musical tasks that lead them, dramatically, to a place of knowing and understanding in time. real”.

Click to enlarge "Akal" by Radouan Mriziga - PHOTO: SENDA JEBALI

Photo: Senda Jebali

Akal by Radouan Mriziga

Belgian choreographer Radouan Mriziga, whose commissioned work “Akal” premiered at the TTT at the CAC, also takes a non-prescriptive approach. “Akal” is the final work of a trilogy, although it can be experienced independently. Mriziga here focuses on exploring the female goddesses of the Imazighen culture – the indigenous people of North Africa – and how their mythology and lineage transcend geography and perspective, moving from deities like Neith and Athena to places like Libya and the western world.

“I’m not trying to write a new story,” says Mriziga. “It’s more about how we can experience the story together through choreography. It allows us to experience the story more than just reading it or deciding what the narrative should be.

Rwandan dancer, singer and choreographer Dorothée Munyaneza brings the narrative of non-linear performance to life with song, rap and dance. The multisensory depth of the work is Mriziga’s trademark.

“I start from the body, then it can extend from the body to an imaginary space, passing through this into real space, passing through text and words,” says Mriziga. “I always try to find a way to make the public experience the same. I believe that we are mediums of certain knowledge, and for me it is always beautiful when art can also be a source of knowledge.

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Photo: Ritsuko Sakata

“100 Keyboards” by Japanese artist ASUNA

Other performances planned for TTT include regional and world premieres, as well as additional CAC commissions. The North American premiere of “aCORdo” by Brazilian choreographer Alice Ripoll and dance company Cia REC explores race, prejudice, politics and policing through movement. Japanese artist ASUNA’s “100 Keyboards” uses keyboards, arranged in circles around the performer, to “create overlapping waves of notes”, explains the CAC. “As each electronic note joins the others, the effect is choral – incessant voices in a flowing mass of beautiful noise.”

Kentucky artist Jay Bolotin presents the world premiere of “The Darktown Sermons”, a CAC commission that combines animation, original song and performance. According to one description, in the Bolotin animation, which features hand-engraved woodcut characters, “A somewhat confused preacher (voiced by Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy) descends a ladder from heaven where he visited the angels. It wasn’t what he expected.

Juni One Set – a collaboration between artists Senga Nengudi, eddy kwon and Haruko Crow Nishimura and Joshua Kohl of the Degenerate Art Ensemble – will perform the CCA commission “Boy mother / faceless”, an interdisciplinary work that presents “diverse lines of queer, anti-colonial and care-based art practices,” according to the description.

And Columbus, Ohio-based pianist and singer Sharon Udoh will premiere “Black Gold: A Lullaby,” another Nina Simone-inspired TTT work. Udoh examines the impact of Simone and her music, as well as the death of Breonna Taylor, to ask, “How do black women thrive, grow, grow, and trust?” And how do we rest? says the CAC.

“We love that there is this sense of discovery in this festival, not only for the audience, but also for the artists,” says curator Klein. “The artists and the public are in a way sparring partners and require each other to better understand the work.”

the Tomorrow at this time festival takes place from 6 to 10 April. Find tickets, schedule and more information at contemporaryartscenter.org.

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Reggie S. Williams