Who? So many dancers, musicians, and photographers.
What? Sites. Durham embedded performance art.
Where? Next at Durham Fruit and Produce Co., 305 South Dillard Street*, previously everywhere.
When? Friday, February 16th, 8pm
Stephanie Leathers’s Sites is performance art with all its rough majesty and temporal futility. It is the epitome of “you had to be there”. It is not subtle. It is harsh and thundering. It makes you ask questions about why you engage with art.
If art is a metaphor, what is the distance between what art is saying and what society is doing? What if it is nil? Is art then a metaphor or a much more dangerous and rebellious act of protest? Totalitarian societies have had to ask themselves this question seriously, with deadly consequences.
I have argued in these pages previously that art is embedded in the society it comes from, it isn’t owned, but it is rooted- think soil and a plant.
In an era of extreme wealth, rapid development, and Trumpian ostentation is Durham pushing back or caving in? Art is at the forefront of that debate.
Leathers’s Sites modern dance performances are embedded in Durham and specifically Durham’s ever changing development. The performances are ephemeral one-offs, you saw it or you didn’t.
Leathers and Sites have danced on rooftops and in what was once dubbed the “Pit of Gentrification”.
When Leathers is the primary dancer, Sites frequently involves ropes, binding, and stray bits of string. I recall Leathers unfurling herself over a very long hour out the door of an art gallery into Chapel Hill Street to the confusion and consternation of passers-by.
Leathers frequent lathers herself into a sweat, her eyes, and face obscured by her dark hair. The Indy Week called her performances “trance-like”. I would concur for the performer, yes, but for the audience the inactivity is palpable in a way that invites self-examination.
Ergo, who the fuck am I standing here watching this?
My friend Lee Moore pointed out to me that Sites is the old Durham way in that it is highly collaborative. So many people have already participated, from the music angle Tommy Rau has been a staple, but Johnathan Lawrence Harmon aka The Real Laww, John Le Sueur aka JLa, and Curtis Eller have all made music for and with Sunday Sites. This Friday the music will be The Lice; a trio featuring Duncan Webster of Beauty World and Hammer no More the Fingers, Nick Wallhauser, one of the Raundhaus co-founders, the polymath Rau.
The coterie of other dancers who have performed? A less than exhaustive search of Sunday Sites dancers included Anna Barker, Emily Aiken, Ally Lloyd, Nicole Oxendine, Anne Talkington, Kristin Taylor, Syndney Vigotov, Stacy Wolfson, Ashlee Ramsey, Myra Scibetta Weise, and Jody Cassell. (Apologies to anyone I missed.)
Photographically Kim Gray, Brian Livingstone, Chris Cherry, and Stefanie Leathers herself have been among those documenting the series. I am eagerly awaiting the physical exhibit that documents Sites.
Besides the roof and the pit, Sunday Sites has danced in the Durham skate park, The Pleiades, Major the Bull’s Plaza, the old Liberty Arts at Goldenbelt, the abandoned Fishmongers site that is now St. James Seafood, the storage building on West Seminary Avenue, y mas y mas.
Again the Indy’s Michaela Dwyer said it well, “Leathers’s …SITES series is a performance art map of Durham development.”
This is what I thought about Sunday Sites when I first wrote about Leathers and the series in 2016. I stand by it.
It [Sunday Sites performance] is the tree growing in concrete. It is the possibility of anything happening anywhere. It is a tiny nudge that says this space is not gone. It is not useless. No space is useless. All can be transformed. This is the DNA of hope. It is the substance of what can be transformative. The recognition that all spaces and all places can be transformed.
I was reminded of the old REM tune that asks you to, stand in the place that you live, stand in the place that you work, and challenges you to look at them differently than you have before…
*Yes, the legendary home of 305 South Anti-Mall. If you don’t know, ask somebody.