No Place – A Ritual of the Empathics

A Ritual of the Empathics is a part of Saya Woolfalk’s fantasy world of No Place and represents the dance portion of that world.  Performed at the University of Buffalo Art Gallery in 2009, A Ritual of the Empathics represents a kind of slippage between the language that codifies daily life and the inability to entirely capture the subject.  It is a kind of in-between moment, out of utopia, peopled by characters including the Empathics, Pleasure Machines, and Cleaners. This particular performance involves the discovery by a group of women, called the Empathics who uncover a ritual and a dance. Through this ritual and dance they believe they can conjure No Place, or utopia, into the present. With this project Woolfalk intended to harken back to the Bauhaus, where previous performances of No Place had referred back to surrealism.[1]

Originally, Woolfalk intended the audience to intervene into the logic of the performance. This evolved into a series of T-shirt making workshops, which were performed at the University of Buffalo in April 2009. By the time she presented the performance at the Studio Museum in Harlem in November 2009 she had edited out this component. She hopes to revisit the idea of audience participation in future permutations of the performance. These audience members would either be Empathics or future Empathics.

(All information, except when noted, from Saya Woolfalk)


[1] http://artfulgreendot.com/2009/09/29/discussing-political-art-with-saya-woolfalk/. Audrey Tran, September 29, 2009.

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