- Ligia Lewis: "deader than dead"
Conceived, choreographed and directed by Ligia Lewis for Made in L.A. 2020, deader than dead was originally a performance planned for the Hammer Museum galleries that had to be postponed due to the pandemic.
Its starting point is an investigation into both the irony and the emotional distance induced by the deadpan; a comic and impassive attitude used to illustrate emotional distance.
Initially, Lewis developed an expressively flat (or dead) choreography for ten dancers , resisting any narrative, or representational hold tied to a climactic build or progression. Following the pandemic, the cast was reduced to 4 performers and the performance pivoted to a more traditionally theatrical presentation. In this new work, the dancers use Macbeth’s culminating soliloquy (“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” a reflection on repetition and meaninglessness) as the beginning of a work that unfolds in modular parts, each one an illustration or parody of death, stasis, and the void – and each tied to its own carefully selected soundtrack. The work is full of play but is also a meditation on “playing,” or acting, as well as on tragedy’s recurring cycles and familiarity within Black and brown experience. Lewis is exploring time, as it loops; performance and touch, as an act of both care and violence.
The work is built in the form of a musical lament, a protracted complaint on loop performed ad infinitum, steadily decomposing itself. Yet Lewis presents her grim subject—the farce of progress—with a healthy dose of humor and comedic tropes, riffing on the concept of “corpsing”—a theatrical term for unintentional laughter at a non comedic moment, “playing straight” during a humorous scene, or simply breaking character. Corpsing, in the words of the philosopher David Marriott, is associated with “moments in which an actor exceeds the limits of theater and no longer is in command of a role.” But in those slippages in character, he states: “if Black life matters, it cannot be as . . . the poetical grasp of a historical meaning, nor as the breathless emergence of a politics of ascent. For such roles are not meant for the living; they depend on the idea that Blacks can only perform and perfect the role of their deaths, and that they should do so forever.”
deader than dead does not so much document the interpretation of a play as the potential of a performance.
For Amarre, choreographer Ligia Lewis and Andrea Rodrigo, curator of the programme, will hold a conversation that delves into the references and intuitions that have informed deader than dead; attending to its modular form, its embodied physical logics, and the presence of the minor, the sensual and enigma in her work.
- About Ligia Lewis
Ligia Lewis works as a choreographer and dancer. Lewis’s works, often marked by expressions of physical intensity and humor, seek to animate subjects through physical forms of expression that disrupt normative conceptions of the body while negotiating the ghostly traces of history, memory, and the unknown. Through choreography, she develops expressive concepts that give form to movements, speech, affects, thoughts, relations, utterances, and the bodies that hold them. Utilizing affect, empathy, and the sensate, her work continues to evoke the nuances of embodiment. Lewis recently finished works including: “A Plot / A Scandal” (2022), “Still Not Still” (2021), “deader than dead” (film and live performance) (2020), the trilogy including: “Water Will (in Melody)” (2018), “minor matter” (2016), and “Sorrow Swag” (2014).
Her other works include: “Sensation 1/This Interior” (High Line Commission, 2019); “so something happened, get over it; no, nothing happened, get with it” (Jaou Tunis, 2018); “Melancholy: A White Mellow Drama” (Flax Fahrenheit, Palais de Tokyo, 2015); $$$ (Tanz im August, 2012); and “Sensation 1” (sommer.bar, Tanz im August, 2011 and Basel Liste, 2014).
Her work was presented in multiple venues across Europe and the US such as HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin; Tanzquartier, Vienna; MCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles ; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Kaaitheater, Brussels ; Arsenic, Lausanne ; High Line Art, New York; Performance Space, New York (2019); OGR Torino; Stedelijk, Amsterdam ; TATE Modern, London. Her work has also been presented at festivals and biennials such as the Ruhrtriennale, Bochum, Germany; Tanzplattform, Germany; Politik im Freien Theater Festival, Frankfurt; Liverpool Biennial; the Side Step Festival, Helsinki ; Biennale of Moving Images / Centre D’Art Contemporain, Geneva; Diver Festival, Tel Aviv ; American Realness, New York; The Donaufestival, Krems, Austria and Julidans, Amsterdam.
Lewis is the recipient of the Tabori Award in the category of Distinction (2021); a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants Award (2018); a Bessie Award for Outstanding Production for minor matter (2017); a Factory Artist residency at tanzhaus nrw (2017-19); and a Prix Jardin d’ Europe from ImPulsTanz for Sorrow Swag (2015).
deader than dead, 2020
Mixed-media performance documented on HD video, color, sound
Duration: 19:39 min.
Conceived and directed by: Ligia Lewis
Produced by: Reza Monahan Studio and Jim Fetterley
Director of photography / A-camera operator: Sean Morris
Gaffer: Eric S. Foster
B-camera operator: Steven Wetrich
C-camera operator: Alex Zarth
Key grip: Gilbert Charles Butler
Production sound recorder: Christopher Trueman
Digital imaging technician: Dillon Novak
Production assistant: Yusuke Ito
COVID compliance officer: Jennifer Doyle
Postproduction supervisor: Reza Monahan Studio
Postproduction coordinator: Sean Morris
Editors: Ligia Lewis and Steven Wetrich
Sound designer / sound mixer: Christina Nguyen
- Visiting Hours
deader than dead will be screened in studio 1 and can be viewed at your leisure during the following times:
9 December 14:00 – 19:45
10 December 14:00 – 19:45
11 December 12:00 – 15:30
On Sunday 11 December, 15:30 to 16:30, there will be a conversation between Ligia Lewis and Andrea Rodrigo. Ligia Lewis will join online.
In addition to the opening hours above, the film will be available for viewing for an hour after each performance on each day of the performance.