My Vessel is Healthy and I Request Free Practique
In 2019, My Vessel Is Healthy And I Request Free Practique was presented at the Deering Estate in South Florida as part of a temporary site-specific sculpture exhibition curated by artist-in-residence, Ryan Roa. A large yellow handcrafted tapestry was draped between two palms along a well manicured tree-lined jetty.
My Vessel Is Healthy And I Request Free Practique Ripstop nylon and dive mesh tapestry | 20 ft x 20 ft
Surrounded by water, the piece references the Q Flag, an international maritime symbol representing a request for free passage. The plain yellow flag, perhaps derives its letter symbol from its initial use to signify a quarantined ship, but this flag in modern times indicates the opposite—a ship that declares itself free of disease, and requests "free practique."
On Saturday, April 13, 2019 at sunset, the site of the sculpture was activated by The Hidden Life of Trees, a special performance choreographed by Catherine Hollingsworth, and performed with 3 other members of NSL Danse Ensemble, a Haitian folkloric dance company based in Miami, FL.
This durational piece began as a procession, pausing at the site of the sculpture. The dancers were led by a young boy playing a steady and quick rhythm on the snare drum. They proceeded slowly, their bodies recalling the shapes of trees as they sway together, connected at their roots, moved by the wind.
The Hidden Life of Trees
Trees Live in Slow Time
Our Hands = Leaves Catching Sunlight
Our Feet = Tree Communication via Roots
Our Entrance = Coming onto New Land and Taking Root
Feeling The Ground With Your Roots = Learning About Where You Are Planted
We Are Different = Competition For Light
We Stand Together = Friendships and Mutual Support
We Stand Together But We Each Move Differently = Trees in the Wind
Our Exit = Drifting Off on the Wind
Performers: Sharlia Lebreton-Gulley, Paulyetta Freeman, Oldine Pierre Louis, Catherine Hollingsworth
So Few and Such Morning Songs 9-min video (above 2 minute clip)
At sunrise on June 9, 2019, the performance resumed for the camera. Choreographed by Catherine Hollingsworth with Sharlia Lebreton-Gulley, Oldine Pierre Louis and Casseus “Tonton” Laguerre, a new action took place for the production of So Few and Such Morning Songs a 9-minute video piece.The title quotes a famous passage from the poem Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas, a choice inspired by the South Florida artist, Eleanora Strassel Chambers.
The dance is a creative interpretation of Konbit which has several meanings in Haitian Kreyol. Sometimes it is used as a verb, and means “to put your hands together.” Other times, it is a noun, meaning, “communal or cooperative labor.” It is related to the essential roles music and dance play in cooperative farming. The essence of Konbit is community and equality.
The narrative suggests a slippage of time, and as their bodies travel across the screen, the dancers are led by an older man who plays a bell - his rhythms are more in sync with the air, the dancers and the morning stillness. A double meaning reveals itself in relation to Thomas' poem.
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh, as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.
Felecia Chizuko Carlisle explores a wide range of media, including sculpture, performance and video. Her video So Few and Such Morning Songs promises to stun viewers with an exceptionally poignant and moving experience. It was filmed at dawn at the Deering Estate and revisits a sunset performance given at Deering, with drumming and dancers familiar with folkloric Haitian dance traditions, the artist explains.
“For me, the piece is about life and death and the passing of time,” Carlisle says. The title refers to a line in the poem “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas. “It’s very specifically about getting old and dying,” Carlisle says. “Hopefully, that charges the whole work, the narrative that is generated.”
So Few and Such Morning Songs was presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami as part of the 2019 South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship exhibition. The video footage was shot by ILLUMIRET Creative Film Company, edited by the artist and produced by Emerson Dorsch.
Altogether, this body of work weaves its own timeless narrative. Mournfulness is subsumed by the sense that time and place are immeasurable - there is no perceived edge or ending to either. The viewer is both a witness and a subject - all are simply 'passing through.' Mixed throughout this complicated set of juxtapositions, historical references and performative actions are layers of political and social discourse - at once it is a feminist call for free practice and a poetic conflation of present, past and future.
In celebration and conclusion of the series, NSL Danse Ensemble performed the traditional Konbit dance at MOCA North Miami on October 4, 2019 as part of MOVEMENT at MOCA.