Walker Art Center

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Press Releases Ralph Lemon World Premiere

“[Lemon is] a multimedia star of a new constellation.” —Huffington Post

MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 26, 2014—The Walker Art Center presents the world premiere of Scaffold Room, a new project by Ralph Lemon, September 16–28. Opening the 2014-2015 Performing Arts season. Made for the gallery, in collaboration with the Visual Arts Department, Scaffold Room is perhaps Lemon’s boldest experiment yet with the boundaries of form and presentation. Equal parts theater work and gallery installation, this Walker commission merges performance, visual art, music, and text. This “lecture-performance-musical” refracts ideas of contemporary performance through archetypal black female personae in American culture. Scaffold Room connects three women—Okwui Okpokwasili and April Matthis (performing live) and 86-year-old Edna Carter, along with her extended family (on video). The live performers enact parallel iconic characters that draw from history, popular culture, and science fiction with source materials ranging from Moms Mabley to Amy Winehouse, Kathy Acker to Samuel R. Delany, as they “act out” within and around assumptions about prescribed cultural body politics. The live performance installation is supported by an electronic/turntable-based sound score created and performed by composer Marina Rosenfeld. The space for Scaffold Room is a confined, constructed two-story environment, in essence its own theater, placed in the Walker’s white cube Burnet Gallery.

The public is invited to observe Scaffold Room’s installation and rehearsals during gallery hours September 16–24, followed by the opening on September 25 from 5-9PM a Target Free Thursday Night. Scaffold Room will continue in different formats Friday, September 26 through Sunday, September 28. These will include ticketed evening performances and events in the gallery space throughout each day.

Lemon, who began his career as a dancer and choreographer, is now seen as a critical figure exploring intersections between performing and contemporary art worlds. The artist has had eight increasingly interdisciplinary works—produced by MAPP International Productions—and supported by the Walker over the course of 17 years, and recent projects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and various other international museums.

“Since disbanding his touring dance company in 1995, Lemon has challenged the structures and systems, as well as the institutions, that support but too often confine performing art-making,” said Philip Bither, Senior Curator, Performing Arts. “In recent years, Lemon has been a leading edge American interrogator of both the contemporary dance and the visual art worlds, asking questions about performance, value (cultural and economic), modernity, heritage, spectatorship, memory, emotion, racial archetypes and interdisciplinarity. Creating situations which allow him to simultaneously sustain and destabilize his creative processes has led him to carve the space necessary for open experimentation with form and content in the public sphere. Through his many projects with us over the past 17 years, he has never failed to surprise and intrigue and, ultimately, make profound art. With Scaffold Room, he is taking some of the biggest chances of his artistic life, and we are energized to again be by his side.”

“Few artists deal in memory, loss and the uncontainable and viral nature of human identity with more integrity than Lemon,” added Bartholomew Ryan, Assistant Curator, Visual Arts. “How cultures mix and diverge, and how individuals negotiate this pressure and freedom through their own bodies and expression. He is also really resistant to the ways in which museums think they can absorb performance as if it were another object to be acquired and catalogued in the basement, which makes it lucky that the Walker is not a museum but an art center. Scaffold Room is Ralph raising a challenge to the contemporary art world and society that the Walker is uniquely set up to deliver. Here, with his collaborators, he is going to bring together this uneasy and complex piece, and I know it is going to be special.”

As a companion to the exhibition, Lemon and Jim Findlay’s sound and image installation Meditation will be on view in the William and Nadine McGuire Theater. Conceived as the final piece of his work cycle How Do You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere, this immersive experience freely associates themes from the entire series through high-definition projection, shadow and light, sound, atmosphere, and memory.

The Scaffold Room installation is designed by Ralph Lemon and R. Eric Stone, and engineered and fabricated by F. Randy deCelle. Collaborators include composer/turntablist Marina Rosenfeld, video designer Mike Taylor, lighting designer Roderick Murray, sound design consultant Philip White, dramaturg Katherine Profeta, and costume designer Naoko Nagata.

Open Rehearsals
September 16–24, during gallery hours
Tuesday–Sunday, 11 am–5 pm; Thursday, 11 am–9 pm
Free with gallery admission
Burnet Gallery

The public is invited to observe Scaffold Room during installation and rehearsals in the Burnet Gallery. Note: May contain adult subject matter and explicit language.

Ralph Lemon
Scaffold Room
September 26–28, 2014
Walker Commission
Friday, 7:30 and 9:30 pm; Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday 7 pm
Burnet Gallery

Tickets: $25 ($22 Walker members) available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600. Note: Performance contains adult subject matter.

Scaffold Room Refraction
September 25, 27 & 28
Thursday, 5–9 pm, Free
Saturday and Sunday 1-5 pm
Burnet Gallery

For his first major gallery-based performance work, Ralph Lemon has created distinct versions of his “lecture-performance-musical” Scaffold Room, which invite a deeper examination of the performance experience. On Thursday night, he presents Scaffold Room Refraction, an unpredictable and durational mix of live music and charged parallel performances layered across the entire evening and on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Featuring Scaffold Room artists Okwui Okpokwasili, April Matthis, and DJ/composer Marina Rosenfeld. Cash bar available on Thursday evening.

