Writing a director’s statement serves several functions. Firstly, the marketing people are looking for copy to sell the work, usually long before the anything has been made. Then there’s the program, where director’s notes can welcome or inform those people in the audience who like to read before or after the show. Writing the statement is a process of clarifying one’s intentions and/or sharing background information with the cast, the presenter, the ‘public’ and the audience. I evolved a series of statements, distilling grant proposals and journal notes, without ever feeling like I’d arrived at a final version. Some of this duplicates material from the rehearsal journals and the grant proposals.
Delinquent means to fall short of one’s obligation, to fail at one’s duty. When it comes to youth, what is our obligation? And who is failing?
One of my first jobs when I moved to the Bay Area in the early 80’s was at the Youth Guidance Center aka Juvenile Hall aka Juvie. Here I received a crash course in Bay Area class, race, and neighborhood politics. In the 25 years since then that I have been making performance in the Bay Area my work has continued to question and critique the justice system, what scholar and prison abolitionist Angela Davis has more accurately named the prison-industrial complex.
Clearly my work, inspired and in solidarity with thousands of other activists and artists, has not been able to stem the rising tide of prison construction and incarceration. So what’s possible? What can the artist citizen do?
In Delinquent our primary research will be an investigation of how bodily experiences influence the development of personal and collective voice. How does the content and form of our speaking (performing) extend from the ways that Life (class, ethnicity, family, friends, society, health, diet, training, touch...) marks our body? I will attempt to stage the struggle to speak, especially in relationship to the threat of social punishment, to frame the delicate emergence of voice, identity and community.
Delinquent means to fall short of one’s obligation. Clearly when the mirror is held up to the adults, our delinquency with regards to urban crime, affordable housing, educational equity, accessible healthcare, and support for our troops both at home and abroad cannot be denied. The creation and performance of Delinquent engages this two-sided mirror of power and perception, allowing the youth to talk (back) through languages of their own invention, sourced in their direct experience.
The goal is to instigate fresh perspective and critical thinking about the criminal justice system, especially for youth in California and the Bay Area.
Late August 2008
This project intends to frustrate expectations and disturb clichés of art for social change. We offer no transformational narratives about surviving poverty, degradation, violence, or cruelty. The cast will not satisfy to represent the static identities of urban youth held hostage by most Hollywood, courts, social justice activists, and ipods. The change that might be inspired from our work might not be what you’re looking for. We will not take important steps towards ending institutional racism nor abolishing the prison industrial complex. We would if we could.
Delinquent attempts an archeology of the silence that the language of prison has imposed on the language of the body, both personal and social. What is not said, not-yet said? Who is the delinquent and how do we speak? This performance is a poetic confrontation with delinquency, a reframing of crime, a focus on what Foucault refers to as “the other form of crime” in which “men confine their neighbors.” Contrasting solitary confinement with collective play, Delinquent is an experiment in solidarity, an attempt to feel-speak-act together.
“Her work shows us a continuous reading of the world. Her performances, however do not represent documentary or narrative texts but utopian research as well as political poetry.”
- Helmut Ploebst discussing choreographer Vera Mantero (Lisbon)
Promo Blurb, PR/public relations + marketing
From my writing the marketing department came up with this blurb, which was used in their press releases:
The ??? arts move into the Forum with Delinquent, an experimental, youth-centered performance that unites dance, text, music and aerial feats. Directed by Circo Zero founder Keith Hennessy, Delinquent confronts the injustice and silence veiled by the juvenile justice system. Hennessy asks, how does that system affect the body? Physically, metaphorically? How does it affect the struggle to speak — a common struggle, after all. How does it affect the social body — namely, all of us? In creating Delinquent, the performers — all embroiled in a society with more commitment to imprison than to educate — were mentored in art and social justice, while being trained on land and air, increasing strength and flexibility toward a physical poetics both intimate and spectacular, a hallmark of Circo Zero. Rebecca Anders of The Flaming Lotus Girls, whose fire sculptures draw huge crowds at Burning Man, welded the aerial sets. Directed by the sometimes controversial Hennessy, whose awards include a 2007 Goldie and an SF Bay Guardian Best of the Bay, Delinquent inspires fresh perspective about our criminal justice system and the young people within it.
(Later, when it was clear that Rebecca couldn’t commit to the project, the blurb was edited.)