Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s new evening-length performance, Being Future Being, integrates movement, images, story, and sound in a kinetically rich social architecture that centers Indigenous thrivance. Created by choreographer and writer Emily Johnson, who belongs to the Yup’ik Nation, and featuring a commissioned score by Pulitzer Prize-winning Diné composer Raven Chacon, Being Future Being will have its world premiere at BroadStage at Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, September 8-10, 2022, followed by performances at New York Live Arts, October 20-22.
Johnson has created a distinguished body of dance works and social choreographies that gather audiences in a shared experience of movement, place, history, collective action, and the continuance of Indigenous knowledge and process. In Being Future Being, Johnson, along with an extraordinary group of collaborators, delves into the power of creation, building a visual, aural, and ancestral landscape of Indigenous power. By (re)building new visions of the forces that brought this world into being, the multilayered performance becomes a site for transformation, ushering into focus new futures with the potential to reshape the way we relate to ourselves, our environment, and to the human and more-than-human cohabitants of our world.
Being Future Being is a starting point for relationship, explains Johnson. “The work asks audiences to join in community processes that move from each presentation out into the world in what I call the Speculative Architecture of the Overflow, with actions that directly support local rematriative, protection, and Land Back efforts. The Overflow is resonance, moving in the in-between, in-the- collective, in-the-invitation to GATHER HERE. Can the Overflow become supported, beyond the moment of the performance gathering, a speculative architecture resisting BUILD, but living, ongoing in an otherwise?” The Speculative Architecture of the Overflow is Indigenous-led and developed in collaboration with community organizers, land defenders, and water protectors in ways that foster Indigenous kinship, accomplices, and audience relationships.
“One day, civil rights and sovereignty of Indigenous peoples will be recognized in relation to land. Power imbalance and extraction will not be the default relationship in our working lives. Theft of, abuses on, and lack of recognition of Indigenous land and water will not be tolerated.” -Emily Johnson (Inaugural Lecture Series, The Open Society University Network’s Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College).
The creative team includes choreographer/writer/performer Emily Johnson; composer Raven Chacon; sound designer Chloe Alexandra Thompson, who is Cree; visual artist, designer, and traditional tattooer Holly Mititquq Nordlum, who is Iñupiaq; IV Castellanos, who is mx Indige Quechua/Guaraní, made the masks and wearables and is production manager and interconnector for the Speculative Architecture of the Overflow. Quilt-Beings are designed by Korina Emmerich, who is Puyallup, with quilts (redistributed from Johnson’s Then a Cunning Voice and A Night We Spend Gazing at Stars) designed by Maggie Thompson, who is Fond du Lac Ojibwe. Costumes are by Raphael Regan, who is Sisseton-Wahpeton, Eastern Band of Cherokee and Diné. Scenic fabricator is Joseph Silovsky, lighting designer is Itohan Edoloyi, and performers are Ashley Pierre-Louis, Jasmine Shorty, who is Diné, Stacy Lynn Smith, and Sugar Vendil. Being Future Being is produced by George Lugg. The administrative steward is Kevin Holden, who is Diné.
The ongoing process of creating Being Future Being includes a kinstillatory network of collaborators whom Johnson has convened in four interrelated groups: Branch of Knowledge, Scholarship, Making, Action-central partners who guide relational frameworks in the work and steward its values.
The Branch of Knowledge is a group of womxn and femmes from Nations across the Lenape diaspora who work in creative guidance and new protocol forms, and help forge pathways for Lenapeyok return to Lenapehoking. Community organizer River Whittle, who is of the Caddo Nation and Delaware Nation of Oklahoma, leads these bi-weekly gatherings. The group will meet and gather in their homelands together for the first time during the NYC premiere of Being Future Being. The Branch of Scholarship is comprised of visionary scholars/organizers Karyn Recollet, who is urban diasporic Cree and teaches gender studies/Indigenous futurity at University of Toronto; Dylan Robinson, Stó:lō author and researcher of Indigenous arts; Joseph M. Pierce, who is a writer, curator, and citizen of the Cherokee Nation; and Camille Usher, who is Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene/Scottish and holds a doctorate on gathering. The Branch of Action: Architecture of the Overflow flows out from the performances with audiences and community partners. Guided by IV Castellanos, the goal is to craft replicable, locally responsive, Indigenous-centered actions that encourage collective community self-determination and direct response, support, and action with local land rematriation and protection efforts. The Branch of Making is Being Future Being’s creative team.
