[GET WELL SOON] you black + bluised
[En anglais] NIC Kay’s [GET WELL SOON] you black + bluised is the most recent iteration of an ongoing movement-based exploration by the New York-based artist. Presented at the Abrons Art Center, the three-night series of performances proposed three distinct yet interrelated pieces centred on the phrase “get well soon.” Part of the Henry Street Settlement, the iconic arts centre was a formidable site for the dancer-choreographer’s incisive context-specific approach. Investigating the potential for installation, poetry, ritual, and collective action to engender reparation, Kay embodies the political urgency of contemporary performance. Confronting issues of individual and collective agency, political complacency, and participatory power structures, you black + bluised moved to the rhythm of Kay’s stirring voice, physical command, and spatial insight.
Day two of the series, entitled Protest, invited the audience into the Underground Theater “to experience a rupture.” After performing outdoors during day one with a cast of collaborators, Kay worked solo in the concrete depths of the arts centre. The architecture of the space, a brutalist bunker evocative of the era’s out-dated modernist principles, provided an ideal platform to consider “they versus us” as a paradigm of interpersonal life. Dressed in a slightly oversized grey suit that accentuated each movement, Kay initiated the performance by delivering a compelling talk from a lectern. With echoes of a stump speech, an ever-present reality in contemporary American life, the artist distorted the format by simultaneously exposing the rhetorical force of public addresses and their potential vacuity. Looping in and out of sense, the carefully crafted structure of Kay’s allocution produced temporary moments of alignment — sentences unsettling the platitudes of political slogans, motivational quotes, and get well soon cards. In a calculated moment of agitation, the dancer bounced up and down, exaggerating the kinesthetic gesticulation of the soapbox speech. Closing the first section with “we are tired, we are mad, we have a right to be mad…” Kay’s words resonated profoundly; indicting forms of violence inflicted on Black and Brown communities, their performative presence challenged systems of erasure imposed by whiteness and patriarchy.