NIC-Kay

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NIC Kay
giving a keynote address @ T.G.I.F
Trans, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex Freedom
rally and picnic in Chicago
July 28, 2013

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Introducing QUEER, ILL, & OKAY’s final participant NIC Kay

NIC Kay is a performer, teacher, and visual artist born and raised in the Bronx, New York. They are a founding member of 3rd Language - a Queer art collective based in Chicago. They were the Education Associate at About Face Theatre for two years. Their visual and performance works have been seen on the streets and in galleries and on stages in both New York and Chicago. 

Through dreams, they enter art-making by reaching beyond present-day constraints to activate the potentiality of futures and spaces negated by marginalization. Movement, an essential element in my work, functions as a mode of reclamation - of the body, story, identity and truth - through performance, collage, sculpture, and installation. Whether on stage or collecting found objects from city streets, tearing apart magazines or excavating archives for missing links, these movements become a force to construct new and alternate realities. They employ gesture, sound creation and the manipulation of light layered in their performances to embody the process of shifting and pairing together things that appear oppositional or immovable.

QUEER, ILL, & OKAY is excited to have NIC Kay create worlds this July 5th & 6th at Defibrillator Performing Arts Gallery in Chicago’s Wicker Park. For more information visit the event page on FB HERE.

Transcending Pride, Evolving Movements
Notes from the 2nd Annual T.G.I.F

Unlike many cities across the U.S. such as San Francisco, Chicago surprisingly does not have a trans march. We do have Chicago Dyke March, “a grassroots mobilization and celebration of dyke, queer, bisexual, and transgender resilience.” It moves neighborhoods every two years and is both organized and heavily attended by trans people and people of color. To my knowledge, there was never a large, public trans gathering around the time of other pride celebrations. That is, until very recently.

Last summer, KOKUMO—a local activist and artist who openly identifies as a black trans woman—organized the first ever T.G.I.F: Trans, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex Freedom event, which is a rally and picnic. On Sunday, July 28th the second annual T.G.I.F took place at Union Park. The theme was “Transcending Pride, Evolving Movements.” Throughout the day, many people took the stage to speak while the audience listened on blankets in the grass, socialized, and freely gathered in public space.

Community organizations including Broadway Youth Center, Sage Community Health Collective, Rape Victim Advocates, Affinity Community Services, Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, Intersex Chicago, and AIDS Foundation of Chicago offered information and spoke about their services. Alexis Martinez, NIC Kay and Pidgeon Pagonis gave keynote addresses. The event wrapped up with several performances—including one by LaWhore Vagistan who introduced the crowd to several of India’s trans activists and artists through dance, drag, and sound. With free food, free massages, HIV testing and a DJ, the scene felt like a big chosen family reunion.

One of the most powerful moments of the rally was hearing the keynote speeches. Before they began, KOKUMO noted that she received feedback after last year’s keynote by Kylar Broadus (founder of Trans People of Color Coalition) that T.G.I.F was not inclusive enough of gender nonconforming and intersex people. She made a conscious effort this year to ensure that trans, gender nonconforming, and intersex voices were all featured on stage. She powerfully stated that trans people should not repeat the same mistakes of the gay movement by leaving gender nonconforming and intersex people behind, in the same way trans people have been left out of mainstream gay and lesbian politics.

As a result, there were three keynote addresses—one by an intersex person, another by a gender nonconforming person, and one by a trans person. Everyone spoke on the idea of transcending pride and what trans and queer movements need to do moving forward. I connected most with NIC Kay’s impassioned speech. After engaging the crowd in a call and response of Mark Aguhar’s poem “Litanies to my Heavenly Brown Body,” NIC began by asking several questions:

What is pride? Is pride waving a flag? Rocking a rainbow bracelet? Liking the HRC on Facebook? Working for a nonprofit LGBTQI organization? Is pride frequenting queer parties? Is pride having gay sex or showing affection in public? Is that pride? And if so, how do we transcend it?

NIC described their growing disillusionment with traditional pride festivities, which have strayed greatly from their political beginnings. They called for a shift from the idea of pride as a visual display and public declaration of one’s identity to creating a sustainable and radical “community that doesn’t disappear after the parade.” A community that values all its members equally and focuses on providing necessities like housing, employment, and healthcare for people of all gender expressions.

