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Black Minimalisms: Subterfuge, Pastiche, and Task in Choreographies of Routine Violence

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Abstract

This dissertation analyzes choreography and visual art that use discretion in performance to reflect on racial violence. The project recognizes distinct concepts of black minimalisms, theories and practices in historiography that stem from traditions of masked protest on slave plantations and fuse with the restraint of expression in postmodern dance. To build this framework, three recurring strategies used by black postmodern choreographer Ralph Lemon are analyzed: subterfuge, pastiche, and task. This research then deconstructs each element in a comparison of Lemon’s work to that of three feminist visual artists of color: Ana Mendieta, Alison Saar, and Nicole Miller. In their focus on the aftermath of violence, they turn to archaeological ruins, found materials and objects, and fragments of oral histories to reconstitute what has been destroyed. Each comparison produces its own version of black minimalism shaped by the artists’ relationship to postmodern dance genealogies, the African diaspora, and the Civil Rights Movement. The manner in which these artists deploy subterfuge, pastiche, and task-based choreography creates spaces to pause and reflect on violence. These approaches respond to communities that grieve losses that occur in rapid succession.

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This item is under embargo until August 19, 2024.