Scaffold Room SpeakEasy
Thursday, September 25, Free
Target and Friedman Galleries, 7–9 pm

Have a question about Scaffold Room? Join this informal audience discussion hosted by guest artist-facilitators Jessica Fiala, Caroline Kent, and Marcus Young to learn more.


Ralph Lemon and Jim Findlay
September 24–28
Free with gallery admission
William and Nadine McGuire Theater

Installed as a companion piece to Scaffold Room, the immersive sound and video experience from Ralph Lemon and Jim Findlay freely associates themes of love, loss, and redemption through high-definition projection, shadow, and light, and atmosphere. This final piece of Lemon’s major 2010 performance work, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, was acquired by the Walker in 2011. Visitors can experience the piece at their leisure any time during gallery hours.


Ralph Lemon
Scaffold Room Photo: Ralph Lemon Ralph Lemon: Scaffold Room_4 Raised in Minneapolis, Ralph Lemon, who began his career as a dancer and choreographer, is now seen as a critical figure exploring intersections between performing and contemporary art worlds. The artist has had six increasingly interdisciplinary works supported by the Walker over 17 years, and recent projects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and various other international museums.

Over the past year, Lemon has conducted a research project that intimately connects to the questions that Scaffold Room engages. Value Talks, his ongoing series of events at the Museum of Modern Art, have gathered a disparate and often conflicting group of writers, curators, musicians, artists, and choreographers to discuss what value really means in contemporary art, especially as it relates to performance. New York-based Triple Canopy will assemble these talks for publication. In October 2014, MAPP International Productions (which has produced all of Lemon’s work since 1995) will organize a three-part discussion series at the Brooklyn Museum gathering artists and cultural thinkers to focus on themes of Triple Consciousness and black female identity. The series expands on select themes in Lemon’s Scaffold Room, among other performances.

Ralph Lemon and the Walker Art Center

Scaffold Room continues Lemon’s relationship with the Walker that dates nearly 20 years. The Walker supported Lemon’s Geography Trilogy, a 10-year project that merged research and performance in exploring race, history, and memory, first in Africa (Geography, 1997); then Asia (Tree, 2000); and finally the southern United States (Come home Charley Patton, 2004). In 2006, Lemon contributed to the exhibition OPEN-ENDED (the art of engagement) and in 2010 presented How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, a four-part multimedia performance including original short films and a powerful ensemble of six African American and African performers, created in part during his 2009 summer residency at the Walker.

Okwui Okpokwasili

Okwui Okpokwasili is an artist who recently collaborated with Peter Born on Bronx Gothic, a new solo work, co commissioned by Danspace Project, PS 122, LMCC’s Extended Life Program and PS 122 Global for a sold out run at Danspace Project in the COIL 2014 festival. Her previous piece, Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance premiered at Performance Space 122 and received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award. She has performed various roles in multiple productions, Theatre for a New Audience’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Julie Taymor, Sounding at HERE Arts Center and Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company’s Lear at Soho Rep. In 2010, she completed a tour of Ralph Lemon’s performance, How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? and in 2011, performed with Lemon in Untitled, a duet based on that work, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her work in multidisciplinary performance is best exemplified by her ongoing artistic collaboration with Ralph Lemon, the Bessie Award-winning Artistic Director of Cross Performance. Okpokwasili also received a 2005 “Bessie” Award for her performance in Ralph Lemon’s Come Home, Charley Patton. Ms. Okpokwasili has worked with Nora Chipaumire, Annie Dorsen, David Thomson, Jim Findlay, Dean Moss, Richard Foreman and Richard Maxwell. She is a 2012 MANCC Choreographic Fellow, 2013 NYFA fellow in Ralph Lemon, Meditation, 2010 Collection Walker Art Center, T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2012 Choreography and a 2014 FCA grantee for Dance. Okpokwasili is a graduate of Yale University.

April Matthis

April Matthis is a dancer/actor and performer living in New York City whose work includes a cross section of experience across the Dance and Theater worlds. As a dancer, she has worked with Ralph Lemon’s Parallels and Some Sweet Day. Matthis has also been featured on numerous stage productions including A Streetcar Named Desire (Yale Rep), Fondly, Collette Richland (Elevator Repair Service/Walker Art Center), Hollow Roots (The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival), On the Levee (Lincoln Center Theater’s LCT3), LEAR (Soho Rep/Young Jean Lee Theater Co), The Sound and the Fury (New York Theatre Workshop/Elevator Repair Service). Her regional credits include Sundance Theatre Lab, Huntingon Theatre, Humana Festival, Magic Theatre (San Francisco), Rude Mechs and Salvage Vanguard Theater (Austin, TX).


Scaffold Room is a co-production of Cross Performance and MAPP International Productions. The work is commissioned by the Walker Art Center with support provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Dance Project of the New England Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional commissioning support provided by The Doris Duke Performing Arts Award Audience Development program, the MAP Fund (a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation), the MetLife Foundation, the James E. Robison Foundation, and the Bossak Heilbrun Foundation. The work is co-commissioned by Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Bard College/The Fisher Center for Performing Arts, and the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), and was developed in part through a residency at the Park Avenue Armory.Co-curated by Philip Bither, Senior Curator, Performing Arts, and Bartholomew Ryan, Assistant Curator, Visual Arts, with Doug Benidt, Associate Curator, Performing Arts.

Scaffold Room Photo: Ralph Lemon