"When We Gather," a multifaceted art project inspired by the inauguration of Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris (Jan 27-Feb 15)
María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Codie Elaine Oliver, and more
Renowned Artist María Magdalena Campos-Pons, in collaboration with Okwui Okpokwasili and LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Creates When We Gather, a Multifaceted Art Project Inspired by the Historic Achievement of the US’s First Female Vice President
United by the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris, When We Gather is a multifaceted art project that begins with a three-minute film directed by Codie Elaine Oliver and an online special broadcast meant to move people to join in the celebration from wherever they are on January 27, 2021
When We Gather is produced by Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco and the film is presented by Creative Time, New York
January 15, 2021 – Artists María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, and LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs are launching a multifaceted art project that includes a three-minute art film, directed by Codie Elaine Oliver (Black Love, OWN Network), meant to inspire people across the country to mark this historic moment and join with them in reflection, dance, and song from wherever they are on January 27, 2021. A one-hour behind-the-scenes, interactive program, When We Gather: Together, will be presented alongside the film.
The film and interactive special pay homage to heroines of the past, visionaries of the present, and leaders of the future. The performers have choreographed circular movements and gestures from diverse traditions evoking storms, spirals, and ancestral energy. Knotted blue fabric is a powerful symbol of connection between the performers. The soundscape incorporates both lyrics and a poem written by Diggs for the project. Attentive to both the upcoming transition of power in our nation and the global pandemic crisis, When We Gather was performed in separate studios and outdoor spaces in Brooklyn, Nashville, and Houston then artfully forged into the short film. The film is narrated by Emmy and Golden Globe winner, and Academy Award nominated actress Alfre Woodard.
When We Gather: Together is a 60-minute online production that contextualizes the themes of the film: heal, unite, create. The multi-generational presentation features creative conversations, diverse artistic interpretive performances, and behind-the-scenes interviews with the director and performers and an array of arts and education professionals. This special program is co-produced and hosted by Dr. Nikki A. Greene, tenured professor of art history at Wellesley College and author of an upcoming book that prominently features Campos-Pons.
When We Gather is performed by María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Okwui Okpokwasili, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, Dell Marie Hamilton, Jana Harper, Lisa E. Harris, and Samita Sinha.
“When We Gather offers an empowering moment to heal and unite the country through creative energy,” says Campos-Pons, who envisioned the project and brought the artists together. “The circle shows us how we can remain connected even while we are separated due to this pandemic or due to the state of the nation. All of these factors have informed the collaborative choreography and spoken word of this global collective experience.”
“In accepting the nomination for Vice President, Kamala Harris evoked the memory of her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, who ‘believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,’” adds the participating artists. “Harris claimed this moment for ‘the generations of women—Black women, Asian, White, Latina, and Native American women throughout our nation’s history who have paved the way for this moment.’ She called on us all: mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, girls; cis and trans, to celebrate with her. When We Gather is our collective answer to her invitation.”
During a time of seemingly unbridgeable divide, the film celebrates the elemental role women have played during this election season and throughout history in bringing sweeping change across this country.
“Women have voted at higher rates than men in every presidential election since 1980, and exactly 100 years after women won the right to vote we elected the first female Vice President,” says Oliver. “When We Gather celebrates the powerful force of women who have influenced history by first demanding the right to vote and 100 years later, determining an entire Presidential election. It represents the power demonstrated when we, as women, use our voices.”
“When We Gather arrives at an inflection point—serving as both a moment of reflection and a galvanizing call to envision, and enact, a better tomorrow. At this historic moment, the work speaks to the elemental role that women have played in the progress of this nation,” says Justine Ludwig, Executive Director of Creative Time.
“When Magda shared her vision with me, I was so moved that I began to mobilize immediately. This performance presents us all with an opportunity to take part in healing and uniting our divided country through positive action and through the strength and ability of women, starting with the Vice President and running through the accomplished When We Gather team,” said Wendi Norris, founder and director of Gallery Wendi Norris and executive producer of the project. “Tune into the film and to the web site. Imagine our future together. Create your movement and share. #WhenWeGather.” The project includes costumes designed by Meg Neville with fabric and dresses contributed by Eileen Fisher. When We Gather is produced by an all-female identifying team of artists, scholars, and producers.
Everyone can participate in When We Gather by tuning into the online broadcast at www.whenwegather.art on January 27 at 7pm EST. The art film and When We Gather: Together will be available at www.whenwegather.art and streamed free worldwide from January 27 through February 15, 2021. The film and special will be screened at locations across the country on select dates thereafter, and these screenings will be published on www.whenwegather.art.
When We Gather is a collaborative artwork produced by Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco. Creative Time, a leading public arts non-profit based in New York, is the presenting organization of the film. It is underwritten with major support from Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and Arts Equity & Education Fund among others.
About the Artists
María Magdalena Campos-Pons draws on her Afro-Cuban heritage to create hauntingly poetic artworks across diverse artistic practices, including photography, painting, sculpture, film, video, and performance. Descended from Nigerian slaves, Campos-Pons grew up learning firsthand about that legacy, along with the beliefs of Santeria, a Yoruba-derived religion. Her work is deeply autobiographical. Campos-Pons has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, among other distinguished institutions. She has participated in the Venice Biennale, the Dakar Biennale, the Johannesburg Biennial, Documenta 14, the Guangzhou Triennial, three editions of the Havana Biennial, and the Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA and Prospect.4 Triennial. She has presented more than 30 solo performances commissioned by institutions including the Guggenheim Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. In 1991, Campos-Pons immigrated to the US from Cuba. In 2017 she was appointed as Cornelius Vanderbilt Endowed Chair Professor of Fine Arts at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, TN.
