Multimedia artist Sanford Biggers presents The Somethin?? Suite, a conceptual exploration of the ???Negro variety show??? popular at the turn of the 20th century. Presented in speakeasies and small variety theaters across the country, with performers (both black and white) typically appearing in blackface for white audiences, they were deeply problematic, but also catapulted some of America??s most inventive musicians, including Ma Rainey, Scott Joplin, and Al Jolson, to stardom. Arguably the first distinctively American theatrical form, the oppressive system behind blackface entertainment has evolved into today??s popular music industry, Biggers suggests. The Somethin?? Suite, following minstrelsy's traditional 3-act structure, is performed by spoken-word artist Saul Williams, singers Esthero, Shae Fiol, Imami Uzuri, and Martin Luther, and DJs CX KiDTRONiX and Jahi Sundance, whose talents combine to provide a sonic history of contemporary music as well as a clear-eyed examination of today??s popular music industry. A PERFORMA Commission.
About the Artist
Sanford Biggers (b. Los Angeles, CA, 1970) is a multimedia artist who borrows from the study of ethnological objects, popular icons, and the Dadaist tradition to deal with cultural and creative systems, art history, and politics. He has had solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, in Nagoya, Japan, and at Triple Candy, New York, and he has been featured in group shows at many venues including The New Museum for Contemporary Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, all in New York.
A PERFORMA Commission
The PERFORMA Commissions program originates new performances by inviting artists??many of whom have not worked ???live?? before??to create work especially for the PERFORMA biennial. Selected by PERFORMA Director RoseLee Goldberg, commissioned artists work closely with the PERFORMA production team from conceptualization to presentation, including international tours following the biennial.