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Press Releases Ralph Lemon’s New Project Scaffold Room to Debut at Walker Art Center in September 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, June 3 2014—Scaffold Room, the new project by Ralph Lemon commissioned by the Walker Art Center, will premiere September 16–28, 2014. Equal parts theater work and gallery installation, Scaffold Room is perhaps Ralph Lemon’s boldest experiment yet with the boundaries of form and presentation. Merging performance, visual art, music, and text, this “lecture-performance-musical” refracts ideas of contemporary performance through archetypal black female personae in American culture. The two-story environment/theater for Scaffold Room in the Walker’s Burnet gallery comes alive with performances by Okwui Okpokwasili and April Matthis inspired by iconic figures drawn from history and pop culture such as Moms Mabley, Amy Winehouse, and Kathy Acker. These live fragments of pop and contemporary art culture exist alongside images of a rural Mississippi Delta community embodied on video by 86-year-old Edna Carter and her extended family, continuing a decade-long partnership between the family and Ralph Lemon on a range of artistic projects. The electronic/turntable–based sound score is composed by Marina Rosenfeld.

“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. Scaffold Room is Ralph raising a challenge the Walker is uniquely set up to deliver. It’s an uneasy, complex and brave approach, that is truly going to challenge how performance and gallery come together. Here with his collaborators he is going to bring all of this together, and I know it is going to be special.”

The public is invited to Scaffold Room during installation and rehearsals September 16–24, followed by the opening on September 25—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 projects in the gallery space throughout each day.

Ralph Lemon
Scaffold Room
September 26–28, 2014
World Premiere
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.

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 and costume designer Naoko Nagata.


Ralph Lemon and Jim Findlay
September 24–28, 2014
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, 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 view the piece at any time during gallery hours at their leisure.


Ralph Lemon
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 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 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. A production of Cross Performance and MAPP International Productions, 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

Ralph Lemon, Untitled, 2013

Courtesy the artist