No-Wave pioneer and performance artist Lydia Lunch has collaborated with filmmaker Elise Passavant to create a texturally-rich live performance of what they call a “psycho-ambient soundscape.” The artists will perform “Dust and Shadows” Wednesday at 21C Museum Hotel (7 p.m., free).
“Dust and Shadows” layers Lunch’s lyric poetry and narration over music and Passavant’s images of ghost towns destroyed in the Spanish Civil War – a conflict that has largely faded into an historical and literary footnote for most Americans.
“It’s almost become like a mythology in our contemporary awareness, which is why a re-investigation of something like the Spanish Civil War through contemporary art fits so well with the exhibition,” says 21C chief curator Alice Gray Stites.
The performance is held in conjunction with an exhibit exploring hidden causes and complications of conflict now open at 21C Museum Hotel. “Aftermath: Witnessing War, Countenancing Compassion” presents an international roster of artists addressing violence and loss in their works, like acclaimed silhouette artist and MacArthur Fellow Kara Walker, whose entry in the exhibit addresses the deliberate burning of an African American orphanage during New York’s Civil War-era draft riots.
“A lot of these stories are about the hidden stories that we don’t necessarily want to acknowledge. ‘Aftermath’ isn’t just the aftermath of the known conflicts that appear on the front page of the New York Times. These are stories that need to be told, voices that need to be heard,” says Stites.
Lunch has come full circle as a performer. Once the consummate underground rebel, she’s now an art world legend, a boundary-pusher considered one of the most influential performance artists working today.
“She’s not so much considered a rebel as a model for an artist who works in lots of different media and who collaborates with other musicians and performers to use her artwork as a platform to comment on very serious issues,” says Stites. “She’s an activist as much as she’s an artist, in a sense, because she’s speaking out.”
But Stites says “Dust and Shadows” isn’t strictly an anti-war performance – it’s anti-violence, or even something broader.
“Maybe it’s better to say it’s pro-truth, it’s pro-confrontation, which is what the exhibition ‘Aftermath’ is also addressing,” says Stites. “In order to build a more peaceful and progressive world, we have to look honestly at the issues and the causes of conflict.”