Taisha Paggett

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What Is My Work About? 

My work for the gallery, stage and public space includes individual and collaborative investigations into questions of the body, agency, and the phenomenology of race and gender, and is interested in expanding the languages and frames of contemporary art and dance. I seek to unify the division of object and subject, performer and audience/viewer, by creating spaces that, at either tangible or sensory levels, activate the function of the witness. My work seeks to imagine and create new possibilities for how bodies on the margins find meaning and a sense of belonging in place. My current research takes up questions of desire and responsibility as they relate to the queer body, landscape, and the migration of Black Americans in the 20th century.


Artist Statement

For the past 8 years, I have created performance works for both the visual art and dance worlds, interrogating in multiple ways the notion of the “black dancing body.” With the body, identity, time, language, architecture and the conventions of dance at the core of my interests, I craft durational performances that respond to their setting and their framing of my own body, as well as concert dance and installation works for the gallery.

My research and creative work are built from a recognition of the body and space as multifaceted sites in which meaning is created, displayed, felt, enforced, and transformed. The performances, images and scores I create seek to de-center the ways in which these two sites—bodies and spaces—become normalized in movement-based art practices and dance, or emptied of their potential power within everyday life. By drawing source material from constructions of history, memory, belief systems, and oppositions between reality and magic, I collide body and spatial meanings with cultural, political, and emotional metaphors, creating a space for viewers to consider their own body and identity from phenomenological and political perspectives.

The majority of my work of the past eight years has departed from the formal conventions of dance, bringing what I understand as the spirit of dance’s investigations into the more open and interdisciplinary structures that the visual art and performance art worlds make available. The majority of this work has been one-person, durational performances, where a simple, repeatable score is performed according to a logic that engages the space or institution, inhabiting that time with my body in a way that asserts my own sense of time, my sense of space and body along with the histories, politics and socialization that have shaped and pushed against it. Works like Decomposition of a Continuous Whole, Decomposition of a Color Thought, Gray Scale and A Composite Field each allow for this exploration, while tracing the gallery’s walls, sleeping in its space overnight, or turning its performer/object to audience relationship inside-out.

Out of this work, I have become interested in what are often seen as women’s exercise regimes, including aerobics and Zumba, while developing a trans-historical, queer black feminist figure to inhabit as an avatar, named Fila Buster. My exhibition at Commonwealth and Council Gallery in 2013, entitled “LET’S USE THESE THINGS,” featured a number of formal explorations, including a video, a sculpture, still photographs and a wall painted with my hair, each of which I regard as coming from a shared authorship between myself and Fila Buster. Similarly, works like “Fila Buster in the Autotuniverse” and “A Right Angled Object Who Lost Her Faith in Being Upright” have further explored questions of trans-historical memory and the training of the body, while moving at the borders of visual art and dance.

In a similar vein is my ongoing collaborative work with Ashley Hunt, “On Movement, Thought and Politics. Drawing largely upon workshops we hold for different community groups, the works focus directly upon the training of subjects and bodies through various physical regimes. Our works, “Par Course A,” “B” and “C” have appropriated the historical outdoor exercise trail, known as a “Par Course.” We use its exercise model as a form of choreographic sculpture that presents an exercise developed in workshops to viewers for their physical and phenomenological engagement.

In my current work, I am drawn to investigating the phrase “being one with nature.” Taking cues from the seminal work of Ana Mendieta, I ask what it means to tie oneself to “nature,” to remark on or be marked by the unconstructed landscape; when does the notion of “nature” conjure up questions of privilege, property and power, and what does “nature” have to do with Black bodies (and marginal people in general)? How does the Black urban body break itself from the patterns, memories and traumas of the built environment? I am constructing movement explorations to upend and re-arrange the fantasies and expectations we uphold of “the land,” attempting to evoke historical and powerful modes of Black solidarity. I’m interested in immersing my body completely in the environment and taking up these questions across my own form, and the form of a movement troop I am currently convening.

