To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, filmmakers, designers, and performers to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2019.
Pelenakeke Brown is an interdisciplinary, afakasi Samoan, disabled, immigrant artist from Aotearoa (New Zealand). In 2019, Brown received Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Residency and was selected as curator for the Artists of Color Council Movement Research at the Judson Church Spring season. She is an alum of the NYFA Immigrant Artist Program and the Laundromat Project. She has attended residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Denniston Hill and Ana Pekapeka Studio, as well as exhibited works in San Francisco, New York, London, and Auckland. Brown’s nonfiction work is published in The James Franco Review, the Hawai‘i Review, Apogee Journal, and Movement Research Performance Journal. She has created projects with Movement Research, the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2020 she will be an Eyebeam resident.
I WANT TO BE WITH YOU EVERYWHERE
AT PERFORMANCE SPACE NEW YORK
Who knew disability could be so sexy!? Arriving to IWTBWYE, a multi-day, multi-genre festival curated by and for disabled artists and feeling like I was in a cool NYC scene with my crip fam, was revelatory and so fulfilling for me. Featuring artists from both the East and West coast, with performances, readings, and a study day, this is my highlight of 2019, no contest. I have not stopped talking or referencing this festival since. My highlight upon highlight was being introduced to John Lee Clark and pro-tactile language which has changed the way I have been thinking about care and interdependence. Organized by Arika, Amalle Dublon, Jerron Herman, Carolyn Lazard, Park McArthur, Alice Sheppard and Constantina Zavitsanos.
The solidarity actions by Kanaka Maoli as they peacefully protest the proposed new telescope on their sacred Mauna, as well as the collective actions of solidarity and sovereignty occurring across the globe by other Hawaiians and indigenous peoples has been a strong call to action for many. As an Oceanic woman living in the US diaspora witnessing these decolonizing practices occurring in 2019 has resonated deeply with me, reflecting tangibly how indigenous and contemporary can be interwoven in the everyday.
WILD DOGS UNDER MY SKIRT AT Q THEATRE, AUCKLAND
A poetry collection and one-woman show by Tusiata Avia was adapted for a multicast and directed by Anapela Polata’ivao, which breathed new life into this seminal text. Wild Dogs explores taboos around identity, freedom and sexuality for teine Sāmoa and had this teine Sāmoa sitting in the dark, watching it, feeling deeply seen. The work is coming to New York’s Soho Playhouse in January 2020, and I can’t wait to share it again with my community here.
A SHARED EVENING OF WORK BY TENDAYI KUUMBA & SAMITA SINHA
Tendayi Kuumba’s collaboration with Greg Purcell during collective terrain/s—a collective research process organized by Lydia Bell, Jasmine Hearn, and Tatyana Tenenbaum—was so compelling to me. The meeting of sound and body in live performance and the way the artists layered and built up to the final scenes of U.F.O.: (Unidentified Fly Objects) was incredible. Two artists that I will continue to watch and support.
ANTI-STAIRS CLUB LOUNGE AT VESSEL BY SHANNON FINNEGAN
Artist Shannon Finnegan staged an anti-stairs club lounge by the Vessel (a monument to Ableism) in April this year. Wearing merch featuring the logo of three-step stairs crossed out in circle was a great way to spend the morning. The Vessel glorifies stairs (with an elevator that accesses only one section of this large public sculpture), Kevin Gotkin’s article in the Avery Review reveals more. I have pledged to never take a single step, and I hope you will too.
PHENOMENAL NATURE: MRINALINI MUKHERJEE AT MET BREUER
This was my first introduction to Mrinalini Mukherjee’s work and the first retrospective of the artist in the US. Her use of fiber is hypnotic, and I especially loved the monochrome free-hanging figurative sculptural works and the ways the works were presented in the space. The forms and lines of her figures stayed on long in my mind.
An Instagram page which helped connect queers around the world over. Inspired by newspaper personals ads from the ’70s and ’80s, queers submitted their own personals which people could respond to. In an image-heavy world especially in the dating sphere, reading how people articulated themselves and what they wanted whether it be in love or friendship was a joy to keep on lurking and reading. Personals has now expanded with others starting QPOC and disabled personals. Personals Instagram is no longer (it was always a temporary measure) and has transformed into lex.app which is now live.
JAMES BALDWIN’S NOBODY KNOWS MY NAME
I went back and delved deeper into James Baldwin this summer. In each essay I kept feeling like he was articulating things so personally. I told this to a friend and she laughed and said: “That’s the point. James makes you think you are writing. That you are inside his head.”
THE GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF
I was introduced to GBBO when I was first unemployed and it has kept me company like an old friend ever since. Even with the new move to Channel 4 and new presenters and co-judge, I continue to keep coming back for more. And, yes, if you are thinking “Oh yeah, that show about baking?’ Yes, exactly. Forty-five minutes of three challenges, soggy bottoms, British politeness, and the most supportive cohort ever, it has always been a soothing balm for me, and I hope will continue to be one.
CHANI NICHOLAS’S COSMIC PLAYLISTS ON SPOTIFY
Chani Nicholas, an astrologer that I faithfully follow—always reading her emails to myself (and any friends or family I happen to be with when it arrives in my inbox)—has partnered with Spotify to release a curated playlist specific for that month and each sign. I love tuning in and seeing if her sounds resonate with my moods (they, surprisingly, often do), and it’s a different way to be exposed to new music.