Production Details / Press Releases
Yeye pays homage to Yemayá, the goddess of the sea and motherhood in the Yoruba pantheon. In her latest performance work, created for the camera and now adapted to stage, choreographer and performer Lois Alexander explores the afterlife of slavery and the reverberations on our present.
In the novel Beloved, writer Toni Morrison, opens up reflections on love, trauma and memory when a mother is driven to commit the most unspeakable act. Influenced by Morrison’s writing style and drawing on her research into representations of Black mothers in mythology and religion, Lois creates her own language of blending personal narrative, historicity and spirituality. Looking specifically at icons such as the Black Madonna, Lois investigates the processes of syncretization, the blending of different religious views, and unveils their implications. Multi-layered tensions become palpable through the touching of, sensing with, and remembering through different materials, such as textile and sound.
Yeye incorporates these senses into an embodied patchwork to ways of attending to healing, and uses performance to practice strategies of refusal and resistance.Yeye is a deep reckoning of a modern era that is entangled with colonial histories, mothers and the ocean. What are the temporalities of a racialized body, one that is marked by visible and invisible wounds? What can be healing? Yeye explores memory, traces and notions of a motherland, moving through different levels of video, text and performance.
YEYE | MONOLOGUE
Despite all impossibility, you are here.
We must travel through a cloudy veil to arrive at a human object. Whiteness is in the way of seeing. We can barely hold on to what’s being approached. I think about what it means to soften an image, as in its memory, as in its future memory. The filter covers our pupils and acts as a kind of cataract even as our black circular openings open to the light. Vision is blurred and all statements are projections, guesses, educated and not.
The more one looks, the more the eyes attempt to focus, to lock down a narrative. It’s a strain to formulate a declarative sentence.
But now a woman appears as if an apparition took hold. There is a black woman at the center of things who lives amidst the whiteness.
My favorite childhood memory has to do with the ocean.
I am between the ages of 8 and 16 years old and on any given weekend, together with my family and friends, we are going to the beach. We have to drive through a winding road through the forest to get to get there. And once we cross the Santa Cruz mountains, we are confronted with the most beautiful California coastline. I remember feeling like the world was my oyster because I could do anything – watch seals, have a picnic, or start a bonfire.
But probably my favorite activity was to go to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. On first glance, the boardwalk looks like your average amusement park overlooking the ocean, but actually it’s so much more than that, it’s a true California institution. A historical landmark. Built in 1907, It’s home to the original Giant Dipper, a rollercoaster made entirely out of wood. It’s not the most exciting ride, but it certainly is a classic. Think of it like… a warm up. Other than that, there are carousels and ferris wheels and fun houses. A pirate ship that takes swings you back and forth on a pendulum.
But probably my favorite ride was one called the Gravitron. And the Gravitron is shaped like a UFO with a sign above it in neon lights that says STARSHIP 2000. About 15 people can fit inside, the walls are sort of slanted like this and we are all standing in a circle and looking at each other with a mix of anticipation and excitement. Once the ride starts, the UFO starts spinning. Faster and faster until the centrifugal force slams us all against the wall. I just remember skin of my face being pulled in different directions. Saliva was everywhere. There was a compression in my chest and I couldn’t lift a single limb against the weight of the force. But it was always fun to try… it was also fun to surrender and completely let go.
Looking back, I think I liked this ride so much because I got to decide when to be out of control. I mean, I woke up that morning and decided to go to the boardwalk and get on the Gravitron where I knew my center would be shot from my body and shaken around like crazy until it was unrecognizable… And after a total of about, maybe, 5 minutes, my center would return back underneath me and everything would go back to normal and I could exercise free choice and will and I did exactly that by drinking lemonade and going on more rides and generally having a good time.
Until it was the end of the day and it was time to go home and that was always the saddest part. I mean think about all of those chemicals leaving a child’s body at one time. The adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine. My first experience with depression. And to make matters worse, we had to drive through the forest to get home. The only difference between the beginning of the day and the end of the day was light. It was pitch black, and there was forest all around us. I couldn’t relax until I saw the bright lights of Highway 101 again, and then I knew I would be okay. And before I knew it, we were home, I was exhausted. And even though, I was a child I still felt sense of relief you get when you come home after a long day of work. And this moment… I know this moment very well. I am alone in my room, it is night time. My pajamas are on and I have just brushed my teeth. I am climbing into bed, I am fixing my pillow exactly how I like it and just as my head is about to hit, I am smiling from the inside because I have this feeling, somehow, I just know… that I am about to fall into the deepest…. and most peaceful…. sleep… of my life…
LOIS ALEXANDER is a choreographer and dancer living and working in Berlin. She graduated from The Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance in 2014 and worked in traditional German state theater before creating her own work in the independent free theater scene in Amsterdam and Berlin. Her first solo choreography Neptune has toured Europe through the Aerowaves Network. Lois is inspired by what Tina Campt describes as “textured identities” and uses the embodied nature of dance and performance to articulate an in-between, migratory state from black feminist perspectives.
[Source: play bill]
TFB Nr. 1699
Cast & Credits
CONCEPT, CHOREOGRAPHY, PERFORMANCE: Lois Alexander
SOUND: Sea Novaa
STAGE DESIGN, LIGHT DESIGN: Nina Kay
COSTUME DESIGN: Sarah Seini
DRAMATURGY, VIDEO EDIT: Jasco Viefhues
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Diara Sow, Kimani Schumann
PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT: Nick Germeys
PRODUCTION ASSISTANCE: Ben Mohai
SOUND, VIDEO: Julia Cremers
TEXTS BY: Claudia Rankine, M NourbeSe Philip, Toni Morrison and Lois Alexander
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Marisa Godoy, Christoph Winkler, Mateusz Szymanówka, the Sophiensæle-Team
A production by Lois Alexander in co-production with SOPHIENSÆLE.
Funded by the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.
The video documentation is produced on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Europe. The purpose of this contract is to document productions in the field of contemporary dance in Berlin. The master recordings are archived by the University Library of the Berlin University of Arts. Copies of the recordings on DVD are available for viewing exclusively in the reference collections of the following archives (at media desks in these institutions):