Performances at BroadStage are September 8-10 (Thursday-Saturday) at 7:30pm. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://cloud.broadwayworld.com/rec/ticketclick.cfm?fromlink=2186872®id=6&articlelink=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.broadstage.org?utm_source=BWW2022&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=article&utm_content=bottombuybutton1. BroadStage is on the ancestral unceded territory of the Gabrieleno, Tongva, and Kizh people.
Performances at New York Live Arts are October 20-22 (Thursday-Saturday) at 7:30pm. For more information, go to www.newyorklivearts.org. New York Live Arts is located in Lenapehoking, the homeland of the Lenape people.
About the Artists
Emily Johnson is an artist who makes body-based work. She is a land and water protector and an activist for justice, sovereignty, and well-being. Johnson is a Bessie Award-winning choreographer, Guggenheim and United States Artists Fellow, and recipient of the Doris Duke Artist Award based in Lenapehoking/New York City. Johnson is of the Yup’ik Nation, and since 1998 has created work that considers the experience of sensing and seeing performance. Her dances function as portals and care processions: they engage audienceship within and through space, time, and environment -interacting with a place’s architecture, peoples, history, and role in building futures. She is trying to make a world where performance is part of life, where performance is an integral part of our connection to one another, our environment, our stories, our past, present, and future.
Johnson’s writing has been published and commissioned by The Open Society University Network’s Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College, ArtsLink Australia, unMagazine, Dance Research Journal (University of Cambridge Press); SFMOMA; Transmotion Journal, University of Kent; Movement Research Journal; Pew Center for Arts and Heritage; and the compilation Imagined Theaters (Routledge), edited by Daniel Sack.
Johnson hosts monthly ceremonial fires on Mannahatta in partnership with Abrons Arts Center and Karyn Recollet. She was the Pueblo Opera Cultural Council Diplomat at Santa Fe Opera 2018-2020, and a lead organizer of First Nations Dialogues. She was a co-compiler of the documents, Creating New Futures: Guidelines for Ethics and Equity in the Performing Arts and Notes for Equitable Funding, was a member of Creative Time’s inaugural Think Tank, and serves as a working consortium member for First Nations Performing Arts.
IV Castellanos is a Queer Trans* Bolivian-Indige/American, and an abstract performance artist and sculptor who creates solo, collaborative, and group-task vignette performances. They construct/deconstruct all their own objects in their performances, and/or in shared process and practice with their collaborators. In addition, they have a studio practice and create stand alone sculptures not meant to be activated by performances.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer, and installation artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. As a solo artist, collaborator, or with Postcommodity, Chacon has exhibited or performed at the Whitney Biennial, documenta 14, REDCAT, Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, Chaco Canyon, Ende Tymes Festival, 18th Biennale of Sydney, and the Kennedy Center. Every year, he teaches 20 students to write string quartets for the Native American Composer Apprenticeship Project (NACAP). He is a recipient of the United States Artists fellowship in music, the Creative Capital award in visual arts, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation artist fellowship, and the American Academy’s Berlin Prize for music composition. He lives in Albuquerque, NM.
Itohan Edoloyi is a Brooklyn-born lighting designer whose work is deeply rooted in community and culture. Her work aims to continue storytelling in non-traditional ways, crafting meaningful experiences through the lens of light and immersion. Edoloyi is the lead curator for InLight Collective, an ongoing project surrounding the amplification of BIPOC voices. She has recently joined Kyle Marshall Choreography as its resident lighting designer and is also the resident light design coordinator for The Shed’s annual Open Call Series in NYC. Her work as a curator and light artist has been published by Rosco Spectrum and presented at JACK Arts and La MaMa Galleria. Edoloyi was awarded the 2021 Lilly Award and was the recipient of the 2018 Gilbert V. Hemsley Lighting Internship.
