Double Consciousness is a fierce amalgam of the creative personalities of performance artists Holly Bass and Jaamil Olawale Kosoko. It is a unique and rare opportunity to experience the vibrant minds of these accomplished artists. For two nights only Bass and Kosoko joined artistic forces at Dance Place in Northeast D.C. to present a total of six pieces.
For the artists, their careers have taken a variety of turns but serendipitously the two had a chance meeting on a dance floor at a Columbia Heights house party. When Kosoko received word of the opportunity to perform at Dance Place one year ago - he reached out to Bass to co-create the show and thus began the presentation and exploration of Double Consciousness.
Bass is a writer, performer and director, voted “Best Performance Artist” in 2012 by the Washington City Paper. Her long list of artistic credits are not limited to but include curating the NYC Hip Hop Theater Festival for three years. She is also one of twenty artists nationwide to receive the Future Aesthetics grant from the Ford Foundation. Similarly, Kosoko, a poet, choreographer and performance artist is a 2012 Philadelphia Live Arts Fellow and Co-Director of Anonymous Bodies - a performance company based out of Philadelphia.
Double Consciousness is loud, proud and will certainly wake you up. The artists engage with the audience in the pre-show, reading out loud excerpts while standing in the aisle from the writings of W.E.B. Dubois, and Booker T. Washington. Immediately, we get a feel for the intellectual vibe. There is a lot of content to sift through and it is only the beginning.
Bass and Kosoko rotate individual performances on stage with Bass first presenting Hard Work. Hard Work is a revived piece of Bass’s that takes us on an intergenerational journey through her family history. The movement is compelling and Bass lights up the stage with physical intention and the sounds of Nina Simone trialing in the background.
Bass’s two other new works in the compilation, Girls In White Dresses and Sweet Science offer an edgier taste that stick to your brain. The stark, haunting beauty of Girls In White Dresses will leave you speechless. The piece is a riff on “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music adjoined with a pulsating commentary on drug usage and mental illness. The imagery is fantastic and presents a lot of successful working pieces on stage from performance, to lighting and music. Bass’s Sweet Science is both a colorful and serious medley bridging Bass’s own memories of soul music and it’s icons with darker truths of the staggering number of suicides in this country.
Kosoko’s performance pieces -other.explicit.body and Songs to Make Your White Girl Cry (REDUX) present a very distinct performance personality on stage that will leave you asking questions. Kosoko appears in other.explicit.body.dressed in a full white ensemble with letters imprinted, attached to a ball and chain. An electric guitarist rages in the backdrop as Kosoko ignites his own hard metal metaphors on stage. It’s a heavy piece that created a lot of energy in the audience sparking questions in the talk back. In Songs to Make Your White Girl Cry (REDUX) we get more of Kosoko’s vibrancy as he appears on stage, again complete with ball and chain as well as head shots of white women taped to his body. He is also decked in a Rick James like sparkling, silver wig.
In the post-show talk back Kosoko called himself a “curator of content” and went on to illustrate that the performances are “an opportunity to give you an experience of me.” Though evident in the talk back it’s important to ask questions and stay connected to the artists given the heaviness of the material being presented.
Overall, the works of Bass and Kosoko are exciting, dark and at moments overwhelming in the way art should be. The lighting design by Ben Levine deserves a praise as it left a constant brilliant impression throughout all six performances. When will the artists join forces again? DC should stay informed.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with one intermission.
Double Consciousness played on August 4 and 5, 2012 at Dance Place - 3225 8th Street, NE, in Washington, DC. Check Dance Place’s calendar of upcoming events.
Watch highlights on Kickstarter.
Holly Bass’ website.
Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s website.