TERRITORY is a performance series with an installation element that considers histories of man-made colonial borders and the migrations and genocides that are archived in the land. TERRITORY features a parable of a fictional island split by a colonial border. Half of this island is home to an autonomous community that has resisted colonization yet remains unrecognized by world powers. The parable draws from research on colonial history and indigenous political movements from around the globe, asking: How do nations come to be? Who conquers and who is disappeared in the process? What are our continued and complex relationships to those legacies?

In TERRITORY, I perform as a character based on the Balinese witch queen Rangda and Hindu mother-goddess deity Kali. Embodying the powerful and sometimes fear-inspiring qualities of these femme deities, I deliver a message to audiences—singing, dancing, prophesying, and relaying a parable about the fictional island whose borders have been created by colonizers. As you experience the performance, you are told this island is your home, and you, the inhabitants, are part of a divided community that has internalized difference.

Video of TERRITORY presented at Movement Research at the Judson Church on February 19, 2018. Video by Quentin Burley.

The project began development in Spring 2018 and was initially responsive to an on-going resurgence of isolationist, anti-immigrant policy — from border wall rhetoric in the U.S. to the U.K. digging its heels into Brexit. TERRITORY performances presented at LMCC Workspace Open Studios and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in 2018 features an installation: costume, headdresses, and objects worn and used in the performance were displayed in a fake museum exhibit. Performances began by breaking into this anthropological display. LMCC and Bemis performances were responsive to site. Narrative was tailored to the colonial history of Lower Manhattan and Omaha, Nebraska, respectively, and I used found materials to make costume elements. This includes materials carrying regional significance and political history. The headdress I fashioned for Bemis has buffalo grass fringe plucked from Neale Woods and a train of Omaha public school film reel on the era of Reconstruction. I wrote about the site-specific process of making the Bemis iteration, TERRITORY: Omaha, including how oral history played a major part.

Photos of TERRITORY presented at Movement Research at the Judson Church by Cherylynn Tsushima.

Another aspect of TERRITORY are written texts and paintings that visualize the parable, the history of the fictional island, and the story of the autonomous community who lives on the uncolonized half of this island.

In 2019, TERRITORY has been presented as a solo performance, installation, and ritual performance at the 92Y, The Glove, and the Kennedy Center. The series is expanding into an evening-length, group performance to premiere in Fall 2020.

• March 11, 2018

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