“What would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church?” (Trajal Harrell)
Trajal Harrell came to prominence with the Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church series of works which theoretically juxtaposed the voguing dance tradition with that of early postmodern dance. Throughout his oeuvre, Harrell plays with the question what if…?, which allows him to rethink and understand the history and tradition of dance anew. He is now considered one of the most influential dancers and choreographers of his generation.
The Deathbed of Katherine Dunham (2021)
Trajal Harrell's epic trilogy Porca Miseria unites three women from literature and history who were dismissed and attacked and who responded to these brutal assaults with a determined mix of pride and combativeness. Medea, who was sent into exile and murdered her own children, the unapproachable and explosive Maggie from Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the choreographer Katherine Dunham, not only teacher to Eartha Kitt, James Dean and Marlon Brando, but also a civil rights activist who went on hunger strike to defend refugee rights. Trajal Harrell visited Katherine Dunham on her deathbed in 2006 in New York. Based on this first and last encounter, and on the questions that Harrell failed to ask her on this occasion, he has developed a dance-performance-installation for the Kunsthalle Zürich. The Deathbed of Katherine Dunham will be the final part of Porca Miseria and will, following its world premiere in Zurich, travel around the world together with O Medea, which was premiered at the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens, and with Maggie the Cat, first shown at the Manchester International Festival.
Dancer of the Year (2018)
The point of departure for Dancer of the Year is Harrell’s nomination as ‘Dancer of the Year’ by German Tanz magazine in 2018. The project consists of a dance solo in which Harrell focuses attention on (self-)representation. He confronts his singularity and aesthetic with the eponymous honorary title and reflects on what he means to dance and what dance means to him. Performances of Dancer of the Year will take place in the evening; the performance and the installation Dancer of The Year Shop #3 are discrete but complementary works.
Dancer of The Year Shop #3 (2022)
In Dancer of The Year Shop #3 Harrell puts his own personal items and objects from his family up for sale. He thus brings to light questions regarding origins, souvenirs and heritage; value, commerce and art; dance, theatre and exhibition. Dancer of The Year Shop #3 is part of Harrell's exhibition at Kunsthalle Zürich and can be visited daily during opening hours.
Trajal Harrell’s work has been presented in many American and international venues including The Kitchen (NYC), Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis), Festival d’Automne (Paris), Festival d’Avignon and Panorama Festival (Rio de Janeiro) among others. He has also shown performance work in visual art contexts such as MoMA, MoMA PS1, Performa Biennial, Fondation Cartier (Paris), The New Museum (New York), The Margulies Art Warehouse (Miami), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), Serralves Museum (Porto), The Barbican Centre (London), Centre Pompidou-Paris and Metz and ICA Boston.