Colin Self and M. Lamar
Jamillah James Curatorial Fellowship
Saturday, May 24th 2014



Performance: Colin Self and M. Lamar
Jamillah James presented cutting edge NYC performance & voice denizens Colin Self and M. Lamar.

Artist Statements

For his performance at Aux, Colin Self will be presenting a continuation of choral vocal works, Vocal Exercises 7-12, in research for his collaborative opera The Fool (Elation V) with Raul De Nieves. These works explore the energetic exchanges created within a queer family system, emphasizing the voice and body as sites for transmutation and healing. Self initially built a vocal group through identifying active awareness of energy in his social communities, and pin-pointing relational trajectories of power created by groups and their individuals with words, sounds, and dance. These exercises in research build upon a foundation of sacred gatherings, not just as rehearsal for a performance, but for personal and collective growth. As the number of participants and collaborators grow, the exercises themselves grow complex to meet the interests and needs of individuals, all working towards spiritual strength and valor.

Having its world premiere at Cathedral of St. John the Divine in February 2012, M. Lamar’s Speculum Orum: Shackled to the Dead was commissioned as a part of The Values of Water series at the Cathedral. The Atlantic Ocean holds the remains of countless black bodies, people lost en-route from home to the new world. During the transatlantic slave trade, millions of Africans were carried in bondage to America. A horrifying percentage did not survive the journey. This piece is about them. Many of the captured people preferred death to slavery. They jumped overboard or tried to starve themselves. In those circumstances the slaver would use a device called a speculum orum to keep the captives’ mouths open while they were forced to eat. In the fetid holds of slave ships, live bodies were shackled to the dead, sometimes for days and months at a time. The artist M. Lamar believes that we are all also shackled to the dead. The water that rises from the ocean, falls as rain into our reservoirs, and flows down the pipes to our faucets, was once and is still their grave. This water, water that is now inside all of us, conceals and reveals the truth about who we are. The abducted Africans had their mouths forced open. M. Lamar states, “I will willingly open my mouth to lift my voice and let the spirits dance. Yes, we are shackled to the dead! They speak to us and through us. Let their voices rise!”

Video Documentation


Colin Self composes and choreographs at the intersection of the corporeal and the immaterial. His performances explore vocality, corporeality, and familial systems as a site for energetic transformation. Spanning a trans disciplinary lifestyle, he seeks to embellish diverse cultures with queer presence and develop diverse systems of communication with earth and its inhabitants. Through his performance work, community organization, and personal life, Self exhibits radical forms of healing as a constant praxes of collective resistance. Self has toured Europe and the U.S. with his performance work, and is currently working on a sequential trans feminist operetta series entitled Elation. He lives and works in Brooklyn.

M. Lamar writes songs that are at once a product of his African American heritage, drawing heavily from the negro spiritual. Combined with his operatic voice and piano playing that is at once interested in western classical music and dissonant black metal Lamar’s sound makes one think that things are so catastrophic that the world might end at the conclusion of one of his tracks.

Lamar’s work has been presented internationally, most recently at the Sodra Teatern Stockholm Sweden, Warehouse 9 Copenhagen Denmark, WWDIS Fest in Gothenburg and Stockholm, La MaMa New York, Queer-Feminist Anti-Racist Performance Festival Stockholm Sweden, Performatorum Regina Canada, The International Theater Festival Donzdorf, Germany, Cathedral of St. John the Divine New York, and The African American Arts and Culture Complex San Francisco among others. M. Lamar holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and attended the Yale School of Art in the Sculpture program before dropping out to pursue music. Lamar has had many, many years of classical vocal study with Ira Siff among others.