I’ve recently been fortunate to spend more time with NIC, as part of 3rd Language’s summer workshop series. 3rd Language is a collective of queer artists and writers in Chicago. Along with NIC, several members of the collective organized a series of workshops for queer youth of color to learn about and record queer history through art. Amina Ross and NIC wrote the grant, found space and participants for the program; Veronica Stein developed curriculum in collaboration with myself; Joel Mercedes interviewed, taught and mentored participants; and Allie Shyer helped with general organizing, day-to-day operations and creating an intentional space. This is the organizing work it takes to create a program like this. I’ve had the privilege of being the main teaching artist for the workshops, which were designed to help participants share their stories through modes of art and writing traditionally associated with historical documentation.

The Monday after T.G.I.F, I went to Spudnik Press, where the workshops were held. The very first activity of the day involved listening to NIC’s speech as a catalyst for listing our own strategies for transcending pride. Participants came up with the following strategies:

• Educating yourself and others about critical issues such as pronouns, privilege, racism, and ableism
• Gathering in public spaces that are not bars, where no one needs to make money, and places where we are not expected to be
• Making and sharing work such as literature, art, and media for, by and about us
• Challenging those closest to us: family members, friends, and institutions to understand who we are
• Transforming rage into constructive rage
• Pushing queerness beyond an aesthetic through direct action
• Understanding that no one is disposable, reaching out to those whom you’ve disposed

The workshops over the past six weeks have embodied all of these characteristics. This was my first experience teaching to a room full of queer people for such an extended period of time. I had never created art and written in a room full of talented, complex, and beautiful queer artists for several weeks. It was a relief to teach, learn, and create in a queer arts space. I could focus on the work, without worrying about having my gender or sexuality questioned.

Being in a room full of queer people allowed us to expand the definitions of what it means to be queer artists within the confines of a straight world that aggressively disseminates misrepresentations of our lives on a mass scale. Throughout the duration of the workshops, we had numerous local queer artists of color such as Kiam Marcelo Junio, Joel Mercedes, and Oli Rodriguez discuss their work, lead workshops, and provide feedback to participants. We read poems, essays, manifestos and articles, watched videos of speeches and performances and visited current exhibits all with a focus on three intersecting topics: queer and trans people, people of color, and Chicago. The material was both historical and contemporary–mixing Audre Lorde and Sylvia Rivera with Saaed Jones and Mark Aguhar. We used the materials as the basis for discussions of our real lives and as a foundation for our artmaking.

Both KOKUMO and 3rd Language are filling in the gaping holes that the mainstream, whitewashed gay movement has left behind. They created space for queer and trans people of color to gather, make their needs and demands known, voices and bodies heard, seen, and felt. They were organized by queer and trans people of color, for queer and trans people of color. This is the current state of queer and trans movements in Chicago. Queer and trans people need more permanent spaces where we can gather to create tangible and lasting evidence of our existence. We must make it impossible for our experiences, bodies, and lives to be erased from history. We must document our own lives so the world cannot prove we never existed.

This essay was originally posted by Original Plumbing. Photo by Veronica Stein.

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the CRITICAL FIERCENESS GRANTEES for WINTER 2014

Congratulations to Winter 2014 Critical Fierceness Grantees NIC KAY, MARGARET BOBO-DANCY, and WITCH HAZEL!

Nic Kay is the recipient of the $1000 Mark Aguhar Memorial Grant. Nic will use the funds in the creation of a long-form performance entitled Lil Black _____ Gone Wild. According to Nic, LB_GW is “heavily influenced by ballroom culture, live punk performance, butoh and praise dance. The show begins with the commentators failed attempt to organize an open to all Vogue ball with no judges and trophies." Nic Kay’s proposal stood out for its critical exploration of the tensions between belonging and difference, competition and collectivity, and tradition and innovation within queer, POC and activist communities. Congratulations Nic!

Margaret Bobo-Dancy and WITCH HAZEL both received $500 Critical Fierceness Grants. 

Margaret will be creating sculptural works inspired by St. Theresa’s so-called "transverberation.” Margaret’s practice explores the liminal space between the sensual and the spiritual and engages in erotic material explorations. Margaret’s seductive work speaks to the public and private nature of feminine sexuality and the potential to queer the borders between mind/body/soul. Congratulations Margaret!

