Multimedia performance invites exploration of Black/Queer identities

Cornell Council for the Arts’ (CCA) 2018 Biennial kicks off Sept. 14–15 at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts with “A Meditation on Tongues,” conceived and directed by Ni’Ja Whitson, and performed by The NWA Project. The piece is a live-dance and multimedia adaptation of Marlon T. Riggs’ iconic film “Tongues Untied” (1989). 

Part abstract, part performance ritual, part live and historical document, this rigorously layered interdisciplinary project (re)images Black and Queer masculinities. It frames new questions about loss at the height of the AIDS pandemic, while challenging constructions of Black love of/as revolution. A bold deconstruction of Riggs’ collectivist aesthetics and a raw invocation that shapeshifts gender, sexuality, and the body, “A Meditation on Tongues” remixes historic and embodied invisibilities, spilling between the spaces of mourning and celebration.

“A Meditation on Tongues” is co-sponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts and the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

The performance is the first project of the 2018 CCA Biennial, the theme of which is “Duration: Passage, Persistence, Survival.” The aim of the Biennial is “to stage artistic environments that might provoke conversation about the persistence of passage, from environments to communities, while emphasizing the challenge of survival in hostile socio-ecological climates.”

Performances of “A Mediation on Tongues” are in the Schwartz Center for the Performing Sept.14 and 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for students, seniors, and the Cornell community, and are available at or at the Schwartz Center box office Monday through Saturday, 1–8 p.m. The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Ave. in Ithaca.

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		 Ni'Ja Whitson, photo by Scott Shaw