This recent focus has brought into my work additional nuances and questions around belief systems, magic, pop culture and the possibility of being trans-historical. It has brought brave, humorous, and deeply felt connections to my work. So it should come as no surprise that I’m eager to continue investigating these ideas through installation, dance and performative explorations. I will be exploring this research through an upcoming Headlands residency and an exhibition at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (2015), which will include contributions by Cauleen Smith and Rodney McMillian. These are the questions that I take into this body of work, which seeks to imagine and create new possibilities for how bodies on the margins find meaning and a sense of belonging in place.




2008          MFA Choreography, UCLA

2002          BA Art History, UC Santa Cruz


 Solo Exhibition and Performative Installation

2015          WE ARE THE PAPER WE ARE THE TREES. LACE, Los Angeles.

2012          LET’S USE THESE THINGS. Commonwealth & Council, Los Angeles.

2010          Par Course A in collaboration with Ashley Hunt. Sea and Space Explorations, Los Angeles.


 Group Exhibition and Performative Installation

Composite Field, TEMPERAMENTAL, Dorothy McCarthy Gallery, Toronto.

UNDERWATERS (we is ready, we is ready). Whitney American Museum of Art. New York City.[BLACKOUT]. threewalls gallery. Chicago.

Par Course C: Cypress College, in collaboration with Ashley Hunt. Cypress College art gallery, Cypress, CA.2012
Decomposition of a Continuous Whole. The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City.
Par Course B: Labor Questions in collaboration with Ashley Hunt and the Youth Art Board. Hyde Park Art Center. Chicago.2010
Decomposition of a Continuous Whole. Quadruple Consciousness. Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia.2009
Decomposition of a Continuous Whole. 3 Women. Artist Curated Projects, Silverlake, CA.
On movement, thought and politics: Garment Workers’ Center, LA in collab with Ashley Hunt. Fellows for Co. Art, Los Angeles.

Untitled (for six voices) as a member of Ultra-Red. Fowler Museum, Los Angeles.

“Engagement” in collaboration with Ashley Hunt. Paxico Gallery, Los Angeles.


Performance and Dance Works

DUST + DEW (working title), Clockshop, Los Angeles.

Decomposition of a Mutable Landscape. CHIME showing. Live Arts Los Angeles. Highland Park, CA

Modest Epoch (9AM 11/19 – 9PM 11/21). Public Fiction, Highland Park, CA.
A right-angled object who lost her faith in being upright. Danspace, New York City.
“Private Realness.” Danspace. New York City.
verse chorus. The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City.

“I’m Here, We’re Here.” The Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago.
Fila Buster. National Queer Arts Festival. SOMArts, San Francisco.
Dive Bar Wedding in collaboration with David Lakein. Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival. Defibrillator, Chicago.
“hard shell.” The Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago.
2hours4every3minutes in collaboration with Greg Barnett and Meg Wolfe, Tilt-Shift LA: New Queer Perspectives on the Western Edge. Luis
de Jesus Gallery, Los Angeles.
A Composite Field in collaboration with sound artist Yann Novak. Mackey Garage, Los Angeles.

Chair/Pillow (window). Out of Site. Defibrillator, Chicago.

“Does time hurt?” Sound installation. From One Side to Another, I’ve Dreamed That Too. 323 Gallery, Los Angeles.
BombShell in collaboration with Rebecca Alson-Milkman. Pieter PASD, Los Angeles.
Untitled (Gray Scale). Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA.
Decomposition of a color-thought. Gutted. LACE, Los Angeles.

Installation performance for Rodney McMillian. The Kitchen, New York City.
“we imitate fences.” Action of Transfer: Women’s Performance in the Americas Conference. UCLA, Los Angeles.

“Score for an Anti-War dance” (score by Rae Shaolan Blum, arranged and performed by taisha paggett with Arianne Hoffmann). Shared
Women. LACE, Los Angeles.
“Living with _ _ _ _ in this country is like living through a war that’s happening only for those people in the trenches. Every time a shell
explodes you look around to discover that you’ve lost more of your friends. But nobody else notices, it isn’t happening to them.” Diavolo
Performance Space, Los Angeles.

