Un(per)forming, a practice?

The following text is the intro to a keynote presentation I gave as part of the ‘Performing Otherness’ conference in Helsinki earlier in November. Thinking through how and what and why when I am invited to present on/around my work in ways that are not making a show and how the ethics/intentions of those shows can be present and made visible otherwise

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– Last Yearz Interesting Negro / Jamila Johnson-Small

Unacademic unprofessional unneutral unperformance. A poetic lecture about navigating fragility, accepting nonbelonging and decolonising my mind including ideas for anti-assimilationist holistic practice with tangible, focused manifestations as dance performances (ie stuff about my art practice) thoughts about gaze, resistance, surrender, alienation, destruction and transformation… Considering not ‘Otherness’ but entanglement, complexity, hybridity and blurred boundaries / in relation to movement and removal and harnessing of power etc


My guidelines for creating presentations

(that I often fail to follow):

Disassociation from structures that are uninteresting or harmful (in my opinion)

Permission to follow my own thread, however incoherent or obscure; permission not to work towards any ends or gains determined by the outside/external things/people/pressure

The right not to have to be nice/responsible/understanding/diplomatic/informed/fully formed

Occupy space outside of career hierarchies and the hierarchical structures enforced by time (age), institution and skillz

Permission to be unskilled and reconsider what skill is/can be in relation to my own ends putting aside questions of expertise, talent, ability, good, improvement, gain, learning because these things are boring and always pressures on the body

Space for relief, indulgence, doing things badly

To state that I do not want to read any books by old dead white men anymore, that I do not want to watch any films by old dead white men anymore, so that I can use them as references to anchor and validate my experiences and thinking…that I do not have to attempt to feel anything or have any thoughts when staring at paintings that are priced obscenely as they hang in a white room, behind a white rope

A moment to think outside of the concept of career, ideas of progression, aspiration, upward mobility

A practice of reimagining, of not contorting to fit any old models

A practice that does not quite sit outside of the profession, but makes a mess inside it through its disregard for old, often unspoken codes of conduct that guide decision (and taste)-making processes

Replacing the development of good taste with the practice of consent, allowing the work to move beyond aesthetic manifestation of signs and creations of aesthetic sign-systems towards establishing a subjective process of self-interrogation and engagement

Fuck coherence

New lexicon

A disengagement from the idea that any work or creation can be quantified in a accordance with a general scale and translated into financial currency or otherwise

A disengagement from the idea that it’s possible to not bring all of me, my history, my hormones, my projections and your projections onto me into any given situation or encounter

Defying of the idea that anything amounts to anything else

A rejection of my body and activities as function


Unlimited imagination of form

New codes – I don’t care if you can’t read them, it doesn’t matter anyway


warning / disclaimer

During this time I will privilege my felt sense, my lack of neutrality and my desire, I am going to use words that maybe we have different definitions for and I will probably not cross-reference. Questions are welcome. So, hi. I am going to try to assume that you understand me enough to get something, I am going to trust you to trust this too