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Performance Space New York Presents mayfield brooks’s "Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall"

Performance Space New York Presents mayfield brooks’s "Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall"


Performance Space New York


Performance Space New York
150 1st Ave. 4th floor, New York, NY


Friday, November 3, 2023 - 7:00pm daily through November 5, 2023



Performance Space New York

Performance Space New York Presents mayfield brooks’s Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall, October 26–28

brooks’s New Work Decomposes Dance and Continues the Artist’s Consideration of Grief Through the Regenerative Phenomenon of Whale Fall


Wail Room


October 26 - 28, Nov 3 - 5 | 4pm




November 3 - 5 | 7pm


Performance Space New York (150 1st Avenue, 4th Floor) presents mayfield


brooks’s Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall (October 26–28), a new work continuing their “rich and poetic exploration of grief” (The New York Times) through the phenomenon of whale fall—the giant mammal’s decomposition after it dies, sinks to the ocean floor, and feeds thousands of sea creatures in its wake. Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall invites the public to wail, release, and find relief in a world where grieving is often shunned.

From 4-6pm the public is welcomed into a Wail Room—a space for the voice and body to grieve and decompose like organic matter in a whale fall. Starting at 7pm, brooks activates the Wail Room in acknowledgment of the labor of grief, coalescing human and nonhuman visions of loss and regeneration.

Accompanied by electronic cellist Dorothy Carlos and performer Camilo Restrepo, brooks creates an embodied sonic world that invites a prolonged deterioration of colonized spatial and temporal logic, and resists the performativity and spectacle of composition—and the ways we’re expected to grieve.

The artist attributes their interest in “decomposing dance” to their background in urban farming and firsthand experience with compost’s generative properties. This interest merged, for brooks, with the idea of whale fall in 2020, as illness and Black death collected into an ocean of grief and isolation.

Sharing the first work in the series, the 2021 film Whale Fall, they told The New York Times, “I want to find ways to be in an awareness of how Black death is a quotidian thing. It’s happening all the time, but, also, what does it mean when the bodies pile up? Do we get to decompose this trauma? Do we get to grieve it without it being a spectacle?...Maybe the whales are teaching us something about holding the toxicity and the pollution of the human problem of waste and climate change. When something is rotten to the core, how do we get inside of it and then try and work toward a whale fall?”

Like all of brooks’ work, this stems from their interdisciplinary dance methodology Improvising While Black (IWB), which explores the decomposed matter of Black life and engages in dance improvisation, disorientation, dissent, and ancestral healing. For Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall, brooks studied whales off the Pacific coast of Colombia, bringing questions—of how to dive into air, how to move like water, how to move with a spine that keeps you horizontal—into the human form, considering these ideas alongside the ocean’s physical imprint within Afro-Brazilian and Afro-Haitian dance.

As Wail•Fall•Whale•Fall honors Black and queer siblings and ancestors who’ve died throughout vast and continuous histories of oppressive violence, alongside whale kin poisoned, injured, and killed by human and capitalist destruction, it asks: can a new interconnected and symbiotic cellular ecology emerge through the act of grieving? Can we echolocate our way back to each other at the bottom of the ocean?


About mayfield brooks

mayfield brooks improvises while black and is based in Lenapehoking, the unceded land of the Lenape people, also known as Brooklyn, New York. brooks is a movement-based performance artist, vocalist, urban farmer, writer, and wanderer. brooks teaches and performs practices that arise from Improvising While Black (IWB), their interdisciplinary dance methodology which explores the decomposed matter of Black life and engages in dance improvisation, disorientation, dissent, and ancestral healing. brooks is the 2021 recipient of the biennial Merce Cunningham Award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, a 2021 Bessie/New York Dance and Performance Award nominee for their dance film, Whale Fall, a 2022 Danspace Project Platform artist, and a 2022 Hodder Fellow at Princeton University. To learn more about their work go to www.improvingwhileblack.com.