“we imitate fences.” Then Again, Center Stage Theater, Santa Barbara.
how we get by, an evening of four new dance works by taisha paggett. UCLA, Los Angeles.

Parallel Activity: The Conservation and The Game of Life. (with Tania Hammidi, Jessica Lawless and Meg Wolfe) LTTR release party.
Sundown Salon, Eagle Rock, CA.
“Variations on the singer in solitude.” Anatomy Riot, Los Angeles.
“the dreamer/tenuous.” Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica.
“Untitled Women.” Projections. UCLA, Los Angeles.

“Museum of Human Beings” for Denise Uyehara. Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica.

“Solo 1 or Agency.” Art 2102, Los Angeles.
“Lunch Break” by Taisha Paggett and Esther Baker. Fowler Museum, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.

Choreography for Punk Out, a feature film.
“1 Solo/ 2 Duets.” Video dance. Los Angeles.

Untitled in collaboration with Yaquelina Parvex. New York City.

“What You Won’t Do For Love.” Gallery 25, Fresno, CA.


Company Work and Performance for other Artists.

Three Matadors by Every House Has a Door, University of Chicago.

New Faithful Disco by Meg Wolfe, Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles, CA.

A Reading That Writes by Yael Davids. REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA.

Stardust by David Rousseve (Redcat, Los Angeles; Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts; Peak Performance, New Jersey; Clarice Smith
Center, Maryland; Krannert Center, Univ of Champagne-Urbana; Lafayette College, Pennsylvania; Contemporary Dance
Theatre, Cincinnati; Meany Hall, Seattle; Carpenter Center, Long Beach.)

trembler.Shifter by Meg Wolfe. REDCAT, Los Angeles.

“Terrain of Tight Places,” Columbia College Faculty Concert. Dance Center, Chicago.
Fat and Other Stories by Ishmael Houston-Jones. Pieter PASD, Los Angeles.
(like a vase) by Neil Greenberg. Pieter PASD, Los Angeles.
Shifting Shapes by Kelly Nipper. Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich, Switzerland.
Tonight by Modern Garage Movement. Pieter PASD, Los Angeles, CA.

Shape Shifting by Kelly Nipper. Art Basel, Miami, FL.
I think that I shall never see… by Joseph Ravens. Pasadena, CA.

Yes is a Long Time by Mira Kingsley. Los Angeles, CA.

Floyd on the Floor by Kelly Nipper for Performa, Judson Gym, New York City.
Swallow touches the Water by Cheng-Chieh Yu. Sushi Performance Space, San Diego, CA.

“Grass Undone” by Esther Baker-Tarpaga. Dialogues de Corps, Burkina Faso, OU.
“Small Variations” by Cid Pearlman. Counter Pulse, San Francisco, CA.

Saudade, David Rousseve/REALITY (The Dance Center, Chicago; Yerba Buena Center, San Francisco; Danspace, New York; UCLALIVE,
Los Angeles; Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts; Peak Performance, New Jersey; Clarice Center, Maryland)

Not About Iraq, Victoria Marks (Sweet Briar College, Virginia; UCLA, Los Angeles; Links Hall, Chicago; Danspace, New York; The Dance
Place, Washington, DC; The Myrna Loy Theater, Helena, Montana; The Southern Theater, Minneapolis; The Carpenter Center, Long

Mourning Dances by Rebecca Alson-Milkman. UCLA, Los Angeles, CA.
Trade by Cheng-Chieh Yu. Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, CA.
“Day Is Done.” Choreography by Kate Foley. Video project by Mike Kelley, Los Angeles, CA.
“Bittersweet.” Video project for David Rousseve, Los Angeles, CA.

“Chair/Pillow” and “We Shall Run” by Yvonne Rainer. Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA.
“Flux” by Maria Gillespie. Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, CA.
“Migration Songs” by Norah Zuniga Shaw. Highways Performance Space, Santa Monica, CA.

