Steffani Jemison: Promise Machine
Multi-part commission for the Museum of Modern Art

In conjunction with the exhibition One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North, Brooklyn-based artist Steffani Jemison (American, b. 1981) presents her new multipart commission Promise Machine. In her work across media, Jemison explores ideas of improvisation, repetition, and the fugitive in black history and vernacular culture.

Inspired by the Utopia Neighborhood Club, a Harlem-based women’s social service organization that directly supported Jacob Lawrence, Promise Machine comprises a reading group and performance inspired by the notion of utopia. In April 2015 Jemison will bring together members of Harlem-based community organizations as well as artists, writers, activists, and others for a Utopia Club reading group in MoMA’s library, where they will discuss black American literary and political visions of an ideal society. In June 2015 Jemison will premiere a new musical performance in the Museum galleries, with original libretto by the artist and a score composed collaboratively by the artist and a composer. The work will incorporate text generated during the reading group, and will address specific works on view in MoMA’s collection, including selections from Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series.

Performance credits:
Composed with Courtney Bryan and Justin Hicks.
Featuring Russell Taylor, Darius Jones, and Jade Hicks.

Video excerpt upon request: