Charles O. Anderson: Re(current) Unrest
This past Sunday, Dance Place premiered a new work by Charles O. Anderson, Re(Current) Unrest. (Re)current Unrest is an evening-length immersive performance installation ‘ritual’ built on the sonic foundation of Steve Reich’s three earliest works: It’s Gonna Rain (parts 1 and 2), Come Out, and Pendulum. This work, created over a two-year development period, utilizes movement, media, and powerful imagery to meditate on the “American Dream” and Black nihilism, borne of the current racially charged moment. Originally developed for live performance, Anderson has reimagined the performance piece and produced a full length video adaptation of the performance. While it may not have been initially developed for video, Anderson has masterfully integrated media, sound, performance, lighting, and film to produce a work that is powerful, memorable, timely, and of utmost importance.
Re(Current) Unrest is absolutely full of reference, constantly integrating past, present, and future America. Layers of audio, video, text, and movement create statement upon statement that both expose and comment on the realities of police brutality, racism, and America's race relationships from the founding of the country through the present while questioning what our future could look like, if it even exists. Watching the piece, I am astounded at the layers of information that exist in it. Intellectually, socially, and emotionally this piece is profound and nuanced, and I get the sense that my first viewing is picking up only a small percentage of what exists in the world Anderson has created. As someone who does not directly experience the types of injustice this piece is about, I know I will never pick up on the depth of what Anderson was thinking, feeling, and questioning in this work.
Every choice in the work feels incredibly intentional and powerful. Virtual performance up until this point has felt like a stand-in; in Anderson's work, it is anything but. The experience of watching the piece on my own computer, in my own home, made my connections to it much more personal. Anderson often is directly engaging with the viewer - asking "who are you?" "Who are we?" Viewers are forced to meditate on their own answer to this question - who am I? What kind of America am I a participant in? Confronting these questions in your own home forces deep levels of personal reflection. As I look around at my belongings, surroundings, consider the area I live in, the people I am surrounded by, I once again meditate on my place in the past, present, and future of America. Who am I? Who is we? What have I done and what am I doing to participate in the fight for racial justice, work that Anderson illustrates is anything but new? Anderson asks many questions in the piece, and gives few answers. He does pose that perhaps this divided, broken America is unfixable, at times responding to his own question of "who are we?" with simply: "this is us."
Anderson refuses to shy away from direct imagery, nihilistic musings, and powerful statements, creating an environment unafraid to continually confront the "underbelly of the country," as heard in one of the many audio clips pulled from news reports used throughout the piece. It is an absolutely vital exploration of grief, violence, history, and collective action that is one of the most important performance pieces created this year. The runtime of the piece itself is 50 minutes, and Dance Place has provided a talk back of roughly the same run time following the show. You can watch the performance and the talk back in full at the following link, and I encourage everyone to do so: https://www.danceplace.org/livestream/
A lot of the widespread coverage for racial justice that spiked over the summer has begun to die down. We cannot let it. This piece is a powerful reminder for me that work for racial justice is cyclical, and we have seen it spike and die before. Complacency cannot be the norm, and change is not guaranteed. Go watch it, talk to your friends about it, research the myriad of references embedded in it, watch it again, and engage with racial justice work; if we truly want a better America, we must pay attention, maintain dialogue, and push for a better future, one that is long overdue.
Racial Justice Resources:
Richmond Racial Justice Resource List