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ABOUT DANCE 2022, Episode 4, Practices of Resistance and Protest — focus on Contraband/Sara Shelton Mann

Jun 4th 2022 Jun 5th 2022

“What is contact improvisation?”

“ That might be the most important question asked today.”

~ Overheard participant conversation right before Jorge started his contact improvisation workshop.

“I want to communicate to humans. Period.”

~ Elle Barbara in response to a question

TALKS: Practices of Resistance and Protest

Stefano Harney: With a soft spirit and sharp wit, Stefano makes a case for the power of unconventional gatherings. He introduces us to his long collaboration with Fred Moten and their work championing The Undercommons and Blues Universities.

Marquis Bey: Marquis’ talk “In the Shadows of Binaries” destroys solid notions of gender and binaries and re-builds them as social/relational processes full of potential. Marquis invokes Foucalt, Derrida, and their own reflections that invite irreverence toward binaries.

Elle Barbara: This talk starts by introducing “The House of Barbara” a Montreal based neo-ballroom event series for young, black queer artists – a house where art meets family support structures. From there it turns to a long and fruitful conversation on Haitian spirituality, black male masculinity, hierarchy, whimsy, and creating art in spaces of vulnerability.

Julian Reid: The intricate intelligence of Julian Reid is once again at it in this talk that touches on colonialism in relation to power, arts, and queer theory. Throughout the talk, Julian introduces us to seminal books that support and further the conversational themes. (see the Bibliography for a list of these books)

Maggie Nelson: The final talk of the 2022 About Dance Season took us out with a bang. Maggie reads from her latest book “On Freedom” and then joins hosts Marten and Alex in a rich conversation, that covers topics from care, creative process, the film “Easy Rider”, writing as a practice of choreography, and artistic “groove”.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Practices of Resistance and Protest


Chandler, David & Reid, Julian. 2019. Becoming Indigenous: Governing Imaginaries in the Anthropocene.

Harney, Stefano & Moten, Fred. 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. 

Harney, Stefano & Moten, Fred. 2021. All Incomplete.

McCann, Anthony. 2019. Shadowlands: Fear and Freedom at the Oregon Standoff

Scott, Julius Sherrard. 2018. The Common Wind.

Snorton, C. Riley. 2017. Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity.


Baraka, Amiri (formerly LeRoi Jones): writer, poet, eassyist.

Lemebel, Pedro: Chilean essayist, chronicler, and novelist.

Woods, Clyde: black studies, wrote about New Orleans and Blues Universities.


Amin, Kadji. 2017. Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History

Bersani, Leo. 1996. Homos.

Braidotti, Rosi. 2019. Posthuman Knowledge.

Descola, Philippe. 2005. Beyond Nature and Culture.

Genet, Jean. 1986. Prisoner of Love.

Ingold, Tim. 2013. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture

Lawernce, T.E. 1926. Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Robinson, Cedric. 1983. Black Marxism.

Zuboff, Shoshana. 2018. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism


Jorge De Hoyos is an American dancer/performer and choreographer living and working in Berlin, Germany since 2012. http://www.jorgedehoyos.com/about.html

Stefano Harney is a teacher and writer who works collaboratively and collectively in the classroom, in research, and in social practice. He is a black studies scholar who has taught in the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, art criticism, American Studies, and business & management. He is currently professor transversal aesthetics at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Stefano is co-author with Fred Moten of The Undercommons: fugitive planning and black study (2013) and of All Incomplete (2021). He is also co-author of The Liberal Arts and Management Education (2020), with Howard Thomas.

Marquis Bey is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English at Northwestern University. Their work focuses on blackness and fugitivity, transness, and black feminist theory. Bey is particularly concerned with modes of subjectivity that index otherwise ways of being, utilizing blackness and transness—as fugitive, extra-ontological postures—as names for such otherwise subjectivities. Recent publications are of Black Trans Feminism (Duke, 2022) and The Problem of the Negro as a Problem for Gender (Minnesota, 2020). 

