Ralph Lemon: Scaffold Room
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Ralph Lemon: Scaffold Room

Ralph Lemon merges performance, visual art, music, and text in his new work Scaffold Room, an inquisitive hybrid that premieres at the Walker before a national tour. Lemon calls his latest work a “lecture-performance-musical,” one that refracts ideas of contemporary performance through archetypal black female personae in American culture. Tickets to the landmark world-premiere performances of this Walker-commissioned project (September 26–28) are available here.

The piece connects three women–Okwui Okpokwasili and April Matthis (performing live) and 86-year-old Edna Carter, along with her extended family (on video). The live performers enact parallel iconic characters that draw from history, popular culture, and science fiction with source materials ranging from Moms Mabley to Amy Winehouse, Kathy Acker to Samuel R. Delany, as they “act out” within and around assumptions about prescribed cultural body politics. The live performance installation is supported by an electronic/turntable-based sound score created and performed by composer Marina Rosenfeld. The space for Scaffold Room is a confined, constructed two-story environment, in essence its own theater, placed in the Walker’s white cube Burnet Gallery.

Lemon, who began his career as a dancer and choreographer, is now seen as a critical figure exploring intersections between performing and contemporary art worlds. The artist has had eight increasingly interdisciplinary works supported by the Walker over the course of 17 years, and recent projects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and various other international museums. Scaffold Room is perhaps his boldest experiment yet with the boundaries of form and presentation.

As a companion to the exhibition, Lemon and Jim Findlay’s sound and image installation Meditation will be on view in the McGuire Theater. Conceived as the final piece of his work cycle How Do You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere, this immersive experience freely associates themes from the entire series through high-definition projection, shadow and light, sound, atmosphere, and memory.

The Scaffold Room installation is designed by Ralph Lemon and R. Eric Stone, and engineered and fabricated by F. Randy deCelle. Collaborators include composer/turntablist Marina Rosenfeld, video designer Mike Taylor, lighting designer Roderick Murray, sound design consultant Philip White, and costume designer Naoko Nagata.

Curators: Bartholomew Ryan, Philip Bither, and Doug Benidt

Open Rehearsals

Free with gallery admission
Burnet Gallery
The public is invited to observe Scaffold Room during installation and rehearsals in the Burnet Gallery. Schedule to be determined on a day-by-day basis.

Note: Performance contains mature subject matter and explicit language.


  • Scaffold Room is a production of Cross Performance and MAPP International Productions. The work is commissioned by the Walker Art Center with support provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional commissioning support provided by The Doris Duke Performing Arts Award Audience Development program, the MAP Fund (a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), the MetLife Foundation, the James E. Robison Foundation, and the Bossak Heilbrun Foundation. The work is co-commissioned by Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Bard College/The Fisher Center for Performing Arts, and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), and was developed in part through a residency at the Park Avenue Armory.