June 11, 2014, 6:30pm

Swarm / Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago's Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954–68 (2009)

This first museum performance by the collective SWARM featured dance, music, lights, a three-channel video projection, and the amplified sounds of breath across bowls and bottles of water. Organized in conjunction with ICA@50, the forty-five minute site-specific commission was developed in response to ICA’s 2009 Sun Ra exhibition. In gray and black costumes designed and sewn by a sister collective, the ten SWARM members electrified the audience—which was so numerous it overflowed the Second Floor Space into the hallway—with synchronized movements and hypnotic use of voice. The performers’ shadows moved rhythmically across towering swirls of green and purple video images, suggesting primordial forests and cosmic space, which were projected onto the walls. A glass harmonica was played, and the dancing took place on many levels, including on a table top. ICA Spiegel Fellow Grace Ambrose organized and eloquently introduced the program, tying SWARM’s work to both Sun Ra and ICA’s current Ruffneck Contructivists exhibition. The enthusiastic audience, which included many West Philadelphia friends and neighbors, lingered as long as they could until it was time to spill out onto the streets under a swarm of stars.

Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago's Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954–1968ICA@50: Pleasing Artists And Publics Since 1963ICA@50

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