the fact of being next to or touching another, usually similar, thing; the state of bordering or being in direct contact with something
Contiguity…the condition of being in contact…is what can give any sign in the present a direct association with another sign in the past.
~ Amelia Jones, art historian
In this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard.
~ from The Beloved by Toni Morrison
At the 2020 USC Juneteenth Celebration, Anita-Dashiell-Sparks read a passage from Toni Morrison’s The Beloved. Dashiell-Sparks’ reading, although mitigated through technology, was visceral and tangible; she brought “livingness” to the words and this hearer left connected and transformed through her performance. It was a performance of contiguity.
Contiguity, in these present times, has been (not a little) diminished. Our bodies are both our connection and threat to one another. Technology for the most part has kept us linked, but it facilitates apartness ~ sans touch, sans contact. Probably never have we thought about our bodies’ proximity to one another more than we do now.
But our separateness is not a new phenomenon. The othering of the body has kept us separated for a very long time. Racial, sexual, gendered, and class binaries have informed our socio-cultural structures and, by definition, binaries separate. In empowering form, enactment and performance artists today are stressing contiguity in their work ~ touching, fleshing, and queering ~ the body as a technology of disruption and connection most palpable for the artist and viewer.
Our two guest discussants, performance artist and theatre professor Anita Dashiell-Sparks and feminist curator, theorist and historian of art and performance, Amelia Jones have dedicated their work and lives to disrupt divisive, binary thinking and structural discrimination. Come and engage Professors Dashiell-Sparks and Jones on how they bring social justice to the art world and how you can bring it to yours.
Anita Dashiell-Sparks Burns Distinguished Professor Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting
Anita Dashiell-Sparks is a professor of theatre practice, serves as associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion for the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and has taught acting, movement, and critical studies at USC for over 18 years. As an actor based in New York and Los Angeles, she has performed on Broadway in Night Must Fall, starring Matthew Broderick; and The Sunshine Boys, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. She has also appeared in numerous off-Broadway and regional theatre productions, including The House of Bernada Alba with Chita Rivera and Dominique Serrand’s Massoud: The Lion of Panjshir, both at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. She has directed numerous productions at USC, as well as directed Letters from Zora at the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre and two critically acclaimed engagements at The Pasadena Playhouse, among others. She most recently directed the world premiere of Tira Palmquist’s Safe Harbor at the Lower Depth Theater Ensemble’s new play series dealing with breaking cycles of violence. Dashiell-Sparks serves as the Artistic Director of EDI at the Stella Adler Center of the Arts and at USC is the founder and director of Building Bridges: Communication, Expression, Empowerment Theatre Arts Program, which teaches self-presentation and self-expression to at-risk youth.
Robert A. Day Professor and Vice Dean of Academics and Research at the Roski School of Art and Design
Amelia Jones is the Robert A. Day Professor and Vice Dean of Academics and Research at the Roski School of Art and Design at University of Southern California. A feminist curator and a theorist and historian of art and performance, her recent publications include Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts (2012), Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History (2012), co-edited with Adrian Heathfield, the edited volume Sexuality (2014), and, co-edited with Erin Silver, Otherwise: Imagining Queer Feminist Art Histories (2016). Jones’s retrospective of the work and career of Ron Athey, accompanied by the catalogue Queer Communion: Ron Athey (2020), took place at Participant Inc. and ICA LA in 2021, and her book In Between Subjects: A Critical Genealogy of Queer Performance (2021) presents her new research examining 60 years of theory and practice around queer and the performative. She is currently the Diversity Equity and Inclusion representative for the Roski School and her new project is a book of manifestos addressing the structural racism of the art world and art institutions.