Emily Johnson/Catalyst in residence and community on Haudenosaunee lands for “Build and Reworld Now”

Emily Johnson. Photo courtesy of the artist

Year: 2024-2025
DanceForce Member: Judy Hussie-Taylor
Artists: Emily Johnson; IV Castellanos
Community Partner: Catalyst Dance
County: Delaware

Danspace Project’s New York State DanceForce project will support choreographer/interdisciplinary artist Emily Johnson/Catalyst who currently works and resides in Haudenosaunee lands in what is currently known as Hobart, Delaware County, New York. “Build and Reworld Now” centers on Land Back, which celebrates the intersections of art, movement, activism, indigenous knowledge and care systems, food and climate justice, led by artists-activists with gatherings and collaborations open to the greater public.

Celebrated for a distinguished body of work, Emily Johnson, of the Yup’ik Nation, is an artist who makes body-based work, is a land and water protector, and an organizer for justice, sovereignty and well being. They create create large-scale social choreographies and performance gatherings that, in their words, “center re-worlding, Indigenous knowledge and consensual collaborative processes honoring the sovereignty of communities, land and more-than-humxn kin, while uniting audiences in a shared experience of movement, place, history, collective action.” Catalyst’s newest land-based project, “Build And Reworld Now,” focuses on physical reclamation of land/space for Indigenous, Black, Latinx and other artists/activists/land defenders of color, alongside restoration of Indigenous land and land stewardship.

As Danspace Project’s New York State DanceForce project, we will support Emily Johnson/Catalyst’s extended time on Haudenosaunee lands—including 36 acres of protected forest and 6 acres of “rematriated” cow pasture that now supports Native medicine and food gardens in what is known as Hobart, NY. Emily will gather artists, scholars, activists and artsworkers to spend days in creative dialogue and collaborative visioning. Working in the community this way allows time and space for a combination of conversations, storytelling, knowledge sharing/learning, and more. “Build And Reworld Now” gathers around a series of foundational questions posed by Johnson and collaborators: “How are artists playing a vital role in active land and water protective efforts, and the advancement of Indigenous sovereignty? Can we co-imagine forms of gathering, exhibition and performance that move beyond art-world interventions to materially serve transformational social justice efforts? How can artistic practice, design strategy, communications tools, etc., forge solidarities across disciplines, geographies, communities and sites of resistance? What structures—temporary/permanent, built/adapted, social/cellular—can be made to hold these possibilities safe? How can these sites themselves be/become instances of Land Back?”

“My dance work moves toward fullness and toward a world we want: one healed from colonial constructs, existing in possibility, where inhabitants enact responsibly with radical relationship and love for one another, all beings, land, water; past, present, and future—futures that include deep connections to past and ancestry as well as to generations not yet born,” Emily writes. “I will draw on my experiences of creating overnight performances, planting and restoring projects, a decades-long quilt making endeavor and more, to invite folx to “Build And Reworld Now”.”

To build Indigenous power, Catalyst’s processes convene and are collaboratively supported by gatherings of Indigenous experts in four Branches: KNOWLEDGE, SCHOLARSHIP, MAKING and ACTION—central organizational and structural partners who guide the relational frameworks and form the foundations, learnings, possibilities, and intersections available in this work. They form a lateral structure to shape the work and its resonance, steward its values and impact, and share in accountability and action. By making this way, Catalyst’s performance gatherings function as portals and care processions. Audiences are asked to engage in a right relationship with land, its people, histories, architectures, destructions, and potential futures. By naming what is necessary and articulating what we vision, we build constellations of kinship, create accomplice relationships, and craft encounters with power to collectively move toward new potentials.

Danspace Project has worked with Emily Johnson in the past and is currently supporting a weeklong residency in April at Danspace Project for their work, ”Being Future Being.”