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Radical Ballerina Maya Stovall’s Urban Performances Come to Fort Mason Center

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Still from Maya Stovall, 'The Public Library, vol.1, no.4,' 2018. (Courtesy of Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture)

The KQED Arts team has been thinking about the choreography of city life a lot lately (the second season of our video series If Cities Could Dance launches today). But Detroit-born artist Maya Stovall has actually written an entire anthropology dissertation on the topic.

Her practice, which often manifests as unannounced dance performances in public spaces, considers those spaces—and the people who use them—through movement, in face-to-face interactions and over spans of time. For Stovall, these performances are a spatiotemporal way of getting to know a place, which is then documented in video, soundtracked with electronic music and presented to audiences like you.

Under New Ownership, running March 29–May 5 at the San Francisco Art Institute’s Fort Mason Center campus, exhibits performance videos from Stovall’s ongoing Liquor Store Theatre series: dances and interviews filmed at liquor stores in the McDougall-Hunt neighborhood of Detroit. Also on view is her similarly formatted video series The Public Library, created in 2018 while at a residency in Saskatoon, Canada. (Stovall describes the project as “a meditation on city life and crystal methamphetamine markets.”)

The show, a co-presentation by SFAI and the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, culminates with a May 3 performance of a newly commissioned piece called Theorem, no.2. The exhibition’s press release promises a group of artists will “spin a bizarre world within a world that’s already there,” which is a different and welcome way of describing how art can insert itself into the ritual movements of everyday life.

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