Korina Emmerich has built her Brooklyn-based brand, EMME Studio, on the backbone of expression, art, and culture, where items are made-to-order in her studio located on occupied Canarsee territories. She is leading the charge to embrace art and design as one, and weaving it into her brand story. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, her colorful work is known to reflect her patrilineal Indigenous heritage from the Coast Salish Territory, Puyallup tribe. Items are made from upcycled, recycled, and all-natural materials giving respect to the life cycle of a garment from creation to biodegradation. With a strong focus on social and climate justice while speaking out about industry responsibility and accountability, Emmerich works actively to expose and dismantle systems of oppression and challenge colonial ways of thinking.
Holly Mititquq Nordlum is an Iñupiaq (Inuit) artist who comes from the northern village of Kotzebue, Alaska. Nordlum works in a variety of media, using each to best cast light on Indigenous people. Her tattoo work and traditional markings revitalization effort is based on a 10,000-year-old Inuit history and is a machine-free process that facilitates healing, pride, and celebration from the traumas of colonization and individual experience. She organizes trainings, using traditional patterns in in-depth sessions to foster real change for people-in the end, creating community in the marks left behind. Nordlum speaks publicly about the systems which continue to oppress her people and prevent their thriving. In 2004 she earned a BFA from the University of Alaska. She has received a Time Warner Fellowship with Sundance, an Art Matters grant, an Alaska Humanities Forum grant, an Alaska Native Visionary Award, a Rasmuson Artist Project Grant and Artist Fellowship, NDN Collective Indigenous Artists’ Grant and was part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program.
Ashley Pierre-Louis grew up on the lands of the Tequesta, Miccosuki and Seminole tribes. With education from New World School of the Arts and later from Florida State University, Pierre-Louis began to discover her passion for movement, the human form, and arts administration. She is currently artistic administrator and performer with Shamel Pitts’s multidisciplinary performance collective, TRIBE. She is the associate choreographer for the play Help by acclaimed poet and playwright Claudia Rankine, directed by Taibi Magar. Pierre-Louis has premiered the play Thoughts of a Colored Man by playwright Keenan Scott II and director Steve Broadnax III at Syracuse Stage and Baltimore Center Stage. She performed in Donna Uchizono’s work March Under an Empty R eign at The Joyce Theater, has been one of GALLIM’s Moving Women spring artists-in-residence program, and has also been a part of Alvin Ailey’s inaugural Choreography Unlocked Festival under the direction of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women, and Robert Battle. Pierre-Louis has attended the School at Jacob’s Pillow, San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, as well as Gaga intensives in Tel Aviv and New York.
Jasmine Shorty is an artist from Abiquiu, New Mexico. She is of Navajo and Norwegian descent and practices visual arts as well as dance and performance arts. She is based in Albuquerque, NM.
Joseph Silovsky/Silovsky Studios has been constructing props, sets, and mechanical devices for New York’s downtown performance art world since the company was founded in 2015. They have worked with a variety of groups, including Catalyst Dance, Palissimo, Radiohole, the Wooster Group, A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham, Richard Maxwell, The Builders Association, and others. Latest projects include the set for AIM’s Mozart Project, the motorized ring/disc sculpture for Palissimo’s LUX PHANTASMATIS, the set for the Wooster Group’s The Mother, and the secret sound thank yous inside the donation cowboy boot for Gideon Irving’s Cowboy Tour.
Stacy Lynn Smith is a neurodivergent, mixed-race/Black movement artist based in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn. Smith was recently awarded a Djerassi Residency to further develop their abstract memoir RECKONING, a film being made in collaboration with Alex Romania. Smith collaborates as performer/improviser, director, and choreographer across disciplines and genres with an array of talented artists including DeForrest Brown Jr., Anna Homler, Karen Bernard, Saints of an Unnamed Country, Thaddeus O’Neil, Josephine Decker, Salome Asega, jill sigman/ thinkdance, Kathy Westwater, Jasmine Hearn, and Emily Johnson. Smith is a member of the artist/activist cohort Body Politic, was a principal butoh dancer with Vangeline Theater from 2008 to 2017, and the main muse/collaborator of writer/director Michael Freeman from 2010 to 2016. Smith was selected by Eva Yaa Asantewaa as part of the curatorial board for Black Womxn Summit. Smith is a Green Circle Keeper at Hidden Water, an organization by and for those affected by childhood sexual abuse.
