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REDCAT Presents World Premiere of Lionel Popkin’s Retrospective

Three-by-two collage of Lionel Popkin striking different poses on a carpet
Still from Six Positions of Uncertainty (2020) by Lionel Popkin. | Image courtesy of the artist.

Discover the intersection of history, dance, and contemporary art at the world premiere of Reorient the Orient, a career retrospective by the renowned Los Angeles choreographer and performer Lionel Popkin, running Saturday and Sunday, March 9-10 at REDCAT in downtown LA.

Drawing from Popkin’s nearly 30-year archive, Reorient the Orient focuses on the complex narratives of interculturalism and the challenges faced by brown South Asian bodies in modern art spaces.

Set against the backdrop of REDCAT’s theater, gallery, and lobby, the space is transformed into a durational performance event and multimodal showcase, featuring dancers, videos, archival materials, rugs, sculptures, neon yellow waffle balls, and even the headpiece from an elephant costume. The audience is encouraged to navigate freely, choosing where to be and what to see, making each experience unique.

“No person will see it all. This is purposeful. The audience can stay as long as they like and arrive whenever they wish,” Popkin noted in the REDCAT press release. “The project unpacks dubious histories and experiences in multiple trajectories. One track traces how orientalism has dictated the way South Asian performers exist in American art spaces, using a series of historical figures to ground the conversation. Another spans my archive of over thirty years of making art in the U.S. as I have wrestled with the quandaries of my mixed diasporic background. A third is how you (the audience) navigate through the complex modes of display present in the theater, the gallery, and the lobby.”

The exhibition features performances by artists Jay Carlon, Popkin, Arushi Singh, and Wilfried Souly, happening at 3 pm and 7:30 pm.

Popkin was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, by an Indian mother and a Jewish father. His work explores themes of hybridity, archival practices, historical inequities, and representations of the South Asian diaspora in North America. Throughout his career, he has performed as a dancer in the companies of Trisha Brown, Terry Creach, and Stephanie Skura. His work has been performed at prestigious venues like Danspace Project in New York, Skirball Cultural Center and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and The Palace Theatre in London. Popkin is a resident artist at the 18th Street Arts Centerholds and currently holds the position of interim dean at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.

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Elizabeth McRae emcrae

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REDCAT Presents World Premiere of Lionel Popkin’s Retrospective