As Billie Holiday sings— the same ole story, but it’s new to me….
Acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems, deemed “one of the more interesting artists working in the gap between art and politics” by The New York Times, has created a new performance-based work, Past Tense. Through music, text, projection and video, Past Tense features singers Eisa Davis, Alicia Hall Moran, Imani Uzuri and Francesca Harper, poet Carl Hancock Rux and music director Craig Harris.
The performance takes us on a deep dive into the enduring significance of the iconic Antigone and her profound relevance to our contemporary moment. Past Tense’s origins lie in Weems’ powerful work Grace Notes. Weems says, “While working on Grace Notes for months it occurred to me that I was telling the story of Antigone, wherein an innocent man dies by unjustified means and his sister fights for the right to bury him honorably. But the wider community refuses her; her right to justice, and to peace, is denied.”
Past Tense has a modernist aesthetic of clean, spare staging with singers representing a Greek chorus on a small, raised platform and Weems at a clear, Lucite lectern, with startling imagery projected on a screen behind them conveying the risk of an encounter between authority figures and citizens who are fervent in their sense of morality. This powerful piece explores themes of social justice, escalating violence, gender relations, politics and personal identity within the context of contemporary history — recurrent subjects in Weems’ practice.
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