ART’s Moving Through History project aims to break down barriers – Harvard Gazette



What if we associated colonial landmarks like the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House not only with the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, but also with the words of Pontiac, the indigenous war chief from the 18th resistance against the British? What if we could erase the boundaries of our city and instead see it as part of Turtle Island, as some indigenous people call the earth? In a similar way, what if we could deny the boundaries of self, gender, and even the separation between performer and audience for a while?

These are the goals of “Moving Through History”, an immersive installation taking place on Wednesday and Thursday as part of the Creating Equal initiative, an artist collective discussing topics from the American Repertory Theater’s upcoming production of “1776”. The event presented by ART was originally designed as a participatory tour of well-known locations in Boston, where alternative stories are presented through movement and text. With temperatures for the 90s and only interrupted by thunderstorms, the entire event will now take place on both days from 5:00 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. in the air-conditioned and wheelchair-accessible Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St., Boston.

“What does it mean to live in a limitless world, in which nature and animals come to life and rise in our minds?” Said Brisa Areli Muñoz when describing the core question of the project that she created with Micah Rosegrant.

“The journey begins as a recontextualization, from revisiting our past to understanding our future and the cyclical nature of history,” said Muñoz. It starts where the tour should begin, in the Meeting House’s Revolutionary Spaces gallery, which is currently showing “Imagining the Age of Phillis,” a series of short films depicting the lives and times of personalities such as the poet Phillis Wheatley Peters, who became the first African American woman to publish a book about her work in 1773.

For an Native American perspective, attendees will see Turtle Island depiction by indigenous artist Elizabeth James-Perry. Then Erin Genia will recite Pontiac’s 1763 “Master of Life” speech. “Indians and indigenous peoples have not been adequately portrayed throughout our history,” said Genia, a member of Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate / Odawa. “Pontiac worked with various spiritual leaders from different tribes. In this speech he appeals to the spiritual side of the struggle. He tells the story of the ‘Master of Life’ to get the troops to return to traditional ways and reject colonial ways and drive out the settlers. “

Although the multidisciplinary event is now rooted in one place, it will nonetheless involve movement, led by Rosegrant, who is costumed in an extravagant, flowing winged costume. “We’re going to transform into that moment when we invite people to embody this bird with me,” said Rosegrant. “A whole community of people moving in together.” The event, which was supposed to end on Boston Common, involves attendees using the items collected and received to build a nest that symbolically contains and nourishes new, inclusive ideas.

With its themes of a boundless world and a participatory community, the immersive event bridges the end of Pride month and the July 4th holiday weekend, while also reminding us of our collective emergence from the pandemic and the long overdue recognition of indigenous cultures prior to Boston’s colonial history. That’s a lot for a 75-minute event, but as the organizers said, it’s a starting point – a way to start an ongoing discussion.

The result, according to Muñoz, is “a new way of thinking about history”.

“Much of this journey also asks us what this freedom or what liberation looks like,” said Rosegrant. “Art can be guided by our collective practice of a common future.”


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