Photo credit: Matthew Noel-Tod, stills from performance of Shadowing Josephine, Outpost, Norwich 2016
Rainbow Tribe drawings, Jade Montserrat, 2016
On Dec 16 Shadowing Josephine will be performed at Panoply Lab in New York especially. Although I’m working to develop the performance next year to show a transformative Black body, transcending the exhaustion that I currently depict, this could be the moment with which to clarify this change of gear, in New York, from where Josephine Baker took steps to become the greatest Black celebrity of the time through her emigration to Europe, using her body as a tool to assist a re-imagining of the Black body, secure freedoms for marginalised peoples and become the civil rights activist that encouraged Coretta Scott King to invite her to lead the Movement after the assassination of MLK.
“Montserrat’s precision and enthusiasm disintegrate slowly; as they do, consent becomes less apparent, it becomes unclear if this exposure is an act of willing participation or a coercion, and hegemony (in its racists and sexists forms) rears its head. The second road into Shadowing Josephine unlocks the reference to Josephine Baker, the dancer, actress and civil rights activist who refused to perform for segregated audiences and worked with the French resistance; the first black woman to star in a feature film who, once her fame subsided, found herself bankrupt and forgotten. This reference spotting is not a request piled on to the audience, as much as bonus material that adds layers of history and aspects of personal hero-trailing to the already poignantly ambiguous set-up of the piece. Shadowing Josephine is a subtle, toying proposition, built around carefully considered references.” Bojana Jankovik, Exeunt Magazine, 2015