Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s The Trace of an Implied Presence meditates on the living history and influence of contemporary Black dance in the United States. The exhibition centers on a multichannel video installation inspired by the artist’s research into the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 1983 landmark festival, Dance Black America, a dynamic presentation of American dance that featured legendary Black dancers, choreographers, scholars, and dance companies. In The Shed’s Level 2 Gallery, the installation features four individual dance floors that function as stages for projected images of archival dance footage, film portraits of key figures involved with the festival, and the artist’s own documentation of the Philly Bop, a Black social dance from her native Philadelphia.
Approaching her research in BAM’s Hamm Archives as a conversation with the materials she discovered and those who have come before her, McClodden began a dialogue with Mikki Shepard, the lead curator who programmed and produced the festival and appears in one of the film portraits. Along with Patricia Kerr Ross, Shepard organized the weekend celebration of 300 years of African American dance with performances, workshops, and panels, all centering Blackness and the African diaspora. The multichannel video installation in The Trace of an Implied Presence showcases living elders of these dance communities as well as those who have passed, preserving their legacies for the future.
The gallery is demarcated by four illuminated square dance floors, each composed of distinctive materials that respond to the specific needs of different forms of dance. Hovering above each floor is a screen with a projected film portrait of the singular figures or groups McClodden highlights, including Shepard, scholar and tap dancer Michael J Love, dancer and choreographer Leslie Cuyjet, the Rod Rodgers Dance Company. and dancers Audrey & June, a couple upholding the legacy of the Philly Bop.
Continuing her ongoing work of exploring ideas belonging to the African diaspora across multiple disciplines and approaches, The Trace of an Implied Presence weaves together film, performance, sculpture, and sound in a single space. The work amplifies the powerful presence of movement and dance history as a thriving, living record that persists beyond the archive onto the stage and into the street.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a free publication featuring newly commissioned texts by writers selected by McClodden: poet and dancer Harmony Holiday and scholars Jasmine E. Johnson and Samantha N. Sheppard, who together examine the history of Black dance and the nuance of physical and movement-based awareness on the dancer’s body as a living record.
The exhibition will include three special, in-gallery performances with details to be announced.
The exhibition is organized by Tiona Nekkia McClodden, and co-produced by The Shed in partnership with Nike.