WITCH HAZEL is a performance group that consists of Ariel Young, Darren Barrere & Casey Hartley. They are currently working on an evening-length, performative triptych called Love Drug. The varied segments will oscillate between a conventional exploration “of queer family, drug abuse, and cissexism” and “an abstract spectacle on the young queer experience” that “seeks to blur the distinction between theatrical performance and reality.” WITCH HAZEL’s fun and challenging proposal recasts children’s play and pop iconography as contemporary myth. Congratulations WITCH HAZEL! 

XOXO

Chances Dances and the Winter 2014 Critical Fierceness Board

Rita Bacon, Davey Ball, Allison Burque, Bryce Dwyer, Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero, Kiam Marcelo Junio, Justin Mitchell, Jeanine O'Toole, Aay Preston-Myint, Oli Rodriguez, Erik Roldan, Amina Ross, Latham Zearfoss

Today let’s celebrate all things NIC Kay and the majesty they have brought to Chicago. NIC Kay is a wink, a drop, a brilliant and sultry nod from the universe upon our community. 

NIC Kay is a performer, teacher, and visual artist born and raised in the Bronx, New York. NIC has taught at Woman Made Gallery and About Face Theatre, were they work as the Education Associate. NIC was a 2009 Hemispheric Institute EMERGENYC Fellow. Their work explores movement as a mode of the reclamation of body, history and identity. They have worked collaboratively with Rashaad Newsome, Yannique Hall and Zoe Lukov. NIC’s solo work has been seen in galleries and on stages in both New York and Chicago.

They are also one of the founding members of the brilliant literary, educational and artistic project 3rd Language! 

NIC Kay is a performer, teacher, and visual artist born and raised in the Bronx, New York. NIC has taught at Woman Made Gallery and About Face Theatre, where they work as the Education Associate. NIC was a 2009 Hemispheric Institute EMERGENYC Fellow. Their work explores movement as a mode of the reclamation of body, history and identity. They have worked collaboratively with Rashaad Newsome, Yannique Hall and Zoe Lukov. NIC’s solo work has been seen in galleries and on stages in both New York and Chicago.

NIC is also a founding member of 3rd Language. 3rd Language is: 

We are a Chicago-based collective of artists and thinkers exploring and embracing difference, otherness and transgression. We name this difference, otherness and transgression, Queer. We are interested in a Queerness that emphasizes ambivalences, shifting boundaries and re-imagined social constructions*.  We aim to render norms questionable. It is through a collaborative, non-hierarchical and malleable practice that we create the venue for shifting identities. Through creation,  publication and curation we reflect our community - a community defined outside fixed categories of identity. Our mission is to foster inclusive spaces for Queer discourse, action and change. We support the development, sharing, and critique of contemporary work by emerging artists. We do not seek consensus, but a community composed of multiplicities and differences as amorphous as Queer identity itself.

*Adapted in part from Brooker, Peter. A Concise Glossary of Cultural Theory. London: Arnold, 1999 statement written collaboratively by Magritte Nankin, E. Bennett Jones, Amina Ross, NIC Kay and Paul Smith

2
Links Hall’s 2014/15 Curatorial and Artistic Residents Links Hall’s programming committee is pleased to announce the selection of Nic Kay, Chih- Hsien Lin, Christine Shallenburg and The Impossible! Collective (Eli Halpern, Kurt Preston, Jajah Wu, and Sam Vilensky) as our 2014/15 LinkUP Residents! 


NIC Kay 
is a performer, teacher, and visual artist born and raised in the Bronx, New York. They are a founding member of 3rd Language - a Queer art collective based in Chicago. Kay was the Education Associate at About Face Theatre for two years and their visual and performance works have been seen on the streets and in galleries and on stages in both New York and Chicago.

 

Lil Blk

A one person experimental theatre piece, actualizes the rage born from my bifurcated social experience as a young, black, queer and gender non-conforming person, and strives to share the desolation that results from being both invisible/visible and praised/dismissed. Shaped with movements influenced by New York gay/queer ballroom culture, live punk performance, butoh and praise dance, Lil Blk begins with an attempt to organize a non-competitive Vogue ball and makes use of a non-linear timeline to encourage a departure from uncomplicated and motionless archetypes of the black performer-performance and queer identity.