Okwui Okpokwasili is a Brooklyn-based performing artist working at the intersection of theater, dance, and installation. Her performance pieces seek to shape and amplify the shared psychic space the audience and performer inhabit, and, through centering the African/African American feminine, to illuminate universal human conditions. With Director/Designer Peter Born, Okpokwasili creates collaborative multidisciplinary projects including, among others, the Bessie Award-winning Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance, Bessie-winning Bronx Gothic, Poor People's TV Room, and Sitting On a Man's Head. Okpokwasili is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow, a 2015-2017 Randjelovic/Stryker New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist, and a 2018 Princeton University Hodder Fellow. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Doris Duke Artist Award, United States Artist Fellowship, Herb Alpert Award, and Foundation for Contemporary Art Award. Her performance work has been commissioned and presented by the Walker Art Center, Danspace Project, Performance Space New York, Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, MCA Chicago, ICA Boston, the 10th Annual Berlin Biennale, The Young Vic (London), Jacob’s Pillow, and New York Live Arts.
A writer, vocalist, and performance/sound artist, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs is the author of “TwERK” (Belladonna, 2013). Diggs has presented and performed at California Institute of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio, The Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, and at festivals including Hekayeh Festival, Abu Dhabi; International Poetry Festival of Copenhagen; Question of Will, Slovakia; Poesiefestival, Berlin; and the 2015 Venice Biennale, among others. As an independent curator, artistic director, and producer, Diggs has presented events for BAMCafé, Black Rock Coalition, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the David Rubenstein Atrium. Diggs has received a 2020 C.D. Wright Award for Poetry from the Foundation of Contemporary Art, a Whiting Award (2016), and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship (2015), as well as grants and fellowships from Cave Canem, Creative Capital, and New York Foundation for the Arts, among others.
Codie Elaine Oliver is CEO and co-founder of Black Love, Inc., a growing media company comprised of BlackLove.com, Black Love’s social and digital platforms, and live and virtual events, including the annual Black Love Summit. She is the director and co-creator of the ground-breaking docuseries, Black Love, which premiered as the most-viewed unscripted series in OWN’s history and is set to return for its fifth season in 2021. Oliver is also a partner at Confluential Content, a company she shares with her husband Tommy Oliver, which is the production company behind the recent HBO documentary 40 Years A Prisoner and the upcoming Netflix film, The Perfect Find, starring Gabrielle Union. Prior to Black Love, Oliver had stints at Film Independent, Fox Searchlight, and Creative Artists Agency. Oliver received her Master’s degree from the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC and is a proud Howard University alum, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and mama to three boys four and under, practicing every day to find balance between entrepreneurship and family.
Dr. Nikki A. Greene is a tenured professor of art history at Wellesley College, the Visual Arts Editor of Transition magazine, and an advisor to ICA Boston the 2022 United States Pavilion presenting the work of Simone Leigh for the 59th Venice Biennale. She has written for numerous art museums, including The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Guggenheim Museum, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Her essays and commentaries have also appeared in Artnet News, American Studies Journal, Aperture.com, Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art, and The Delaware Review of Latin American Studies, among others. Her forthcoming book Grime, Glitter, and Glass: The Body and The Sonic in Contemporary Black Art, presents a new interpretation of the multimedia works of Renée Stout, Radcliffe Bailey, and María Magdalena Campos-Pons (Duke University Press, 2021). She has held the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship and the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute Fellowship at the Hutchins Center at Harvard University, and was an artist-in-residence for non-fiction writing at Ucross Foundation.
About Gallery Wendi Norris
From its global headquarters in San Francisco, Gallery Wendi Norris represents Modern and Contemporary artists working in a variety of media around the world. The gallery specializes in re-contextualizing the work of Modern artists while providing connections to contemporary art, artists, and culture. Active on both the local and international stages, Gallery Wendi Norris mounts exhibitions where they are most relevant, and also works with individual collectors and museums. Founded with an emphasis on scholarship and education, the gallery produces highly researched exhibitions and catalogues, sponsors artist talks, hosts visiting academics, and engages in public art projects.
Along with María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Gallery Wendi Norris represents: Leonora Carrington, Val Britton, Ambreen Butt, Ana Teresa Fernández, Chitra Ganesh, Julio César Morales, Ranu Mukherjee, Yamini Nayar, Wolfgang Paalen, Alice Rahon, Eva Schlegel, Eric Siemens, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo, and Peter Young. For more information visit www.gallerywendinorris.com.
About Creative Time
Creative Time, the New York based public arts non-profit, is committed to working with artists on the dialogues, debates, and dreams of our time. Creative Time presents the most innovative art in the public realm, providing new platforms to amplify artists’ voices, including the Creative Time Summit, an international conference convening at the intersection of art and social justice. Since 1974, Creative Time has produced over 350 groundbreaking public art projects that ignite the imagination, explore ideas that shape society, and engage millions of people around the globe. Since its inception, the non-profit organization has been at the forefront of socially engaged public art, seeking to convert the power of artists’ ideas into works that inspire and challenge the public. Creative Time projects stimulate dialogue on timely issues and initiate a dynamic experience between artists, sites, and audiences. www.creativetime.org
Follow When We Gather on social media @WhenWeGatherArt. Use the hashtag #WhenWeGather.
Okwui Okpokwasili. Photo Credit: Tommy Oliver
Share Your Audience Review. Your Words Are Valuable to Dance.
Are you going to see this show, or have you seen it? Share "your" review here on The Dance Enthusiast. Your words are valuable. They help artists, educate audiences, and support the dance field in general. There is no need to be a professional critic. Just click through to our Audience Review Section and you will have the option to write free-form, or answer our helpful Enthusiast Review Questionnaire, or if you feel creative, even write a haiku review. So join the conversation.