On Similitude

With Steffani Jemison with Garrett Gray 6:00 p.m. South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60649

“On Similitude” is a contribution to “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

What can be conveyed through physical gestures and expressions but not in language? How can the exaggerated frown of a painted face or the dramatic twist of a torso be understood, if not through words? Steffani Jemison will reflect on these questions in a performance that engages with the rich and various history of mime and, more generally, the role of mimicry in addressing audiences and intimates. To the uninitiated, mime might seem to impose severe limits on what can be conveyed; in fact, like many forms of dance or ritual or theater, the practice seeks to liberate communication from speech and establish bonds that transcend conversation. Jemison will focus on mime ministry, which combines physical theater and gospel recordings and, in the past two decades, has become a fixture in churches with African American congregations. Drawing on the work of Étienne Decroux, who popularized mime in the mid-twentieth century (and pitted physical movement against language), she’ll ask how we can use our bodies to amplify and extend the reach of speech.

On Similitude is a component of “Parts of Speech,” an exhibition on public speech organized by Triple Canopy and Public Fiction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The exhibition hinges on six experimental lectures, which will be live-streamed only at the museum; edited documentation will be available on Triple Canopy’s website at a later date. [Since the publication of this page, the online work adapted from the event has been published.] “Parts of Speech” is being published by Triple Canopy as a series in Two Ears and One Mouth, a forthcoming issue that examines how we speak and listen and who has the right and capacity to be heard.

Parts of Speech is made possible in part through the generous support of the Stolbun Collection and Karyn Kohl and Silas Dilworth. Triple Canopy has received additional support for Two Ears One Mouth from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; the Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; the New York State Council on the Arts; and the Opaline Fund of the Jewish Community Endowment Federation and Endowment Fund.

  • Steffani Jemison is a visual artist and educator living in New York. Her recent work approaches privacy and opacity as strategies of abstraction and political resistance. She has exhibited and presented her work at Jeu de Paume (Paris), CAPC Bordeaux, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Whitney Museum (New York), the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Mass MOCA (North Adams, Massachusetts), the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Drawing Center (New York), LAXART (Los Angeles), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), and the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art (Copenhagen). Her work is in the public collections of the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Kadist Foundation. Jemison has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University and an Arthur Levitt Jr. ’52 Artist-in-Residence at Williams College, and she has received awards from the Art Matters Foundation and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. She is an assistant professor in media at Rutgers University.
  • Garrett Gray is an actor, educator, and mime from Savannah, Georgia, who currently resides in New York City. He grew up with a love for classical theater and clowning, which led him to the American Mime Theatre, founded by Paul J. Curtis in 1952. He was introduced to mime by the artistic director, Jean Barbour, and went on to become a member of the company. His theatrical roles include Ariel in “The Tempest” (Columbia Stages) and Bob in “American Buffalo” (Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre); he has appeared in films and television shows such as Bolden!, Necessary Roughness, “BULL,” and “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.”