Elana Mann Sounds from the Swamp

October 10, 2020 – January 16, 2021 Mary E. Bawden Sculpture Garden

Sounds from the Swamp by Elana Mann repositions the call to “clean up the swamp” by President Trump, and instead celebrates the sounds, voices, and music emanating from the marshy bayous of Houston. The exhibition takes place in Lawndale’s Mary E. Bawden Sculpture Garden and is accompanied by a series of experimental musical pieces by Houston-based composers—including Emilý Æyer, Anthony Almendárez, Lisa Harris, and Jawwaad Taylor—and a text object by JD Pluecker.

The exhibition features three aluminum and bronze sculptures that blend casts from the human body with bells of wind instruments to create uncanny megaphones that speak to the resiliency of the human voice at a time when dissent is being actively suppressed by our national government.

The accompanying sound pieces produced by collaborating composers are inspired by these sculptural instruments and will be showcased in Instagram live sessions during the run of the exhibition.

In a time of massive crisis, Sounds from the Swamp looks to wetlands and swamps as models for transition, regeneration, and diversity, seeking the local sounds that will move us towards restorative change.

Elana Mann creates artwork that brings a greater consciousness to the listening and speaking we practice in everyday life, with the goal of building equanimity in ourselves and increasing equity in our world. Her artwork bridges sculpture, performance, community engagement, and politics. She is a recipient of the 2019 Stone & DeGuire Contemporary Art Award and a 2020 City of Los Angeles (COLA) Individual Artist Fellow. Mann was the 2019 Artist-in-Residence at the Los Angeles Clean Tech Incubator and the inaugural ceramics artist-in-residence at Pitzer College from 2017-2018.

Mann has presented her artwork in museums, galleries, and public spaces in the U.S, and abroad, most recently with solo exhibitions at Pitzer College Art Galleries (Claremont, CA), Commonwealth and Council (LA), and Baik Art (LA). Her artwork is part of public collections at the Getty Research Institute and the Center for Political Graphics, among others. In addition, Mann curates, collaborates, organizes, and writes. She co-edited, with John Burtle, the performance score anthology, “Propositional Attitudes: What do we do now?” (Golden Spike Press: 2018), with book events at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. She lives in Southern California with her two children and partner, where she is a founding member of the Anti-Racist Committee of South Pasadena.

Forthcoming: Text object by JD Pluecker.

Elana Mann | Sounds from the Swamp
Filmed by Ryan Hawk

Performance Collaborations

Sounds from the Swamp is accompanied by a series of experimental musical pieces co-sponsored by Nameless Sound. Performances are by Houston-based composers, including Anthony Almendárez, Lisa Harris, Emilý Æyer, and Jawwaad Taylor. Experience each performance through the tabs below.

About the Composers

Anthony Almendárez is an interdisciplinary artist working in music composition, sound, noise, improvisation, performance, fixed media, video art and film. His work challenges the hierarchy between audio and visual stimuli confronting their respective stereotypes in relation to identity. Almendárez ultimately seeks to inject new modes of storytelling that are inclusive of histories and collective memories of those thriving along the margins of society. His works have been performed at various events and venues including: EchoFlux 19, Prague, Czech Republic; Conservatoire Maurice Ravel, Paris, France; Artpace, San Antonio, TX; The Houston Cinema Crawl; Alabama Song, Houston, TX; Nameless Sound + Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX; The Reading Room, Dallas, TX; SPLICE, Kalamazoo, Michigan; and the Florida School of the Arts. 

Æyer is a vocalist, composer, and organizer who lives and creates in Houston, Texas. In their practice, they mesh a powerful and harrowing multi-octave voice with stark orchestral and electronic soundscapes, they create a portrait of their queer life and body striving to survive and thrive within an often-hostile Southern cultural landscape. Their original compositions and performances have been featured in several short films with collaborators Traci Lavois Thiebaud of Houston, TX, and Maria Bang Espersen of Copenhagen, Denmark. Their film with Maria Bang Espersen, “A messy story about oak and,” has been screened at Glassell CORE shorts at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, QFest Houston 2019, the Danish National Autumn Exhibition: Kunstnernes Efterårsudstilling (KE19) at Den Frie Udstillingsbygning in Copenhagen, and was screened at the 58th annual Ann Arbor Film Festival.

