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Live Arts | Wu Tsang: MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

February 14, 20247:00 pm - 9:00 pm

February 15, 20247:00 pm - 8:30 pm

February 16, 20247:00 pm - 8:30 pm

A conversation with Wu Tsang takes place after the February 14 performance. Audio description and CART captioning are provided for the February 16 performance.

The film contains brief nudity and simulated violence towards animals. Photography, video, and audio recording are strictly prohibited.

About the Event

In MOBY DICK; or, The Whale, award-winning filmmaker and visual artist Wu Tsang embarks upon a feature-length, silent-film telling of Herman Melville’s great American novel. The film features original orchestral music composed by Caroline Shaw and Andrew Yee with Asma Maroof, which is performed live by the Chicago Sinfonietta.

This adaptation, written by Sophia Al Maria and directed by Tsang, follows the white whale above and below the surface of the water, developing a visual cosmology that resists the exploration and exploitation of the earth under imperial colonialism. Tsang’s approach pairs the classic story of the whaler’s ”floating factory” with the beginnings of the film industry. MOBY DICK; or, The Whale was shot entirely on a soundstage combining silent-era filmmaking techniques with Virtual Production, a virtual reality game engine projecting surreal ocean environments.

The narrative is interwoven with extracts by the Sub-Sub-Librarian, a character played by acclaimed poet Fred Moten, and tackles the novel’s subterranean currents, encountering the resistance of the ship’s hydrarchy, or organizational structure, and collectives of “mariners, renegades, and castaways,” as described by historian C.L.R. James. Exploring overlapping histories of industrialism, extractivism, colonialism, ecological and spiritual crisis, the film creates a multilayered surreal filmic adaptation of the 1851 novel.

The MCA’s presentation of MOBY DICK; or, The Whale is organized by Nolan Jimbo, Assistant Curator.


Moved by the Motion Presents: MOBY DICK; or, The Whale

Directed by Wu Tsang
Written by Sophia Al Maria
Original Score by Caroline Shaw and Andrew Yee with Asma Maroof
Produced by Laura D’Incau
Co-Produced by Wu Tsang
Executive Producers: David Codikow, Nadja Rangel
Associate Producers: Tosh Basco, Sophia Al Maria
Associate Producers: Stefan Scheuermann, Barbara Higgs
Cinematography by Antonio Cisneros
Movement Direction by Tosh Basco
Choreography by Josh Johnson
Costumes by TELFAR x Kyle Luu
Production Design by Nina Mader
Virtual Production by Bild Studios
Video Design by Fray Studio
Edited by Jérôme Pesnel
Dramaturgs: Katinka Deecke, Joshua Wicke
A Production of Schauspielhaus Zürich
Co-Commissioned by LUMA Foundation, Superblue, TBA21–Academy, HARTWIG ART FOUNDATION, The Shed, DE SINGEL and The Whitney Museum of American Art

Tosh Basco, Josh Johnson, Steven Sowah, Fred Moten, Sebastian Rudolph, Thomas Wodianka, Thelma Buabeng, Vincent Basse, Ondrej Vidlar, Mel Guesson, Titilayo Adebayo, Gottfried Breitfuss, André Atangana, Maja Beckmann, Karim Boumjimar, Enantios Dromos, Timon Essoungou, Rene Melliger, Wiebke Mollenhauer, Daniel Kweku Schmid, Stéphanie Scholl, Corey Scott-Gilbert, Sscopeta Shephard, Malik Sievi, Rafal Skoczek

Chicago Sinfonietta:
First Violin: Carol Dylan, James Sanders, Caroline Slack
Second Violin: Emily Nash, Karla Galva, Edith Yokley
Viola: Seth Pae, Becky Coffman, Scott Dowd
Cello: Ann Griffin, Edward Kelsey Moore, Andrew Snow, Lindsey Sharpe
Bass: Christian Dillingham, Brenda Donati
Conductor: Juliano Dutra Aniceto, Chicago Sinfonietta Freeman Conducting Fellow

About the Artists

Wu Tsang is an award-winning filmmaker and visual artist. Tsang’s work crosses genres and disciplines, from narrative and documentary films to live performance and video installations. Tsang is a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow, and her projects have been presented at museums, biennials, and film festivals internationally. Awards include 2016 Guggenheim Fellow (Film/Video), 2018 Hugo Boss Prize Nominee, Creative Capital, Rockefeller Foundation, Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, and Warhol Foundation. Tsang received her BFA (2004) from the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and an MFA (2010) from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Currently Tsang works in residence at Schauspielhaus Zurich, as a director of theater with the collective Moved by the Motion.

