Oct 14, 2016, 2PM

Douglas R. Ewart and Ni’Ja Whitson: Rio Negro

Music Lessons Poster

Douglas R. Ewart Flute

Courtesy Douglas R. Ewart.

The Institute of Contemporary Art is pleased to present Douglas R. Ewart’s sound installation Rio Negro, with performers Douglas R. Ewart (music) and Ni’Ja Whitson (dance). This performance is presented as part of the ongoing exhibition Endless Shout, which asks how, why, and where performance and improvisation can take place inside the museum. This event is free and open to the public.

Douglas R. Ewart (whose work is featured in The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now) and George Lewis originally joined together to produce the sound installation Rio Negro in 1992. In 2007, Ewart and Lewis collaborated with the sound artist Douglas Repetto on an enhanced version of the sound environment, which appears here. Rio Negro II consists of rain sticks and chimes, among other elements, all orchestrated by robotic mechanisms. The rain sticks, a key component of the installation, suggest the instruments of indigenous Americans, such as the inhabitants of the Rio Negro basin in Brazil. The audio-kinetic installation also resembles a Zen garden with its clusters of bamboo. Overall, the work seems to cut across time, mixing a hint of the ancient with the technology of today.

Courtesy Ni’Ja Whitson.

Best known as a composer, improviser, sculptor, and maker of masks and instruments, Douglas R. Ewart is also an educator, lecturer, arts organization consultant and all-around visionary. Throughout an award-winning and widely-acclaimed 40-year career, Ewart has woven his remarkably broad gifts into a single sensibility that encourages and celebrates—as an antidote to the divisions and compartmentalization afflicting modern life—the wholeness of individuals in culturally active communities. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1946, Ewart immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1963, where he became involved in the early days of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), later ascending to the presidency of the influential organization. Always seeking new ways to be an agent of transformation and convinced that compositions should change just as their performers do, Ewart has created new or revised musical forms, such as his suite “Music from the Bamboo Forest,” which is in a state of constant evolution. Beyond sound itself, Ewart’s music finds natural extensions (in every sense of the word) in the instruments he makes, which run the gamut from unique wind instruments to percussion instruments. Beyond these are sculptures, sound sculptures, and individually handcrafted masks that have been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

An award-winning interdisciplinary artist, performer and writer, Ni’Ja Whitson, has been referred to as “majestic” and “powerful” by The New York Times, winning dozens of awards across disciplines while engaging a nexus of postmodern and African Diasporic performance practices, intersecting gender, sexuality, race, and spirit. Recent accolades include an LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency, two-time Creative Capital “On Our Radar” award including being among its inaugural group. As a practitioner of indigenous and diasporic African ritual and resistance forms, Whitson creates work that reflects the sacred in performance and transformative workshop/facilitation. Proudly, they collaborate with notables in experimental and conventional theatre, dance, visual art, and music including closely with Sharon Bridgforth and Douglas R. Ewart, and other leaders such as Dianne McIntyre, Charlotte Brathwaite, Regina Taylor, Oliver Lake, Edward Wilkerson Jr., Daniel Alexander Jones, Marjani Forté-Saunders, and Baba Israel. Whitson is currently on faculty at the New School for Liberal Arts and is the founder/artistic director of The NWA Project.

This event is free and open to the public. Register here.