Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 6 to 8pm
The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation hosted Shaun Leonardo’s I Can’t Breathe. a public-participatory workshop and performance that takes the form of a self-defense class. Over the course of a half hour, participants learned a range of self-defense techniques – from purely pacifist, self-protective maneuvers (including how one may relieve the pressure of a chokehold) to more overt, defensive strategies (participants do not learn offensive strikes or moves). Participants were then placed and paired off in a staggered arrangement. With certain cues given by the artist, each pair enacted the self-defense techniques just learned, alternating in the role of the aggressor. As the artist recited a script inspired by Nina Simone, each pair elects which action to take solely based on how he or she internalizes the words’ meaning. The overall, impromptu composition of defensive actions thus created a reflection and meditation on our community’s legacy of self-preservation, and continued desire/need/fight to protect and survive. The piece was conducted in memory of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin… and countless others.
This public participatory performance was followed by a conversation between the artist and Dr. Isaiah B. Pickens, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and writer, on the subject of trauma – its impact on memory and one’s ability to process suffering. The conversation was centered on police relations with communities of color - specifically how fear and remembrance of both physical and psychological pain affects the relationship between law enforcement and young people of color.
Please read a compelling review of the event by Joel Kuennen entitled I Tell You What Freedom Is to Me: No Fear on ArtSlant.
This work was made possible, in part, by the Franklin Furnace Fund supported by Jerome Foundation, The SHS Foundation, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and general operating support from the New York State Council on the Arts.