Northwestern Events Calendar


Medical and Musical Instruments: Staging Contemporary Performance out of 19th Century Freak Show Archives

When: Tuesday, May 7, 2019
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM  

Where: Kresge Hall, Room 1515, 1880 Campus Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Contact: Suzette Denose   847.491.5122

Group: African American Studies Department

Category: Academic


Millie-Christine McKoy and Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins were 19th century enslaved performers who traveled the world as medical anomalies, performing freaks, and musicians into the early years of the 20th century. Although their remaining archives prove unreliable in locating their unmediated autobiographies, the documents of their musical legacies offer blueprints of their performance strategies. Bainbridge’s ongoing book project Refinements of Cruelty explores the tension between the pleasure derived from these extraordinary acts of performance and the violent conditions under which they were made. Out of her archival research, Bainbridge has created a performance piece titled Curio. In collaboration with undergraduate performers and faculty at the University of Pennsylvania (notably student composer Elias Kotsis and director Professor Rosemary Malague), she had the McKoys’ lyrics set to handbell music and sung in harmony, because bells were frequently used for torture devices meant to sound the alarm if repeatedly fugitive slaves attempted to escape. In this talk Bainbridge will evaluate the ethics of creating new artistic work out of these archival remnants.

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