Combining improvisation with sculpture, sound, and lights, M___ER taps into the tangled relationships we have with familiar people and things to examine the shifting dynamics of intimacy between audience members’ senses of self, others, and objects. The title suggests various interpretations of its missing letters; the performance itself addresses ideas such as “mother,” “murder,” and “matter,” while still leaving room for ambiguity. M___ER is a nonlinear, scenic examination of entanglements, from mothers to matter. Investigating relationships that are common to almost everyone, the performance probes the precarity inherent to physical proximity or emotional closeness.
Using her training as an improviser and the inexhaustible possibilities each audience member brings, Knight’s work regularly puts Black femmes—often herself—in contested and confrontational positions of power. Knight guides her audiences through indeterminate situations that illuminate the relationships at play in performance and in our everyday lives. The controlled chaos of these mysterious group interactions provokes laughter and occasional discomfort, using irrationality to make meaning out of our contemporary culture.
This project is organized by Tara Aisha Willis; Curator, Performance and Public Practice; with Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Assistant. The livestreamed performance is coproduced by On the Boards, contemporary performance center, Seattle, Washington.
Autumn Knight (Performer and writer) is an interdisciplinary artist working with performance, installation, video, and text. Her video and performance work has been viewed within several institutions including the the New Museum (NYC), Western Front, (Vancouver, Canada), Akademie der Kunste (Berlin), On the Boards (Seattle), The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Kitchen (NYC). Her performance and video work is held in the permanent collection of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Knight is a recent recipient of The Nancy B. Negley Rome Prize.
Tuçe Yasak (Lighting designer) has been following light in New York since 2009, creating more than 100 site-specific light installations for performance in the United States and abroad. Yasak received the 2018 Bessie (Memoirs of a… Unicorn by Marjani Forté-Saunders at Collapsable Hole and NYLA Dance) and 2019 Bessie (Oba Qween Baba King Baba by Ni’Ja Whitson at Danspace) for Outstanding Visual Design with her lighting design. She has been collaborating with Raja Feather Kelly and the feath3r theory since 2015. Among her recent collaborations are UGLY, HYSTERIA, and BLUE by Raja Feather Kelly (New York Live Arts, Bushwick Starr, and ImPulsTanz), This Bridge Called My Ass by Miguel Gutierrez (The Chocolate Factory, Montpellier Dance Festival, The Walker Art Center, and PICA), We’re Gonna Die written by Young Jean Lee and directed by Raja Feather Kelly (2nd Stage Theater), M_ _ _ER by Autumn Knight (On The Boards and Abrons Arts Center), joyUS justUS by Contra-Tiempo (national tour and Jacobs Pillow). Light, movement, and architecture intertwine in Yasak’s work to support spacemaking and storytelling. Her Light Journals were presented in March 2021 by Ars Nova NY and she is currently developing her first individual installation, Wall
Rena Anakwe (Sound designer) is an interdisciplinary artist, performer, and healer working primarily with sound, visuals, and scent. Exploring intersections between traditional healing practices, spirituality, and performance, she creates works focused on sensory-based, experiential interactions using creative technology. Most recently, she was awarded the 2021 Canadian Women Artists’ Award from NYFA and the Canadian Women’s Club of New York, a 2021–22 MacDowell Fellowship for Interdisciplinary Arts, and a 2022 Jack Nusbaum Artist Residency at Brooklyn Academy of Music. Anakwe was a 2020–21 resident of the Jerome Foundation AIRspace Residency for Performing Artists at Abrons Arts Center, a 2020 Radiophrenia commissioned artist, a 2019 ISSUE Project Room Artist-in-Residence, a 2019 Abrons Arts Center Sound Series commissioned artist, and a 2018 Signal Culture Artist-in-Residence. She has collaborated, produced, and shown work at New York institutions including Park Avenue Armory/NY Live Arts, En Garde Arts/Brookfield Place, Weeksville Heritage Center, Dia Foundation, Fridman Gallery, Knockdown Center, Lincoln Center, MoMA PS1, CultureHub, Pioneer Works, and Montez Press Radio. Most recently, under the moniker A Space for Sound, Anakwe released the first in an ongoing audio series titled Sound Bath Mixtape vol. 1 through New York–based label and collective PTP. In Fall 2021, her forthcoming album Sometimes underwater (feels like home) will be released through RVNG Intl.’s Commend THERE Label. She is based in Brooklyn, New York, by way of Nigeria and Canada.
Lead support for the 2021–22 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.
Major support is provided by the Alphawood Foundation and by Julie and Larry Bernstein.
Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and The Eisen Family Foundation; Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, N.A., Trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; and Anonymous.
Additional generous support is provided by Ms. Shawn M. Donnelley and Dr. Christopher M. Kelly, Cynthia Hunt and Philip Rudolph, Ashlee Jacob, Anne L. Kaplan, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Enact, the MCA’s Performance & Public Programs affinity group.
The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.