Performance video - WOUND, 41 Cooper Gallery New York, NY, 11/11/16.
Courtesy Complex News
I Can't Breathe is a public-participatory workshop and performance that takes the form of a self-defense class. Over the course of a half hour, participants learn a range of self-defense technique – from purely pacifist, self-protective maneuvers (including how one may relieve the pressure of a chokehold) to more overt, defensive strategies. (Participants do not learn offensive strikes or moves.)
Participants are then placed and paired off in a staggered arrangement. With certain cues given by the artist, each pair enacts the self-defense techniques just learned, alternating in the role of the aggressor. As the artist recites a script inspired by Nina Simone, each pair elects which action to take solely based on how he or she internalizes the words' meaning.
The overall, impromptu composition of defensive actions thus creates a reflection and meditation on our community's legacy of self-preservation, and continued desire/need/fight to protect and survive. The piece will be conducted in memory of Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Jamar Clark, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin… and countless others.