About Dorothy Carlos

Dorothy Carlos is an experimental cellist and electronic musician working in improvised performance and multi-channel sound in New York City and Chicago. Her work utilizes randomized electronics and extended techniques to explore fragility and imaginaries. Recent solo performances have been presented by e-flux, Experimental Sound Studio Chicago, Big Ears Festival, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dorothy has been featured as an artist and collaborator in projects presented at the Swiss Institute (New York), Zhou Brothers Art Center (Chicago), Night Gallery (Los Angeles), Artists Space (New York), and the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art (Fall River, MA) and has been awarded residencies and fellowships at Experimental Sound Studio Chicago, Avaloch Farm, the Next Festival for Emerging Artists, and the Living Gallery. Her work has been featured in Artforum, e-flux, The Quietus, and the Chicago Reader. Last year, Dorothy released an album on the Chicago-based label American Dreams in collaboration with artist, Brian Oakes. Other recent collaborators include Catalina Ouyang, mayfield brooks, Poncili Creacion, and Shala Miller. Dorothy holds a Bachelor’s degree from NYU where she studied classical cello and anthropology on full scholarship, and an MFA in sound from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


About Camilo Restrepo

Camilo Restrepo (1973, Medellín) studied Mechanical Engineering (1991-1996), earned a Master’s degree in aesthetics from Universidad Nacional de Colombia (2008) and an MFA from CalArts (2013). He has had solo exhibitions in Colombia and in the United States. In 2010, Restrepo obtained a Fulbright Grant and was nominated for the Premio Luis Caballero, the most important prize in Colombia for artists over 35. His book La Foto de Identidad. Fragmentos para una Estética and his monograph Alias were published in 2002 and 2019 respectively. Restrepo’s work has been featured in books such as History of Photography in Colombia 1950-2000, Contemporary Art Colombia and Vitamin D3: Today's Best in Contemporary Drawing.


About Performance Space New York

Over the last 40 years Performance Space has been propelling cultural, theoretical, and political discourse forward. Futurity and world-building connect the interdisciplinary works presented here—works that have dissolved the borders of performance art, dance, theater, music, visual art, poetry and prose, ritual, night life, food, film, and technology, shattering artistic and social norms alike.

Founded in 1980, Performance Space New York (formerly Performance Space 122) became a haven for many queer and radical voices shut out by a repressive, monocultural mainstream and conservative government whose neglect exacerbated the emerging AIDS epidemic’s devastation. Carrying forward the multitudinous visions of these artists who wielded the political momentum of self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars, Performance Space is one of the birthplaces of contemporary performance as it is known today.

As the New York performing arts world has become increasingly institutionalized, and the shortcomings within our industry were further revealed during the ravages and transformations of 2020, our focus has been not just on presenting boundary-breaking work but on restructuring our own organization towards prioritizing equity and access. We seek to build deeper relationships with our artists and communities by creating new access points. Through community programs, annual town halls, guest-curated programs such as Octopus and First Mondays, we welcome the public to actively shape our future and help us hold ourselves accountable. Programs like the revived Open Movement and the new Open Room invite the community in and reclaim the institution as a rare indoor public space in the ever-more expensive East Village.

Our search for new models is an embrace of the unknown—and an acknowledgement of transformation as a process of continuous inquiry, imagination, response, and accountability. Mirroring the spirit of experimentation artists have brought to our spaces across four decades, we strive towards something which does not yet exist. We believe this focus on changing the conditions in which art is made is just as fundamental as the art itself, and only serves to make it more substantial.

02020, the year-long project during which a cohort of salaried artists were invited together with the staff and board to re-vision Performance Space, initiated this transformation, and itself rapidly reshaped to meet artists’ and community members’ needs amidst the early days of the pandemic and uprising for racial justice. 02020 was a new beginning for us, a sharp and needed turn back towards artists to help rethink the institution for the future.



Performance Space New York is situated in Lenapehoking, the land, waters, and air of the Lenape diaspora, a place which has always been, still is, and always will be a center of intersecting Indigenous movements. We acknowledge that our existence, operating on the island of Manahatta, is a consequence of violent histories of settler colonialism bound up with unchecked exclusions, genocide, and erasures of many Indigenous people -ongoing to this day.

This acknowledgement should not function as acceptance or closure, but as a call to commit to reconfigure our notions about ourselves through our work and working practice, here at Performance Space, as we take responsibility to dismantle the ongoing harm perpetuated by settler colonialism.


Photo by Nir Aireli cropped into heart.


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