Notes from the process : [and then we must be]

Audrey Johnson (she/her) is a queer Black mixed-race movement artist with roots from Detroit and Plymouth Michigan, currently rooting in Oakland, CA. She’s one of CounterPuse’s 2022 ARC Edge artists and will debut [and then we must be] alongside Nkeiruka Oruche and Gbedu Town Radio’s ‘Mixtape of the Dead & Gone #1’- Ahamefula Thursday through Saturday, June 2-4 & 9-11, 2022.

Tickets for ARCE are available now! 

Inspired by ancestral, community-centered, and spiritual relationships to land and plants, [and then we must be] by Audrey Johnson is a research and ritual project honoring Black American practices with land and plants through the modes of food, farming, rootwork, and magic. The work honors the practices that get passed down through recipe, spell, and story, as well as the memories active and activated in the body, plants, the land (soil, clay, mycelium, strata), and in spirit. The dancing is a movement offering, ritual, and prayer: in communion with spirit, plants, and land. [and then we must be] is the process of meeting and being met by plants and land, and of allowing oneself to be changed.

The process for this work has been and is a practice of listening, adapting, healing, longing and belonging, witnessing, building, accepting, surrendering. Here I include a small selection of snippets: bibliographic references and connective links, essences of process, research and rememberings. 

~ Audrey

1.

Soundscore within the process (in process)

2.

Studying the wind as a medium of knowing: communication, divine, Oya

I have been reading fahima ife’s maroon choreography in study and embodiment. The text’s poems seem like movement scores or at least they move me – 

“when no one runs the trees { at night they

dance } move in quiet

as spirit” ife 45

The above guides our warm up – how we move in synchronicity and partnership with the breath of the trees, linking our breath to prepare for the call of working with them. Or how we listen. The prayer is breathing. The practice is breathing.

View of faraway mountains under a blue sky peppered with little clouds. In the foreground are trees and leaves and a hand reaching out.
Photo Credit: Audrey Johnson. Pictured: Bay Laurel O’Connor

3.

Studying Roots:

We spend one afternoon listening, learning, and embodying High John de Conqueror Root

A series of botanical drawings of the High John de Conqueror Root, showing the range form bulb to flower. The image is in color and the flower is a bright pink
photo credit: Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

Source materials and teachers this day:

@itsjujubae via Ep. 12 of A Little Juju Podcast

Zora Neale Hurston’s High John de Conquer –

“First off he was a whisper, a will to hope, a wish to find something worthy of laughter and song. Then the whisper put on flesh”

“He walked on the winds and moved fast”

Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing

This text, at this point an ancestral manual for me, introduces the root, its uses, and properties to us.

4.

In practice:

Generally, my research practice is happening in most spaces of my life. Especially at work, where I am blessed to steward land that is home to many many trees. Communication with the plants is the work ! One day I listen to this podcast and meditate on dreaming deep with plants:

Ep. 8 Dreaming with Plants as Master Teachers on Ancestral Dreams, Omens, and Prophecies Podcast

5. 

Questions in process:

How do we prepare to be met by plants? by our destiny? by our work? how do we prepare to be broken open and then make it through to the other side intact?

Some offerings:

Reaching from the earth and to the sky. 

There is a quiet beginning. a quiet spiraling. 

Getting ready to know the behind space. Where the spiral gets remembered. Prayer. Praise. 

The practice is changing. Becoming a known dance. Tossing behind. The eyes need not only see but they are seeing something else. Moving like a sword to be shaped and sculpted. The dance is returning like memory.

6. 

Making the dance that is able to be made: breaking open

This time the dance is about readying. The movement must be about the precise alignment of spirit that must happen between the body so as not to get lost. you have to get down and low and stay light and easy. gathering all of my pieces to make it through intact.

This year’s ARC Edge Performances will be ​​Thursday – Saturday June 2-4 & 9-11, 2022. Tickets are available at counterpulse.org/edge2022

Header photo by Audrey Johnson.

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