project image
Ali Asgar

first performed on May 1, 2019
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
performed once in 2019


Chicago, IL / Dhaka, Bangladesh


“Commune-in_Action” was a participatory performative conference that was informed both by my experience of navigating institutional spaces in America and the current ongoing conversation around diversity, inclusion, and belonging. I staged this site-specific performance from 4–6pm in the President’s Conference Room on the eighth floor of the Sharp Building at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a group of fifteen participants. The conference’s location was central to the ideation of the work which reflected on the conversations and activities that happen in the President’s conference room.

The voluntary participants came in with little knowledge of what to expect. Upon arrival, the participants were assigned to different groups: token, moderator, or audience. Each group was made up of four participants and each individual was assigned an identity prompt by the conference convener “System AKA ASAP” (enacted by Ali Asgar). The three remaining participants were silent observers. The conference invited participants to embody their assigned identities in the context of collaborative group activities, negotiating power structures and performing identity.

The “token” group consisted of four people who were given one of four identity prompts: a Bangladeshi immigrant, a southside Black woman from Chicago, a Syrian refugee, and a homeless gay asylum seeker. The “moderator” group consisted of four people who enacted the personas of four white saviors. The “audience” group served as the negotiator between the other two groups. All the identity prompts were scripted for each of the participants to help them understand and enact the personas.

Some ideas the performance explored were:

Who is vulnerable and what form does help or assistance take?

How do we collectively live under a Neoliberal System?

Language surrounding saving and saviors.

Memories of 9/11 trauma.

Cultural and ideological notions of fear and negation.

Administrative power structures.

The performance concluded with a reading of an excerpt from “Trans / Nationally Femme: Notes on Neo-Liberal Economic Regimes, Security States, and My Life as a Brown, Immigrant, Fag” by Debanuj Dashgupat.