Hey, y’all!…we’re now in the final 3 weeks before the world premiere of our 2014 High Concept Labs Sponsored Project, Juke Cry Hand Clap (which is also a Featured Program of Chicago Artists Month 2014)! Over the next 3 weeks–in reflection/commemoration of the 10-month JCHC production process at High Concept Labs–HPP’s Sticky Notes blog will feature a series of posts from each of the primary JCHC collaborators. To kick off the series is today’s post from our resident cultural historian, Micah Salkind. Below, Micah observes of the archiving of house by mainstream media juxtaposed against the JCHC creative process and shares why he’s down with HPP!…
I’m struck with deja vu as I scroll through the Wall Street Journal’s blog post on “the next big trend in electronic music.” Let there be (deep) house! Like EDM and electronica before it, the re-newing of music developed by queer, Black and brown communities in Detroit, Chicago, and New York City as though it was, yet again, emerging sui generis from the bedrooms of straight, white, middle-class Londoners, Swedes and Los Angelenos strikes me, and many of my artistic and scholarly collaborators, as a type of casual cultural violence so familiar it has become almost banal. Pat Boone, Elvis, Iggy; change the names and the sounds, but the refrain is still the same.
There are many of us who care deeply about the importance of sharing space on the dance floor, for that is where house and its many derivative styles and offshoots have helped us find ourselves, and each other. I’m tired of wringing my hands over cultural appropriation stuck on repeat; if journalists and artists wanted to know a bit about “deep house,” in particular they wouldn’t have to look much further than google: on the first page, just a couple entries down, is the deephousepage, the web’s expansive, obsessive community of house music enthusiasts who consistently debate, archive and enshrine the history of house music.
I know it isn’t that journalists can’t find out, or don’t know; they are just playing their part in a fragmenting and forgetful mass culture industry. By continually turning over and re-newing dated product, necessarily covering over legacies, connections, and vibrant creative communities, the industry can better sell old sounds to new audiences. So how do the communities that have lived, and continue to live, the roots of house music, that became its primary audiences in roller rinks, teen juice bars, taverns, and legally dubious loft spaces, address the constant cultural violence that erases them and their histories?
Rather than address the oversights of contemporary artists, labels and audiences, the ladies of Honey Pot Performance celebrate their own multifaceted subjectivities, highlighting their real experiences and house worlds in an ever-expanding community of likeminded archivists brought together to map house, and the many Chicago social cultures that precipitated it. After months of honing geographic, sonic and movement material together with the help and input of countless curious co-investigators, Honey Pot Performance is mounting Juke Cry Hand Clap to share its long-simmering meditations on house music’s birth and renaissance in Black Chicago.
I have worked closely with Honey Pot Performance as the collective’s scholar in residence since January, 2014, but I became interested in its work in 2009 when I designed sound for artistic director Meida McNeal while she was a postdoctoral fellow at Brown. Meida has become a close friend, an invaluable intellectual mentor, and a critical connector in Chicago’s house scene. Today I have cultivated individual relationships with each of the Honey Pot dancers and the collective’s collaborating DJ, Jo De Presser. I have danced with them, met with them over meals, and libations, watched them sweat during their weekly rehearsals, recorded their oral histories and helped them co-produce five of their monthly mapping workshops at MANA Contemporary, where they were artists in residence with High Concept Laboratories between January and April, 2014.
I am interested in Honey Pot because the collective’s artistic labor, performed both on stage and in various public spaces, reconfigures familiar house narratives, most of which trivialize or minimize the feminine and queer shadow labor that has allowed house music culture to flourish in Chicago and beyond. Women of color, in particular, have been present since the beginning of the house movement, not only as members of US Studios, the seminal proto-house social club, but also as dancers, artist managers, and promoters. Honey Pot’s scholarship and art illuminate this labor, connecting house explicitly to currents of entrepreneurial cultural development in Black Chicago that began flowing during the Great Black Migrations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Honey Pot shows audiences how to find pleasure in thinking through house music culture’s complexities, discontinuities, and unexpected textures. Its performance practice puts the stories of everyday house people at the center while allowing for open-endedness and polyvocality. I will continue to be a primary co-investigator and supporter of Honey Pot’s work because I believe not only that those of us who care about the music and its histories need to celebrate multiple narratives about house, but also because I am committed to developing artistic and scholarly work that begins with personal experience and values connection and collaboration over disassociation and hierarchies. I hope you will join me.
JUKE CRY HAND CLAP: A People’s History of House & Chicago Social Culture premieres October 3-12, 2014 at High Concept Labs (at Mana Contemporary); 2233 S. Throop, Main Lobby, Chicago, IL 60608
***JUKE CRY HAND CLAP tickets now available!…BUY HERE!***
Juke Cry Hand Clap is a production of Honey Pot Performance and is sponsored by High Concept Labs at Mana Contemporary, CAM 2014 and generous support from The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust.
For 99 years, The Chicago Community Trust, our region’s community foundation, has connected the generosity of donors with community needs by making grants to organizations working to improve metropolitan Chicago. In 2013, the Trust, together with its donors, granted more than $161 million to nonprofit organizations. From strengthening schools to assisting local arts programs, from building health centers to protecting the safety net for those hardest hit by the recession, the Trust continues to enhance our region. To learn more, please visit the Trust online at www.cct.org.
This program is made possible in part by a grant from the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly.
CAM is presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in collaboration with the Chicago Park District and numerous community partners.