Jaamil Olawale Kosoko to Explore Loss, Paranormal Activity and More in SEANCERS at Abrons Arts Center

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko to Explore Loss, Paranormal Activity and More in SEANCERS at Abrons Arts Center

What does it mean to defend the dead? To tend to the Black dead and dying: to tend to the Black person, to Black people, always living in the push toward our death? - Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

Abrons Arts Center will present the world premiere of Séancers, a new dance-based performance work by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko featuring performances by Kosoko, performance artist IMMA and a live sound score by Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste. Setting the fugitive experience afforded Black people on fire with majesty, opulence, and agency, Séancers combines lyrical poetry and psychic movement forms to investigate concepts of loss, resurrection, and paranormal activity.

Séancers builds on Kosoko's internationally acclaimed work #negrophobia, which has toured internationally following its premiere at Abrons Arts Center as part of American Realness. On #negrophobia, Siobhan Burke in The New York Times wrote, "Mr. Kosoko transformed the concrete space into a tumultuous shrine to dead black men," and Scottish newspaper The Herald described the work as, "gut wrenching and personal." Séancers marks Kosoko's first new work since being named a Princeton Arts Fellow, a prestigious two year, $160,000 award for early-career artists who have demonstrated both extraordinary promise and a record of achievement in their fields.

#negrophobia was Kosoko's deeply personal exploration of the violent murder of his younger brother. With Séancers, Kosoko takes this investigation of loss a step further by delving into ritualistic practices of resurrection and paranormal activity. Having experienced the recent deaths of his brother, grandfather, and father, Kosoko is trying to see this trilogy of loss as a kind of creative tool, a portal to other conceptual pathways for locating, performing, and experiencing Black performativity. Séancers is a vehicle where Kosoko hopes to connect not only to his deceased family, but also, to unknown dimensions of his own psyche and creative practice.

Interrogating issues related to American history, colonization, and terrorism, Séancers journeys into the surreal and fantastical states of the Black imagination as it travels the axis of abstraction, illegibility, and gender multiplicity. The work locates itself inside the spiritual, emotional, and theoretical world with the live performances of sound artist Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste and experimental performance artists IMMA and Kosoko, and a special guest artist-theorist who helps frame the witnessing of each performance. Theorists include musician M. Lamar (December 6), performance artist Autumn Knight (December 7), artist and cultural strategist Ebony Noelle Golden (December 8), and actress and choreographer Okwui Opokwasili (December 9).

The creative team for Séancers includes associate producer and projects manager Kimya Imani Jackson, lighting design by Serena Wong, set and costume design by Kosoko, set decor and construction by Devin N. Morris, dramaturgy by Emily Reilly, associate costume design and fabrication by Simone Duff, and video installation by Andrew Amorim.

Performances of Séancers will take place December 6-9 at 8pm at Abrons Arts Center, located at 466 Grant Street in Manhattan. Tickets, priced at $20, can be purchased by visiting abronsartscenter.org or by calling 212-352-3101.


Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, originally from Detroit, MI, is a Bessie Award nominated Nigerian-American curator, poet, and performance artist. He is a 2017 Princeton Arts Fellow, a 2017 Jerome Artists in Residence at Abrons Arts Center, a 2017 APAP Leadership Fellow, and a 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Fellow. He is a 2016 Gibney Dance boo-koo resident artist and a recipient of a 2017 and 2016 USArtists International Award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. His work has been presented throughout Europe and the United States. He has created original roles in the performance works of visual artist Nick Cave, Pig Iron Theatre Company, Keely Garfield Dance, Miguel Gutierrez and The Powerful People, Headlong Dance Theater, among others. Kosoko's poems, interviews, and essays can be found published in The American Poetry Review, Poems Against War, The Dunes Review, Silo, Detroit Research v2, Dance Journal (PHL), the Broad Street Review (PHL), Movement Research Performance Journal, and Critical Correspondence (NYC). He lectures, speaks, and performs internationally. His piece #negrophobia is currently touring throughout Europe having appeared in major festivals including Moving in November (Finland), TakeMeSomewhere (UK), SICK! (UK), Tanz im August (Berlin), Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival (Norway), Zurich MOVES! (Switzerland) with forthcoming dates in Belgium (Beursschouwburg) and Munich (Spielart Festival). Visit Jaamil.com or philadiction.org for more information.

Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste is a Bessie-nominated composer, designer and performer, living and working in Brooklyn, NY. A current Issue Project Room Artist-In-Residence, his work, through the lens of precarious labor, complicates notions of industry, identity, and environment and the implications of the intersections of such phenomena. He is a founding member of performance collective, Wildcat!, and frequently collaborates with performers and fine artists, including Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, André M. Zachery, and Yanira Castro/a canary torsi. He has presented at the Brooklyn Museum, Newark Museum, Under The Radar at The Public Theater, The Studio Museum In Harlem, National Sawdust, The Jam Handy (Detroit), Tanz Im August at Hau3 (Berlin), American Realness at Abrons, Knockdown Center, Gibney Dance, FringeArts (Philadelphia), Judson Church, Stoa Cultural Center (Helsinki), MIT, Arts East New York, JACK, Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia), University Settlement, Harlem Stage, as well as on Dazed Digital, Complex, and Boiler Room.

IMMA trained as a professional dancer with The Montgomery Ballet, The Ailey School and the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts prior to dancing 3 seasons with the Atlanta Ballet under the creative direction of John McFall. Imma received her BFA from Parsons/The New School for Design where she focused on performance. Shortly after graduation, she continued her education at Central Saint Martins where she completed her MA in Fine Arts. IMMA has performed internationally in various festivals such as American Realness, TakeMeSomewhere, SICK!, Tanz im August, Oslo Internasjonale Teaterfestival, LISTE Performance Project, Tanztage Berlin, Zurich MOVES!, and Late at Tate Britain. IMMA's last project was as Assistant Director for ROOMS; a collaboration between Vevue Cliquot and artist FKA twigs. Currently IMMA resides in New York City and works creatively with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko.

Emily Reilly is British/Irish performance maker working across a number of different disciplines. She has created live art events in the U.S. and internationally at a variety of venues and found spaces including (selected): The Project Arts Centre, Dublin; The Samuel Beckett Theatre, Dublin; The Tron Theatre, Glasgow; The Invisible Dog Art Center; The Baryshnikov Arts Center, and The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center in NYC. In 2011 her production of Minute After Midday was awarded a prestigious Fringe First Award at The Edinburgh Festival. She is part of the team that organizes and curates CATCH performance series. She is also an alumna of the Urban Bush Women's Summer Leadership Institute. M.F.A, The Yale School of Drama.

The Abrons Arts Center is the OBIE Award-winning performing and visual arts program of Henry Street Settlement. Abrons supports the creation and presentation of innovative, multi-disciplinary work; cultivates artists in all stages of their practice with educational programs, mentorships, residencies and commissions; and serves as an intersection of engagement for local, national and international audiences and arts-workers.

Each year the Abrons offers over 250 performances, 12 gallery exhibitions and 30 residencies for performing and studio artists, and 100 different classes in dance, music, theater, and visual art. The Abrons also provides New York City public schools with teaching artists, introducing more than 3,000 students to the arts. For more information: www.abronsartscenter.org.

Photo Credit: Amanda Jensen

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