Marching On: The Politics of Performance explores the legacy of marching and organized forms of performance. African-American marching bands have long been powerful agents of cultural and political expression, celebrating collective identities and asserting rights to public space and visibility.
Commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson collaborate with the Marching Cobras of New York, a Harlem-based after-school drum line and dance team in a new project that interweaves echoes of the 1917 Silent March against racial violence with references to the revered Harlem Hellfighters in order to celebrate the crucial role of the community’s collective performances as acts of both cultural expression and political resistance.
Marching On will be inaugurated with a series of performances presented by the Marcus Garvey Park Alliance as part of Performa 17 in November 2017. The performances are free and open to the public. Read more about the performances here.
Rooted in military training exercises and even combat itself, marching bands and drumlines were historically used to acknowledge military service in African-American communities and the absence of civil rights despite sacrifices to defend the nation. These performance forms have radically expanded since the nineteenth century to include dance lines with hip-hop and stepping choreography, but they remain connected to a strong political lineage. The symbols, iconography, costumes, colors, and movement used throughout this history reflect various understandings of social and cultural perceptions and actions. Addressing both historical and contemporary meanings, this exhibition celebrates the medium of marching performance, focusing in particular on the power of such performance to articulate heritage at a moment of rapid change.