Curator’s Picks: How artists respond to colonialism

Curator’s Picks: How artists respond to colonialism
Photo of Link Wray from Independent Lens: "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World."

This November, I’m interested in how artists respond to colonialism. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s a fruitful time to reflect on the various legacies of occupation in America and around the world. The artists we feature this month explore issues of inequality, cross-cultural exchange and the complications and cruelties of imperialism.


Image from "Planites."
Image from “Planites.”

The dance piece “Planites” by Greek choreographer Patricia Apergi is a reaction to the Syrian War and the ensuing refugee crisis. The metaphor of moving planets describes the transitory immigration experience. In frantic, sometimes folkloric phrases, Apergi imagines the fear, vulnerability and determination of these travelers, and she choreographs their desperate attempts to free themselves from physical limitations. Her company does movement research in absorbing other cultures’ physical and musical codes, which she says reflect the collective mind and body of urban life, describing it as “the place of wandering, searching for the best tomorrow, blending in, the stranger.”

[“Planites” premieres on broadcast Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. and streams until Dec. 3.]


Independent Lens: “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World”

Buffy Sainte-Marie in Independent Lens: "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World."
Buffy Sainte-Marie in Independent Lens: “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World.”

This documentary explores the erased influence of Native Americans on blues, jazz and rock music through interviews and historical documents, including vintage records. It reflects a history of connections between certain Native American and African American communities in the early 20th century, as these distinctly American art forms were being created. When the music started gaining traction in a predominantly white industry, much of its history was lost. Artists from across the musical spectrum discuss the contributions of Native Americans, including Robbie Robertson, Taj Mahal, Slash, Jackson Browne, Taboo, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler and more.

[“Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” premieres on broadcast Nov. 4 at 8:30 p.m. with repeats on broadcast throughout the week.]


“Les Indes Galantes”

Image from "Les Indes Galantes."
Image from “Les Indes Galantes.”

Translated as “The Amorous Indies,” French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau wrote the opera-ballet “Les Indes Galantes” after his 1725 encounter with Michigamea chiefs, who traveled from Illinois to Paris in order to pledge allegiance to the French crown and performed three kinds of dances upon arrival. The story, which shows four different romantic vignettes from Turkey, Peru, Iran and North America, appealed to the orientalist French tastes and perpetuated stereotypes by portraying the characters as exotic and “other.” In this 2016 production, Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui highlights the militarism required by colonialism and explores current complexities around multiculturalism, especially with migration to the European Union. Cherkaoui seamlessly integrates contemporary dance with movement traditionally found in opera, bringing the old-school style of opera-ballet into the 21st century.

[“Les Indes Galantes” premieres on broadcast Nov. 10 at 7:59 p.m. and streams until Dec.10.]

Top Image: Photo of Link Wray from Independent Lens: "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World."