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Ralph Lemon/Cross Performance

In 2005, Ralph Lemon completed THE GEOGRAPHY TRILOGY, a 10-year project that was a profound self-examination and a sustained inquiry into the social gravities of art, race and identity at the turn of the 21st century. The Trilogy developed a global performance and visual language that was simultaneously modern and traditional, East and West, light and dark, formal and free form. The primacy of process, and the richness of materials that process uncovered-- artistic, emotional, historical-- created profound questions for Ralph as to how best to 'translate' the process and 'control' the materials in order to bring a work for audiences to the stage. The ongoing struggle between process and production created a tension that became a vital element in the Trilogy works, which ultimately included dance/theater performances, books, video journals, web projects and gallery exhibitions.

Part 1: Geography (premiered 1997), began with Lemon's exploration into apparent African and post-African connections to his life as an African American. The cast included nine men of African descent from Cٴe d'Ivoire, Guinea and the U.S.

In Part 2: Tree: (premiered 2000), Lemon directed his inquiry to Asia, following his attraction to Buddhism and how it might generate an art aesthetic. Tree placed the energy and sound of the "Africa" of Geography next to a perceived Asian "quiet," while exploring the collision of tradition and modernity through contemporary performance. Performers included male and female dancers and musicians from Cٴe d'Ivoire, China, India, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

For Part 3: Come home Charley Patton (premiered 2004), Lemon returned to America. Here, he visited charged sites from the volatile history of the Civil Rights period, performed ritual "counter-memorials" at lynching sites, and danced in the living rooms of relatives of early blues musicians from the Mississippi Delta. Lemon also wove ideas from a mix of iconoclastic artists of contemporary literature and performance art, from James Baldwin to Bruce Nauman, into this historically charged research of rural America. Come Home Charley Patton investigated how different generations remember the same critical events and places; what kind of narratives do justice to traumatic memories; and what form memories can ultimately take through the aesthetic works of this project. The exploration of these elements contributed to a performance where documentary footage and autobiography shared the stage with the abstraction and fiction of contemporary dance/theater.