Joy Mariama Smith

Kunstinstituut Melly (1 Oct. – 24 Oct. 2021)

Performance documentation: Joy Mariama Smith, Black Joy/White Fragility (2021), Kunstinstituut Melly (Rotterdam). Photo Pollack Lavinia. Courtesy the artist, Kunstinstituut Melly & Hartwig Art Foundation

Joy Mariama Smith is a movement artist, activist and educator. Their work is rooted in socially engaged art practice and focuses on issues related to visibility, projected identities and self-representation. Through their dance, performances, and installations, they investigate the interplay between the body and its cultural, social and physical environment. Consent and agency are an integral part of their practice.

The exhibition Black Joy/ White Fragility at Kunstinstituut Melly (1 – 24 Oct. 2021) consists in a performance installation that centres QTIPOC* experience in club culture and the embodied aesthetics of possibility. Using bass, collective joy and consent praxis, the artist and performers collectively create a healing and transformative space for bodies of colour. What would it mean to create a safer space where bodies of colour can celebrate, heal, perform, transform, and transcend? Who would be given access to that space, who would be allies?

Black Joy/ White Fragility is a celebratory and excavational site-specific performance installation that provides a site for Black joy to be experienced and expressed. During the course of the exhibition, the club environment becomes activated by performers, whose traces shape the installation through a process of accumulation. Performance schedule (please keep an eye on Melly’s site for the latest updates):

  • 6 Oct. 2021, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • 15 Oct. 2021, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • 21 Oct.  2021, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.                                                                     
  • 24 Oct.  2021, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. (closing event)

The artist also designed a series of t-shirts (available for purchase at Kunstinstituut Melly) as an extension of the work to propagate the sentiments of Black Joy/ White Fragility beyond the walls of the institution.

About the artist

Joy Mariama Smith is native Philadelphian (US) currently based in Amsterdam. An ongoing question in their work is: What is the interplay between the body and its physical environment? Smith has a strong improvisational practice spanning 20 years and has been active as performance/ installation/ movement artist, activist, facilitator, curator and architectural designer. When they choose to teach, they actively try to uphold inclusive spaces.

They studied at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem; the NewSchool of Architecture & Design in San Diego; L’École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris; and Oberlin College in Ohio. Their work has been performed internationally, including at If I Can’t Dance Edition VI – Event and Duration, Amsterdam; SoLow Festival, Philadelphia; Freedom of Movement, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; and Ponderosa Movement & Discovery in Stolzenhagen, Germany. Currently, they teach at the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam, and was a BAK Fellow 2019-2020.

*(Queer, Trans, Black,  Indigenous, People of Color)