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Matthew Contos

first performed on October 22, 2016
Radical Abicus, Santa Fe, New Mexico
performed once in 2016


Arthur Kell

Los Cerrillos, NM / Brooklyn, NY


“Nonagon for the Dead Who Are Rising” is a performance text and choreographic script in nine parts, with original improvisational score for solo upright bass by composer Arthur Kell. It is dedicated to the sacred sites at Standing Rock that have been desecratedby the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I created this ritual in response to the invisibility of resistance workers from our continent’s cultural memory—ancestors’ death, grave, and burial sites that are unmemorialized, obscured, and desecrated—specifically the activists represented by AIM, SCLC, the Black Panthers, Black Lives Matters, the Chiricahua Apaches, and Idle No More.

“Nonagon for the Dead Who Are Rising” is a call to resurrection for all agitators who continue, after death, to challenge and resist the loss of agency in our psyches, minds, and bodies. It is a ritual for the living with the purpose of transformation into beings of resistance, revolution, and liberation.

A nonagon is a nine-sided polygon. The nonagon of this performance is created by nine stories, nine locks of hair, and nine stones. These stones conjure the resting sites of dead resistance activists who fought colonialism and genocide. Each stone is attached to me through a network of colored woolen weaving yarns, which I use to pull apart the grave stones as I recite each of the nine resurrection texts.

As each stone is pulled away, I cut off 1/9th of my hair—this invokes the cultural power of hair. I shaved my head after surviving a hate crime rape and kidnapping. At Indian Schools, Native children’s hair was forcibly shaved. Nazis shaved the bodies of all concentration camp prisoners. Scalping in many Indigenous traditions was a practice of war. Soldiers entering the US Military are required to shave their heads. Displaying our hair in its natural form is a key act in every resistance movement.

“Nonagon” forms a polygon of abstract conceptual rituals inhabiting the emotional and tactical landscapes of colonialism, genocide, femicide, identity predation, and our resulting anger, grief, and resistance. It demands the memory of our individual experiences of survival and resistance to unite with the necessity of intersectional protection and connection. It creates a communal space with the dead who are living, the living who are dead … and the strings that weave us all together.