Chloe Alexandra Thompson is a Cree, Canadian interdisciplinary artist and sound designer. Her work engages tactics of material minimalism to create site-specific installations that sculpt droning, maximalist experiences out of space and sound. Thompson’s work, often utilizing multichannel audio, HDLAs, or wave field synthesis installation, has previously been presented by MUTEK Montreal, Send + Receive Festival, and Quiet City (Canada); Hellerau (DE); British Council Arts and Somerset House for Amplify DIA (UK and Canada); Qubit (NY); On the Boards and Wayward Concert Series (WA); Subharmonic: Sonic Arts Symposium – PICA and Yale Union (OR), among many others. Thompson has participated in residencies at Pioneer Works (NY); HERVISIONS x Arebyte AOS residency (UK); and the Amplify residency in collaboration with Somerset House and MUTEK (UK).
Maggie Thompson was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She received her BFA in textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2013. As a textile artist and designer, she derives her inspiration from the history of her Ojibwe heritage, exploring family history as well as themes and subject matter of the broader Native American experience. Thompson’s work calls attention to its materiality, pushing the viewer’s traditional understanding of textiles. She explores materials in her work by incorporating multimedia elements such as photographs, beer caps, and 3D-printed objects. In addition to her fine arts practice, Thompson runs a knitwear business known as Makwa Studio; she is also an emerging curator of contemporary Native art, and has worked on curating special exhibits for Two Rivers Gallery, the McKnight Foundation, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
Sugar Vendil is a composer, pianist, choreographer, and interdisciplinary artist based in Lenapehoking/Brooklyn. She started her artistic life as a classical pianist, and after spending nearly a decade searching for her own voice, her practice evolved into performances that integrate sound, movement, and unconventional approaches to the piano. She writes and performs her own solo music for piano and electronics and has a keyboard/synth duo, Vanity Project, with composer Trevor Gureckis. Vendil is a proud second-generation Filipinx American. She was awarded a 2021 MAP Fund grant to support Antonym: the opposite of nostalgia. Recent commissions include Chamber Music America to write a new work for her ensemble, The Nouveau Classical Project, which she founded in 2008; ETHEL’s Homebaked 2019 for Unsacred Geometry; and ACF | Create to write for Box Not Found.
River Whittle is a two-spirit Caddo, Lenape, and white artist, youth mentor, and community organizer. Whittle aims to support Indigenous life, care, and revitalization with her work. She is learning to become a shell worker, metal worker, and potter, and is an experienced photographer.
George Lugg is a producer, curator and consultant who has been working in the field of contemporary dance and performance for more than 30 years. He serves on the faculty of the California Institute of Arts School of Theater, where he is also consulting producer for CalArts’ Center for New Performance. He works as an independent producer for artists Emily Johnson/ Catalyst and Faye Driscoll. Current touring projects include Johnson’s Being Future Being, Driscoll’s Thank You For Coming: Space, Daniel Alexander Jones’ Altar no. 1, Nataki Garrett and Andrea LeBlanc’s The Carolyn Bryant Project, Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol’s El Camino Donde Nosotros Lloramosm (The Road Where We Weep), among others. He has served twice as Lead Program Consultant in the Performing Arts for the Creative Capital Foundation (2012, 2020), was a Hub Site Representative for the National Dance Project, and on the U.S. curatorial team for the National Performance Network’s Performing Arts Asia, and Performing Americas Projects. He currently serves as Chair of the Board of Directors for Dance Camera West.
Kevin Holden is an artist, composer, and administrative steward for Emily Johnson and Catalyst. They are based on the traditional lands of the Clackamas, Cowlitz, the Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde, and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.