Performances include Sitting on a Man’s Head in collaboration with MacArthur Fellow Okwui Okpokwasili Project Row Houses and a part of CounterCurrent19, Stonewall 50 Texas Noise & Ambience (2019), and Cell Lust | a body (2018) at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, Queering the Wheel at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Eternal 30, Everyone at Blaffer Museum, Nameless Sound at Lawndale Art Center and many others.

Lisa E. Harris, Li, is an independent and interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, creative soprano, performer, composer, improviser, writer, and researcher from Houston Texas.

Recognized by Huffington Post as “one of fourteen artists transforming Opera ”, Li’s work resists genre classification as she focuses on the energetic relationships between body, land, spirit, and place. Using voice, theremin, photography, movement, improvisation, meditation, and new media to explore spatial awareness, substantivalism, relationalism, intuition, panoptic surveillance, sonification, and personification, Li maintains a focused concentration on healing in performance and living.  She is the founder and creative director of Studio Enertia, an arts collective and production company in Houston Texas. Studio Enertia is the producer of Harris’s recently completed 10-year durational work, “Cry of the Third Eye, a new opera film in Three Acts”  that archives the effects of gentrification on her Houston neighborhood. Li is the 2021 recipient of the Dorothea Tanning Award for Music/ Sound, awarded by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and a 2021 Texas Vignette Artist Grant winner.

Recent commissions include  “Give It a Rest: X Lullabies in Support of Black Rest/Unrest” for the contemporary classical duo Mazumal, and, “ A Black Woman Told Me and I Believe Her. A Movement”, commissioned by Harvard University for the 2020 Freshman Seminar with Professor Claire Chase. She is a current Monroe Research Fellow at Tulane University’s Center for the Gulf South where she is developing her environmental justice research project “Onshore Trilling: What to Do When the Earth Sings the Bruise.

Additional performer information forthcoming. 

Anthony Almendárez | Improvisation

Lisa Harris | Performance filmed by Ryan Hawk

Emilý Æyer | "Kyrie All Alone" Composition

Emilý Æyer: Kyrie All Alone

The Kyrie Eleison is the foremost holy liturgical text that is sung during Catholic mass. Kyrie Eleison meaning: lord, have mercy on us. Kyrie stems from the Greek Kyrios [Κύριος] meaning: lord. Kyrie All Alone, meaning: I am my own lord.

We all must be stewards of our own self during this time. To pursue our own emotional growth. To become an emotionally intelligent being. To stay in touch with why we are all here in the first place. To do the work, to bring the future into focus, and to restructure the systems and policies in place that do our society, and peoples no justice. We have no choice now but to look the future dead in the eye, and go about fixing it.

Jawwaad Taylor | Performance filmed by Ryan Hawk

Swamps Fly by JD Pluecker was created in collaboration with Mann for this exhibition.

Purchase Swamps Fly by JD Pluecker.

JD Pluecker is a language worker who writes, translates, organizes, interprets, and makes art. In 2010, he co-founded the transdisciplinary collaborative Antena and in 2015 the local social justice interpreting collective Antena Houston. Their undisciplinary work is informed by experimental poetics, language justice, radical aesthetics/politics, and cross-border/cross-language cultural production. They have translated numerous books from the Spanish, including most recently Gore Capitalism (Semiotext(e), 2018) and Antígona González (Les Figues Press, 2016). Their book of poetry and image, Ford Over, was released in 2016 from Noemi Press. They are a member of the Macondo Writing Workshop and has exhibited work at Blaffer Art Museum, the Hammer Museum, Project Row Houses, and more. More info at www.johnpluecker.com and www.antenaantena.org.