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Against Isolation: Pandemic Connections through the Arts

Mon Mar 15, 2021 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

View the event recording and more on our Berkeley Arts + Design YouTube channel


The 2020 pandemic scattered us into disconnected spaces, interrupting our physical interactions along with our art-making. Responding to these times, performance makers Erika Chong Shuch and Amara Tabor-Smith have each created intimate connections within their communities of artistic practice, among isolated elders and individuals. Join us as we take the temperature of these artists, looking both at the immediate present, and imagining our future history, together. Introduction by Susan Moffat, Creative Director of Future Histories Lab, with moderation by Miyuki Baker, PhD Candidate.

Presented by the Future Histories Lab, a project of UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative, and UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies.

Erika Chong Shuch is a performance maker, choreographer and director whose topic-driven ruminations coalesce into imagistic assemblages of music, movement, text, and design. Interested in expanding ideas around how performance is created and shared, Erika’s work has been performed in city halls, theaters, industrial offices spaces, diners, parking lots and food courts. Moving between theater, experimental performance and social practice, Erika’s projects bring together interdisciplinary communities in the spirit of creative research. Erika’s most recent body of work is presented through For You, a performance making collective that Erika founded in 2016 which brings strangers together for intimate encounters and considers performance making as gift giving.  As a response to worldwide shelter-in-place ordinances due to COVID-19, and with awareness that many elders are at risk in terms of infection and the compounding hardships of isolation, For You launched Artists & Elders, a project that brings artists and elders together for shared creative exchange.  Artists & Elders is being supported in part by commissions from Court Theatre and Experimental Performance Initiative (University of Chicago) and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As a choreographer and director for theater, Erika is a full member of the Choreographer and Stage Directors Union and  has worked for theaters across the country.

Amara Tabor-Smith (She/her/They/we) is an Oakland, CA based choreographer/performance maker and the artistic director of Deep Waters Dance Theater. She describes her work as Conjure Art. She makes interdisciplinary site-specific and community responsive performance works utilizing Yoruba Lukumí spiritual technologies to address issues of social and environmental justice, race, gender identity, and belonging. Amara creates ritual experiences where audience and performers converge in mutual vulnerability and transformation. Our work is rooted in black, queer, womanist principles, that insist on liberation, joy and well-being. In addition to their own work which has been presented locally, nationally and internationally, Amara has performed in the works of Ed Mock, Joanna Haigood, Ana Deveare Smith, Ronald K. Brown, Julie Tolentino, Adia Tamar Whitaker, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Faustin Linyekula, and is the former associate artistic director and company member with Urban Bush Women. She is a 2020 recipient of the Hewlett 50 grant with East Side Arts Alliance; a 2019 Dance/USA Fellow, 2018 United States Artist Fellow and a 2018 recipient of KQED’s “Bay Brilliant” award. Her current work, House/Full of Blackwomen in collaboration with director Ellen Sebastian Chang  is a site-specific ritual performance project addressing the displacement, well-being and sex trafficking of black women and girls in Oakland. Amara was formerly a dance lecturer in TDPS and is currently an artist in residence at Stanford University.

Miyuki Baker is a queer Zainchi artist, zinester + scholar finishing their PhD in performance studies at UC Berkeley. They’re currently writing their dissertation on histories of mutual aid in East Oakland, specifically around how people with race, class and education privilege can start practicing Community Reparations for our collective liberation. Miyuki also co-convenes the Church of Black Feminist Thought with Ra Malika Imhotep, an embodied spiritual-political education project. They recently published the Black Feminist Study Theory Atlas, in which they use words and images to celebrate the offerings of 12 Black feminist thinkers (including Amara Tabor-Smith!).