The impulse to create began with surrender to sound. I wanted to be a singer at a very young age in Haiti. Migration spun the quest for song into rock star dreams, poetry, and a doctoral degree in cultural anthropology. Today, as an artist and educator (who has been teaching in universities for over 21 years), the work I do is a direct response to the calls I receive, that is, whenever they make themselves known. Using a multitude of forms, I explore the borders and spaces between ethnography and performance, physical and textual materials, seen and unseen forces, unmasking our fierce urgency to identify, name, and reckon with the power and vulnerabilities lodged in unprocessed horrors of colonialism and empire.
I came to both my performance and visual art practice as a Black feminist ethnographer who pushes the boundaries and challenges the tension between humanities and social science that undergirds anthropology’s schizophrenic standing as a discipline because no subject lives life along disciplinary lines. Still-point. Rooted in the foundation of my being, I seek beauty and grace with humility, however haunting or ephemeral to confront the visceral too often absent in structural analyses. In response to the muses, I play with “recycled ethnographic collectibles,” my projects mix the tangible with the intangible. I commune with the dead and the living adapt at remixing natural and sacred objects, archived and contemporary histories, narratives and theories often with popular songs, laced with Vodou chants. My fondness for numbers and statistics remains grounded in Marassa logic 1+1=3. The aesthetics in my feminist praxis stem from an organic approach to rasanblaj (a gathering of ideas, things, people, spirits) that is fueled by ancestral, liberation, and love imperatives. My aim is to access/face our collective dehumanization… engage with the present… to recreate a fully integrated being without leaving the body behind. I am still an inspired dreamer who wishes to make some contribution to a more just world.
Gina Athena Ulysse is based in Santa Cruz, California where she is professor of Feminist Studies at UCSC. A photographer, poet, chanteuse, and a cultural anthropologist who is always writing something, she has presented her works in numerous colleges, and universities nationally and internationally. She has also performed in artistic venues including: The Bowery, Brecht Forum, The British Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Court Theatre, Gorki Theatre, House of World Cultures in Berlin, LaMaMa, Lyric Stage Theatre, Marcus Garvey Liberty Hall, MoMA Salon, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia among others. In 2020, she was invited to the Biennale of Sydney.
In these times, she’s engaged in a RedwoodsRasanblaj.