FOUND SCORE (in and out of place )

August 2, 2020   •   By Gabrielle Civil

Artist's Statement:

If hindsight is 2020, the duel urgency of pandemic and uprising can lead us back to old scores, reactivating and perhaps unsettling them. From 2008-2010, I spent a transformative time in and out of place in Mexico making black feminist performance art.  I activated my body singing Nina Simone with mariachis in the streets; dressing up like a black Mexican doll; brushing people’s hair; and having people trace my body across surfaces. Sifting through some old notebooks, I came across a list of exercises from a taller de performance I took with Rocío Boliver aka la Congelada de Uva in Mexico City. I was struck by how the current moment evoked similar questions of being in a place and out of place at once and also how the proposed actions resonated with quarantine and social distance. I culled the list to offer a found score for now. What follows is a flashback and fast forward. 


Do a simple action for three minutes.  

hands up 
wash your hands                                                                        

Have others watch you.

cross the street when
you see people coming
come together and
rise up in the streets 

Alter your body in a way that is subtle but discomfiting in public.

            turn the video off 
            stay mute on zoom 
            change your name on the display  
            to alice coltrane or dorothy ashby or betty carter
           < celebrate detroit jazz women! >
           the event you couldn’t attend
           because you don’t live in detroit anymore
           but you kept the flyer just in case
           (it got cancelled anyway)

Walk across the room without walking.

                                                     listen to alice coltrane radio
                                                     before you fall asleep
                                                     beam yourself to detroit
                                                     or minneapolis
                                                     or satchidananda
                                                     or ________________

Tell your life story in a language that doesn’t exist.

              tumble from dreams into your notebook
              try to describe what’s happening
             outside in the world
             inside these four walls
             your body magnified into something
             you touch / don’t touch

Do something transgressive in public.

                       on your jog / slide your mask down to breathe
                       then when you’re done, slide your mask back up 
                       and dance / in the tiny neighborhood park 
                       with yellow tape across the slide / in the alley in the back 
                       of your house near the dumpsters / no one is around 
                       although there are lots of windows and occasionally 
                       a car rolls by / you roll and shake / you are starting to feel
                       again that you have a body / it’s the one time you let yourself 
                       out of the house / and now / limbs flush with sweat 
                       you flail and shimmy and skip / don’t you feel it too? 
                       you are black and moving your body in public
                       you are smiling but no one can see it / then go back inside

Select an object that has sentimental value to you. Destroy it.

                         alarm clock. wristwatch. calendar. brassiere.

Wake up in the morning and put stones in your shoes. 
Walk around with them all day.

                          ace of stones. two of stones. five of stones.
                          eight of stones. visionary of stones.

Research the work of an assigned artist and give a presentation.

you are still on the fence about california
but are trying to make friends with LA
so soon before time stopped and you became 
enclosed in time you visited Yayoi Kusama’s 
Infinity Mirror Room at the Broad / it’s touristy 
you know and kind of shady / it costs too much
money and you have to stand in line but you went
on free day and it was shimmer and reflection
and your self infinitely expanding in black cosmos 
your astral loneliness gathered and reflected back
and you saw a vision of this loneliness / yourself
turned into something else / multiplied and
glistening maybe waiting just around the corner

Walk 150 steps away from where we are now.

              this is the new infinity room

Make a piece from something you find there.

              tumble again from dreams
              turn on alice coltrane and dance

With others untangle an extremely tangled ball of twine. 

               write it all down
               tumble into new dreams

Then be wrapped with them in the same twine you just unraveled.

             the last step in an experiment in joy is repeat


Gabrielle Civil is a black feminist performance artist, poet, and writer, originally from Detroit, MI. A 2019 Rema Hort Mann LA Emerging Artist, she teaches creative writing and critical studies at the California Institute of the Arts.

Feature Photo Credit: Zena Bibler