Sports and art are typically worlds apart, but Marc Bamuthi Joseph pulls the two together in /peh-LO-tah/—A Futbol Framed Freedom Suite . . . , the new performance piece he brings to the Museum of Contemporary Art this weekend. During a trip to South Africa before the 2010 World Cup, Joseph saw soccer bring people from all over the world together, inspiring him to create a work that explores the global and personal impact of the game.
“My love of soccer is a heritage story,” he says. “[/peh-LO-tah/] is a piece that tracks my own family’s migration to the U.S. and the sense that the game helped us to be American, while also exploring the conflicts and contradictions of that journey, including the complexity of immigrant identity amidst a playing field of equals.”
But “as much as this piece is informed by the game,” he says, “it’s actually launched by the realization that as my son turns 16, he transitions from being my adorable kid to a place where society and statistics suggest that he’s perceived as more of a threat. The piece wrestles with these dynamics as the game does. The nature of offense and defense, the tension between bliss and tumult.”
Joseph himself contributes spoken word to the performance, which he brings to the stage with the help of longtime associates Tommy Soulati Shepherd, who composed the original music, and Stacey Printz, whose choreography combines soccer movements with hip-hop, modern, and folkloric dance. Soccer unifies these art forms, just as it unifies the international community. “[It’s] the only thing the entire planet can agree to do together,” says Joseph. “It’s the official sport of this spinning ball.”
Marc Bamuthi Joseph: /peh-LO-tah/—A Futbol Framed Freedom Suite 10/5-10/8: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660, mcachicago.org, $30.