A Gardener is a new performance created by Ayano Elson in collaboration with composer Matt Evans and video artist Hyung Seok Jeon. From a position at the center of the world’s oppressive imperial power, the piece explores a new future we can reach through democratic and egalitarian collaboration, through active participation and consensus-building. Elson and her co-creators examine the specifics and potentialities—colors, textures, sounds, and shapes—that exist when the hierarchy between maker and performer disappears, revealing pieces of textures, patterns, and rhythms that are deeply human and connected. They work to construct a new language from these fragments, generating a whole that celebrates desire, pleasure, and conflict.
Ayano Elson is an artist based in New York. She was born in Okinawa, a small island colonized by Japan in 1879 and occupied by the United States from 1945–1972. In her artistic practice, she collaborates closely with one or two artists to examine landscapes disappearing under the twin forces of imperialism and climate change, then physicalize those losses through movement. Her identity is connected to landforms and cities that contain histories of colonization and suffer under threat of global warming, in particular her birthplace of Okinawa, which is both Japan’s poorest prefecture and the most negatively and violently affected by imperialism. Ayano’s connection to these places is threatened by the fragility of her aging relatives, but also by bleached coral, typhoons, and the increasing presence of the American military—the largest polluter in the entire world. She has been an artist-in-residence at Art Cake, Gibney, AUNTS at Mount Tremper Arts, and at Movement Research as a Van Lier Emerging Artist of Color Fellow. As a performer, she has worked with Kim Brandt, Jessica Cook, devynn emory, Simone Forti, Kyli Kleven, Abigail Levine, and Haegue Yang at Issue Project Room, the Kitchen, MoMA, MoMA PS1, MCA Chicago, Movement Research at Judson Memorial Church, New Museum, Pioneer Works, Roulette, and SculptureCenter. Ayano’s choreography has been supported and presented by the Chocolate Factory, Gibney, Knockdown Center, New Museum, and Roulette.