Sophia Al Maria studied Comparative Literature at the American University in Cairo and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College. She is the show creator of Little Birds (Sky Atlantic) and has been screenwriting for a diverse array of projects for film and television. In 2015, she participated as a fellow in the Sundance Labs with her unfinished feature Beretta. Her video work has been shown all over the world in biennales, film festivals and museums. Sophia’s first book, The Girl Who Fell to Earth (2012, Harper Collins) received high praise from The New York Times and others. Her short stories have been published in various collections including The Djinn Falls in Love (2017, Solaris, United Kingdom).

Tosh Basco was born in California and rose to prominence in the drag scene in San Francisco in the 2010s. Well known for her movement-based performances under the name boychild, Basco’s photography and drawing accompany her performance practice enfolding language, representation and becoming together in spaces where they are presumed to exist as discrete entities. She is co-founder of the collaborative entity Moved by the Motion with Wu Tsang and collaboration remains a vital aspect to her work. Basco’s work has been presented at the Venice Biennale; the Sydney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; MOCA, Los Angeles; ICA London among other institutions.

Kyle Luu is a stylist, costume designer and consultant based in New York City. Her clients include Solange Knowles, Travis Scott, Valentino, Louis Vuitton, Garage Magazine, Interview Magazine, Nike and many more.

Asma Maroof is an electronic producer/composer and DJ (aka Asmara), who performs internationally in music, film, and art venues including the Sydney Opera House, the Whitney Museum, Unsound Festival, and the MTV VMAs. She has worked with artists M.I.A., Kelela, Tink, Fatima Al Qadiri, Venus X, and is a member of the musical group NGUZUNGUZU (Fade to Mind). Her soundtracks have graced Kenzo, Celine, and Louis Vuitton runway shows, commercials for Nike, Alexander Wang, and TELFAR. With filmmaker and frequent collaborator Wu Tsang, she’s scored Anthem, Duilian, Into a Space of Love, and One Emerging From a Point of View.

Moved by the Motion is a loose affiliation or “band” of artists and performers that was founded in 2013 by Tosh Basco and Wu Tsang, and is currently in residence at the Schauspielhaus Theater in Zürich. Contributors to this project include Sophia Al Maria, Tosh Basco, Josh Johnson, Asma Maroof, Patrick Belaga, Laura Harris, and Fred Moten.

Groundbreaking. Dynamic. Daring. A tenured orchestra and acclaimed cultural leader that champions diversity, equity, and inclusion by creating community through curated symphonic experiences, the award-winning Chicago Sinfonietta (CS) is a source of community through music, as well as ensuring and inspiring a continued investment in diversity and inclusivity in the genre of classical music to promote fairness and equity. With core values built around being culturally responsive and advocates of inclusivity in all aspects of the 35-year-old organization’s work, CS’s unrelenting commitment to being at the forefront of innovation drives its high standard of symphonic experiences. CS takes pride in leading by example with immersive audience engagement activities, impactful career development, education, and extensive community outreach programs.

Artist Talk

A conversation between Wu Tsang and Assistant Curator Nolan Jimbo about MOBY DICK; or, The Whale takes place after the February 14 performance.

Access Information

Audio Description and CART captioning are provided for the February 16 performance.

The film contains brief nudity and simulated violence towards animals.

Audio description available.

Hear from MCA Assistant Curator, Nolan Jimbo, about MOBY DICK; or, The Whale.

Subscribe to MCA NOW for more podcasts from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


Lead support of the MCA’s presentation of MOBY DICK; or, The Whale is generously provided by R. H. Defares.

Additional support is provided by John Morace and Tom Kennedy.

Lead support for the 2023–24 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman.

Generous support is provided by 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 an anonymous donor.

Additional generous support is provided by Diane Kahan and Anne L. Kaplan.

The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District.

MOBY DICK; or, The Whale is produced by the Schauspielhaus Zürich and co-commissioned by LUMA Foundation, Superblue, TBA21—Academy, HARTWIG ART FOUNDATION, The Shed, DE SINGEL, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.