Singing and DJing for the art opening of Dreamlands organized by Chrissie Iles at Whitney Museum on October 26th and 27th, 2016 was euphoric. I played deep house tracks using cdj, a mixer and microphone. I sang along with the tracks. This time I thought of the dj equipment and mic seriously. As if they were like a knife to a chef, a piano to a pianist, a needle to a seamstress, it is integral to the art of DJing.
My performance was featuring two dancers, Pam Tietze and Crackers Barrel. The music and the dancers’ flow were inspired by the hypnotic movements of the jellyfish (especially the moon jellyfish) forms found in nature and indigenous world cultures which use sacred dance to call upon the spirit realm. Dreamlands the title referred to science fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft’s alternate fictional dimension that could be accessed through dreams. The exhibition connected different historical moments of cinematic experimentation via video installation, sculpture and 360-degree camera projected against a cardboard geodesic dome.
During my DJ Set, Pam Tietze and Crackers Barrel danced freely like jellyfish in blue outfits with jellyfish tentacle-like scarves. I asked Pam and Crackers to activate the whole floor by circling the audience and dancing. They walked across space from one end to the other.
These are the instructions I gave the jellyfish dancers: With your eyes closed, imagine that you are in the deep water dancing free-form. Focus on the music. Imagine the water you are in has the same temperature as your body.
My costume was inspired by the silhouette of the jellyfish and costumes in Oskar Schlemmer’s Triadic Ballet. Crackers Barrel and Pam Tietze were wearing blue leggings and tank tops with jellyfish tentacle-like scarves that resembled water. I was wearing turquoise fabric and golden fringe.
Shatter was an original song I sang and synchronized live with the other tracks I DJed. I delayed my vocals and looped them using the mixer. Shatter was matched well with the dance tracks. The delayed vocals sounded melancholic, which reflected how I made the song during a period of heartbreak.
My music and jellyfish costumes were inspired by an oceanic feeling in the audience. When I played dance music and wore a big jellyfish costume, the audience could connect easily with the emotion of joy, and their musical intelligence overrides other parts of their brain. Tapping into the subconscious in this way, I wanted to bring more awareness of nature (particularly the ocean) to my audience, ultimately inspiring everyone to think more deeply about how we could care for the Earth’s waters.
Djing had many benefits for me. It was extremely important to dance with friends. Dancing was an act of purely having fun by moving your own body. At the Whitney, jumping around the space with my Jellyfish costume was a joyous experience. My body was releasing endorphins.
Tracks I prepared were very intentionally chosen in advance. At the same time, when I DJed I was fully in the moment responding to my environment and choosing to mix tracks in a flowing order without losing sight of the total experience.
It’s like mixing two colors into one.
It’s like cooking a delicious meal.
It’s like styling clothes.
Djing, singing, and dancing were pure joy.
Lauer – Mascat Ring Down
Tiger and Woods – Gin Nation
HNNY – 12
Awanton 3 – Su What
Daz I Kue – Maya Angelou
Bicep – Just
Leibniz – Tom Toms
Greem Jellyfish for Dreamlands at Whitney Museum
Thank you, Chrissie Iles, Alexander Kellogg, Peter Henderson, and Gina Im.
Sound system: Midas, D&B
Movement creators: Crackers Barrell and Pam Tietze
Video: Alex Levine
Organized by Chrissie Iles