Dances by Fiona Marcotty

Stanley Love Performance Group

Kraig Patterson/bopi’s black sheep

“Untitled” by Esteban Cardenas. Foz du Iquaca, Brasil.

“Lichen Dreams” by Allyson Ayers. Duke Gardens, Durham, NC.

UCSC Dance Concert (Mel Wong, Sylvia Martins, Joe Goode, Remy Charlip.) UC Santa Cruz.
“209 Repercussions” by Heidi Hou. Coalition for Mumia Abu-Jamal Awareness Program, Santa Cruz.

Random With a Purpose, Santa Cruz, CA.

Repertoire by David Dorfman. Dance Festival, Boulder, CO.

Crash, Burn and Die/Moving & Storage Performance Group

Triquetra, Fresno, CA.

Cheryl Kershaw projects

Portable Dance Troupe (Beth Pierik, Janice Garrett) Fresno, CA.

Repertoire by Joe Goode and Bebe Miller, CSU Summer Arts, Arcata, CA.


Residencies and Awards

UCIRA (University of California Institute for Research in the Arts) grant, Santa Barbara, CA
ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions), Steuben, WI
MAP (Multi-Arts Production) Fund.

Headlands Artist-in-Residence. Sausalito, CA.
Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange (CHIME) grant. Los Angeles.
Hothouse residency program. UCLA.

Hyde Park Art Center. Project residency with collaborator Ashley Hunt. Chicago.

Project Row Houses. Research residency and workshop with collaborator Ashley Hunt. Houston.

Durfee ARC Grant.

BAK (Basis voor Actuele Kunst) Research in Residence program with Ashley Hunt, Utrecht, NL.
Silo Dancenownyc residency with Rebecca Alson-Milkman. Springtown, PA.

Jean Irwin Scholarship.
Forti Family Scholarship.


Writing, Editing and Publication

“Performance on the Eve of Negro Spring,” The Drama Review.

Interview with Molly Shanahan. itch dance journal.

“vestibular mantra (or radical virtuosities for a brave new dance).” Blog Salon #3 On Collectivity and Collapse.

“Let it burn: A mini life-art-travelogue on decomposition,” itch dance journal.

Interview with Yvonne Rainer (written with Sara Wolf and Meg Wolfe). itch dance journal.
“Teacher’s Wisdom” essay on Margalit Oved. Dance Magazine.
“The letter I was finally able to write (prelude in manifesto with lyrics),” itch dance journal.
Interview with Lilian Wu on Pina Bausch (written with Sara Wolf and Meg Wolfe).

Interview with Wendy Perron, itch dance journal #6.
“i love bush he does great things for my people, or In Recognition of Black History Month,” itch dance journal.

We HAVE no place (that’s a good thing),” itch dance journal.

“Krumping: The Changing Face of Hip-hop,” Dance Magazine.
“Everything Under the Sun: Studying dance at UCLA. Dance Magazine.


Public talks and panels

Performance and its Materials panel. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, PA.

Artist talk. UC Riverside.

Conversation with Nick Duran, Chloë Flores, Ashley Hunt and taisha paggett, Performance Now, KChung Radio.
Artist talk, Paul Brach Visiting Artist Lecture Series, Calarts. Valencia, CA.
Artist talk, Interarts Visiting Artist Lecture Series, Idyllwild Arts, Idyllwild, CA.
Artist talk, Dance Department, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
Artist talk, Visiting Artist Lecture Series, Parsons School of Art. New York City.
“The Artist’s Voice,” Fred Moten in conversation with Jamal Cyrus, Steffani Jemison, Harold Mendez and taisha paggett,
The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY.

“African-American identity in dance making and practice.” NDEO conference panel, Minneapolis.

“Tomorrow is what we call Monday, and other facts: A lecture/demonstration by taisha paggett.” Pieter PASD, Los Angeles.

“An earful of dance,” conversation on Yvonne Rainer at REDCAT. Los Angeles.

“Choreographing Identities” panel, Action of Transfer: Women’s Performance in the Americas Conference. UCLA, Los Angeles.

