Vocalist-composer and writer Somi Kakoma, forges new ground with an experimental short film about the spiritual consequence of the global pandemic on creative practice. COVID-19 hit while Somi was on the road, so instead of returning to her residence in New York City, she decided to head to Illinois to shelter in place with her mother in the Midwestern town where she grew up. That town is also home to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and its Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Like most people, Somi’s professional life and plans were dramatically interrupted by the pandemic and she found herself reflecting on the deep sense of personal vacancy she was feeling in the absence of live performance.
In exploring this theme, commissioners from Krannert Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center (New York, NY), and ArtsEmerson (Boston, MA ), have joined forces to support the creation of in the absence of things. Partially narrated by Somi’s mother, this meditative film registers what Somi calls “the emotional vibration and undemocratic fragility of cultural space and the living stage.” The piece also aims to frame the disruption of otherwise quieted cultural spaces as a larger metaphor for the work most American arts institutions still need to do in service of Black storytelling.
Over the course of an intensive three-day workshop in Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ renowned Foellinger Great Hall in the fall of 2020, Somi and her collaborators, carefully adhering to all established Covid health and safety protocols, wrote and filmed an experimental piece that blends spoken word, art song, and movement with deconstructed concert recordings from Somi’s new live album, Holy Room—Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band.
Together, Krannert Center, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and ArtsEmerson will present a free, virtual, first look at in the absence of things on Tuesday, December 1, at 7pm CT/8pm ET. Following the exclusive screening, Somi and the director of the film, Mariona Lloreta, will be joined by Obie Award-winning Artistic Director of New York City’s National Black Theatre (NBT), Jonathan McCrory, for a live conversation about the meaning of the film, the collaborators’ creative process, and the role of Black artists during and beyond COVID-19. This event is also presented in partnership with NBT and Salon Africana.
Film Screening and Conversation Details
Somi: in the absence of things
Tuesday, December 1, at 7pm CT/8pm ET
Closed captioning will be available for this performance.
This performance and conversation will last approximately one hour.
The performance and conversation will be available for viewing from Tuesday, December 1 at 7pm through Tuesday, December 8 at 4pm.
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801