Organized by artist Theaster Gates, Processions was a series of powerful collaborative performances that introduced unexpected and unexplored connections between sacred music, African and African American culture and history, theater, world dance, and chant. Each unique event brought together a different ensemble of noted local and national artists, tapping into the Washington region’s rich musical heritage, and highlighting area performers, dancers, and students.
September 21, 2016
The inaugural Processions performance featured Gates alongside student athletes from Howard University in Washington, D.C. and the experimental musical ensemble The Black Monks of Mississippi. The performers moved throughout the Hirshhorn’s third-floor galleries, responding with voice, instrument and gesture to artworks on view, while the track runners jogged along the circular shape of the building’s inner ring, activating the relationship between bodies, voices, and art.
Coinciding with the historic opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, this debut event was followed by a public discussion between Gates and longtime friend David Adjaye, the world-renowned architect behind the new museum’s design.
October 13, 2017
Inspired by the harmonies and expansive artistry of Meshell Ndegeocello’s influential 2014 album Comet, Come to Me, Gates invited Chicago-based interdisciplinary artist Mikel Avery, soprano Ellaina Lewis, and DC-based musician Samuel Prather, to create an evening of musical expression that defied categorization. Working on stage at the Hirshhorn, the artists responded through music and movement to the legacy of what Gates refers to as “negrobilia”—vintage cultural objects that depict stereotypical and caricatured images of people of color, created over a hundred years of U.S. history.
Prayer for the Black Madonna
April 12, 2018
For the third installment of the Processions series, Theaster Gates presented Prayer for the Black Madonna. Building from a series of projects reflecting on the cult of the Black Madonna, Gates brought together powerful voices of distinct musical traditions for a deeply moving evening of endurance prayer and reflection. Using the resonant acoustics of the Hirshhorn’s auditorium, a DC-based chorale presented a meditative classical arrangement of Ave Maria, while Gates and a vocalist from The Black Monks of Mississippi layered improvised vocalization, sermon, and chanting in a two-hour long feat of human performance. The presentation continued Gates’ recent series of artistic projects and exhibitions examining the depiction of Madonna, drawing from art historical images, his own extensive print archives of Ebony and Jet magazines, and spiritual storytelling traditions around the world.
Discussions of the Sonic Imagination
June 16–17, 2019
The fourth and culminating event in Gates’ Processions series, the two-part program at the Hirshhorn offered opportunities to explore the complex ways that sound unifies and defines the human experience. Featuring a number of visionary leaders in the arts, the two-day reflection presented a series of keynotes, performances and conversations with scholars Tina Campt, Ashon Crawley and Saïs Kamilidiin; jazz composer and pianist Jason Moran; drummer and bandleader Mike Reed with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell; writer, director and performer Ione; bassist Luke Stewart; drummer Savannah Harris; singer Jessica Boykin-Settles; saxophonist Brian Settles; members of the Black Monks; and more.
|1:30 pm||Doors open to Ring Auditorium; Live Music|
|2–4 pm||Talk + Performance: Discussions of the Sonic Imagination, Part I|
Discussions of the Sonic Imagination, Part I introduced the topic and offered opportunities to explore the complex ways that sound unifies and defines the human experience. Featuring a number of visionary leaders in the arts, this two-hour program comprised a series of keynotes, performances and conversations with Theaster Gates; scholars Tina Campt, Ashon Crawley and Saïs Kamalidiin; members of the Black Monks; and more.
|5:30 pm||Doors open to Ring Auditorium; Live Music by Warren Crudup and Company|
|6–7:30 pm||Performance: Discussions of the Sonic Imagination, Part II|
Discussions of the Sonic Imagination, Part II featured collaborative performances with Theaster Gates; jazz composer and pianist Jason Moran; drummer and bandleader Mike Reed with saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell; writer, director and performer Ione; bassist Luke Stewart; drummer Savannah Harris; singer Jessica Boykin-Settles; saxophonist Brian Settles; members of the Black Monks; and more.
About Theaster Gates
Theaster Gates’ practice includes sculpture, installation, performance and urban interventions that aim to bridge the gap between art and life. Gates works as an artist, curator, urbanist and facilitator and his projects attempt to instigate the creation of cultural communities by acting as catalysts for social engagement that leads to political and spatial change.
Gates has exhibited and performed at the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), Studio Museum in Harlem (New York), Whitechapel Gallery (London), Art Gallery of Ontario (Canada), Punta della Dogana (Venice) and Documenta 13 (Kassel, Germany), Kunsthaus Bregenz (Austria) and Fondazione Prada (Milan). He has received awards from Artes Mundi 6, Creative Time, the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, United States Artists and, most recently, the Nasher Sculpture Prize 2018. Gates most ambitious project to date is the ongoing real estate development, known as “Dorchester Projects”. In 2006, Gates purchased an abandoned building on 69th and Dorchester Avenue on Chicago’s South Side, collaborating with architects and designers to gut and refurbish the buildings using found materials. Gates is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation, which now oversees a network of buildings across the South Side including Dorchester Projects and the Stony Island Arts Bank, as well as a Professor in the Department of Visual Art and Director of Arts and Public Life at the University of Chicago.
Processions has been made possible with support from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation and the Skanby + Gould Foundation.