“On movement, thought and politics,” research presentation, BAK, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
“NOT FOR SALE” Performa panel. Judson Church, New York City.

“Feminism: Legacies and Reinventions.” Rosamund Felsen Gallery. Santa Monica, CA.
“Habits of Action & Knowing” talk with Ashley Hunt, Spheres of Interest curated by Renée Green, San Francisco Art Institute.



“Body Present: taisha paggett Emphasizes Experience,” by Nancy Popp. Artillery Magazine.
“taisha paggett’s Geography of We” by Jaime Shearn Coan, The Brooklyn Rail.
“Shattering in a Space of Healing: taisha paggett Stages Performance Piece at Whitney Museum” by Gia Kourlas, New York Times.
“What can be done with dance? Pt. 4” interview with Anthony Romero, Bad At Sports

“Most memorable arts experiences of 2013” by Eva Yaa Asentewaa, Infinite Body.
“The dancing body is the same body we move through the world with: A conversation with taisha paggett” by Jaime Shearn Coan, Dancers Turn.
“A Surreal Collage of Shaking, Swooning and Stumbling” by Brian Siebert, New York Times.
“A conversation with Thomas J. Lax, Nicole Miller, taisha paggett, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Narcissister.” Museum and

Curatorial Studies Review.
“Shared space: Rebecca Davis and taisha paggett at Danspace Project” by Eva Yaa Asentewaa, Infinite Body.
Within exhibition catalogue, texts by Chloë Flores and Melinda Guillen.
“Solos & Solitudes: Hilary Clark, Caroline Gravel, taisha paggett” by Eva Yaa Asentewaa, Dance Magazine.

Fore exhibition catalogue, text by Rachel Wetzler.
Around the Counties: Looking into Los Angeles County Arts with Robby Herbst.” Melody Soto, KCET Artbound.

Quadruple Consciousness review by Roberta Fallon, Philadelphia Weekly.
“Teaching & Training: Spotlight on Guest Faculty” by Ligia Himebaugh, Backstage at the Center.
“taisha paggett, performing in VOLUME presents Presence,” Carol Cheh, Another Righteous Transfer.
GUTTED review by Carol Cheh, Another Righteous Transfer.

“At Home in the World? Mobilizing Inbetweenness in ‘Choreographing Identities’” by Sara Wolf, Theatre Research International.
“Three Women: Performances by Dawn Kasper, taisha paggett, Nancy Popp” by Carol Cheh, Another Righteous Transfer.
LA Record, Elana Mann interview.
“In Conversation with taisha paggett & Yvonne Rainer,” Andrea Geyer/Sharon Hayes: Kunstmuseum St. Gallen.

“taisha paggett: The L.A.-based dancer returns with David Rousseve/REALITY” by Asimina Chremos, TimeOut Chicago.
Cover feature on Ultra-red. Mark Fisher, Wire magazine.
Special issue on Activism & community. Contact Quarterly.

“Broken Boundaries” by Jessica Wong, The Daily Bruin.

“Then Again: New and Very New Dance from Southern California Choreographers” by Elizabeth Schwyzer, Santa Barbara Independent.


 Curatorial and other related projects and activities

NATUREHOODFULLESSNESS, curated video screening, Pieter PASD, Los Angeles.

Board Member. Show Box LA, Los Angeles.

Choreographic assistant to Barak Marshall, Los Angeles.

Co-curator. THEN group show. Diavolo Performance Space, Los Angeles.

Rehearsal Director. Floyd on the Floor by Kelly Nipper. Los Angeles/New York City.

Co-founder and co-editor of itch dance journal. Los Angeles.

Undeliverable Address in collaboration with Ashley Hunt. Crazy Space Gallery, Santa Monica, CA.
Co-Curator. Dance Under Construction, Graduate Conference. UCLA, Los Angeles.
Choreographic assistant to Yvonne Rainer. Getty Center. Los Angeles.

Co-curator. Project 2001. Location One. New York City.

Co-director. Random With A Purpose: The Student Movement, Porter College, Santa Cruz, CA.