Elle Barbara is a Montreal-based avant-garde singer-songwriter song selector (TS Ellise) speaker writer director curator artist and pinup whose musical output combines elements of soul jazz psychedelia and underground. A lover of the odd dark and overlooked elements in pop music they find inspiration in unexpected sources like off-the-radar acts Su Tissue Kashif Francis Bebey and obscure New Wave duo Rexy in addition to mainstream luminaries like Mary J. Blige. Rising from artist-run spaces such as La Brique and Drones Club Elle Barbara has seen their work soar to enduring acclaim in Japan and Europe in a short career whose highlights include duets with Laetitia Sadier and R. Stevie Moore. In recent years Barbara’s efforts have been partly centered around trans community organizing as well as event planning. In recent years Barbara’s efforts have been partly centered around trans community organizing as well as event planning. Their band (Black Space) whose lineup is solely made of musicians of Sub-Saharan African descent aims to re-center blackness and reject anti-black tropes within music & art spaces.

Julian Reid is Chair and Professor of International Relations at the University of Lapland, the northernmost university in the European Union, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, where he has lived since 2007. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Reid previously taught at the Universities of London (SOAS and King’s College) and Sussex. He was Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol in 2014. In 2018, he is the Visiting Research Fellow at Virginia Tech (USA). His most recent book is The Neoliberal Subject: Resilience, Adaptivity and Vulnerability, which he co-authored with David Chandler. 

Maggie Nelson is the author of several books in multiple genres. Her six books of nonfiction include On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (2021), The Argonauts (2015), global best-seller and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award; a landmark work of cultural, art, and literary criticism titled The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning (2011), which was named a NY Times Notable Book of the Year; the cult classic Bluets (2009), which was named by Bookforum one of the 10 best books of the past 20 years; a memoir about her family, media spectacle, and sexual violence titled The Red Parts (2007); and a critical study of painting and poetry titled Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions (2007). Her books of poetry include Something Bright, Then Holes (2007), Jane: A Murder (2005), The Latest Winter (2003), and Shiner (2001). She has been the recipient of a Creative Capital Literature Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship in Nonfiction, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, and an Andy Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant. In 2016 she received a MacArthur „genius“ grant. She writes frequently about art, and currently teaches at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. 

Episode 4 Trailer

Art has often been associated with resistance and protest, but what happens when provocation and giving the system the finger has become coopted by capitalism and resistance revamped into commodity? Can art still have a transformative charge? Has art been swallowed by well-meaning support knocking on doors already opened, or has art been institutionalized to the extent that all and every unconventional utterance already before being expressed has been cancelled through social media or general paranoia?  

Art and artists have equally often been connected to freedom. But doesn’t “eins, zwei, drei, die Kunst ist Frei”, today comes across at best as sentimental? Is it the artist or the art, the institution showing art, or the experience of art that should or not be free? Freedom of speech was once affiliated with sympathies to the left but has today been appropriated by the populist right. In fact by the same people who want to terminate support for free art and instead push heritage and national legacy.  

Perhaps what is necessary is to skip over defensive positions and instead consider art a space that can redefine and reissue what resistance and freedom is. 

The final event of the spring season focuses on the San Francisco based collective “Contraband”, a group that remixed dance, contact improvisation, political activism, community work, acrobatics, intimacy and sex, led by legendary Sara Shelton Mann. Jorge De Hoyos will guide two practice sessions in regard to the work of Sara and her collaborators.  

For the online talks we have a number of amazing contributors. Stefano Harney will bring us up to speed with the under commons and transversal aesthetics, followed by Marquis Bey who will continue this journey into the context of his new book “Black Trans Feminism”. On the second day we have three talks, starting with Julian Reid who among other things will speak about resistance, freedom and war. Elle Barbara will be with us with a talk taking off from her practices between art, popular culture and political activism. The event will come to a closing in a conversation with the acclaimed author Maggie Nelson around her most recent book “On Freedom”. 


10:30 – 13:30 daily: LIVE WORKSHOP with Jorge De Hoyos

from 15:30 daily: Online guest artists and contributors:


15.30 – Stefano Harney  

17.30 – Marquis Bey  


15.30 – Julian Reid  

17.30 – Elle Barbara  

19.30 – Maggie Nelson 

Curated by Mårten Spångberg

Hosted by Alex Viteri Arturo & Mårten Spångberg

Assistance & Documentation: Jessy Tuddenham & Maria Kousi

Camera & Editing: Noam Gorbat

Artistic Direction: Marcela Giesche

documentation archive