Commission for The Whitney Museum of American Art

We are beyond thrilled to publicly announce that we have been working with archives related to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for the last year and a half toward datasets and visualizations commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art to be shown as part of a major exhibition opening in September 2024. Curated by Adrienne Edwards, Engell Speyer Family Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs, Edges of Ailey will focus on Ailey’s life, work, and legacy. 

As we worked on Dunham’s Data, it often felt like the computer screen was never big enough for all of the visualizations Antonio designed with us for our manually curated data. When we presented this work, we would occasionally be asked whether we had considered exhibiting our visualizations, but it felt like we had more research to do before inhabiting a gallery space. In response to these provocations, we formulated the third strand of Visceral Histories, Visual Arguments: Dance-Based Approaches to Data to ask: how can these dance-led ways of working with data change public engagement with dance history?

The research and development that we are doing under Visceral Histories, Visual Arguments is further amplified by investments from the Whitney Museum and in-kind support from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Additional support is provided by  Royal Central School of Speech and Drama’s Impact Acceleration Account and SPW Knowledge Exchange Funds, and The Ohio State University’s Arts Initiative and Global Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme.  The project team includes long-term collaborators Antonio Jiménez-Mavillard and Tia-Monique Uzor. We appreciate the assistance of doctoral researchers Wanda Hernandez and Amy Schofield, and are also grateful to colleagues at the Whitney and AAADT for sharing ideas and pooling resources: CJ Salapare, Joshua Lubin-Levy, and Dominique Singer. 

We are able to apply many of the methods that we previously developed for data curation and visualization to Ailey archival materials, at the same time as we are also adapting to key differences in their histories that change not only the structure of the datasets and the nature of what is meaningful to collect, but also the ways in which we visualize them. In addition, whereas our research has always previously existed in a critical mixed methods context, in which we can insist on the interdependence of datasets, essays, and visualizations, for this commission our visualizations need to be able to represent all of those complex ideas to museum-goes on their own. This amplifies the urgency of finding new visual forms that have resonances of the dance history that underlies them. 

We’re so excited to share this research with you when the exhibition opens!