Performance: JJJJJerome Ellis


In a new video made in response to our current exhibition, Laws of Confusion, composer and musician JJJJJerome Ellis films an improvised performance. In its approach and concept, the performance charts a sonic path through the show and echoes the improvisational energy of Lydia Ourahmane and Alex Ayed’s collaborative work.

As Ellis sings and plays piano or hammered dulcimer, he uses the full range of materials in the exhibition as a kind of score, calling out evocative things like papyrus hay, lithium metal, neoprene gloves, and dry leaves. Within Ourahmane and Ayed’s installation, some of these varied materials point back to an elemental or more ancient world, while others are tied to newer technologies, hinting an unknown future or forms of blocked communication. Filming himself at the MacDowell artist residency in Peterborough, New Hampshire, Ellis conceives this performance as a means of singing to the materials across geographical distance.

JJJJJerome Ellis works between music, literature, and performance, researching relationships among Blackness, disabled speech, divinity, nature, sound, and time. Born in 1989 to Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants, he grew up and lives near a heron rookery in Virginia Beach, USA. He’s currently building a sonic bath house. 

Videography by Jeanne Finley.

Ellis would like to thank Alex Ayed, Jeanne Finley, Lydia Ourahmane, Karsten Lund, MacDowell, and Michael Harrison.