The Fisher Center at Bard Presents the Second Installment of Common Ground: An International Festival on the Politics of Land and Food, Its 2022-23 LAB Biennial, Curated by Tania El Khoury and Gideon Lester

Produced in Association with the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard, the Biennial Continues May 4–7, 2023

Festival Features World Premiere Performances from Kenyon Adams in Collaboration with Omar Tate, Osayi Endolyn, and Ambrose Rhapsody Murray; Tara Rodríguez Besosa; Tania El Khoury; and Kite

Festival Is Part of the Fisher Center’s Milestone 20th Anniversary Season: Breaking Ground

The Fisher Center at Bard presents four world premiere performances for the second half of Common Ground: An International Festival on the Politics of Land and Food, curated by the artist Tania El Khoury, who serves as Director of the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard (CHRA), and Fisher Center Artistic Director and Chief Executive Gideon Lester. Common Ground—the 2022-2023 iteration of the Fisher Center LAB Biennial, for which the Fisher Center commissions new work that grapples with some of the most pressing questions of our time—has gathered artists whose practices engage with food sovereignty, climate change, and land rights. The concluding offerings in Common Ground’s international program, which began last fall at harvest time, take place at the beginning of the growing season, May 4-7. Multiple artists here emphasize food’s fundamental relationship to communion, sharing food with audiences/participants as a core facet of their new works.

New works play out through various modes of inviting interaction, providing opportunities to collectively imagine together a more equitable, sustainable, and healthful future. Interdisciplinary artist Kenyon Adams, collaborating with chef and artist Omar Tate (Honeysuckle Provisions, Netflix’s High on the Hog), James Beard Foundation Award-winning food and culture writer Osayi Endolyn, and visual artist Ambrose Rhapsody Murray, creates a “blues Eucharist” with COMMUNION: a ritual of nourishment and commemoration (May 5–7). Architect, activist, and farmer Tara Rodríguez Besosa’s Somos OtraCosa (May 5–7) introduces audiences to the queer homestead OtraCosa—in the mountains of San Salvador, Puerto Rico—through an installation and decolonized living manuscript. With Memory of Birds, Tania El Khoury builds a sound installation in the trees around the Fisher Center, evoking the imprint of political violence on contested lands (May 4–7). In Aǧúyabskuyela (May 4–7), Oglála Lakȟóta performance artist and composer Kite (MFA ’18) explores the practice, amongst the Lakȟóta people, of sharing cakes with images of the deceased in frosting at funerary wakes—and considering various forms of loss with guest speakers. (See below for descriptions and schedule of each project.)

For complete Biennial information visit the Fisher Center website or call 845-758-7900.

Beyond the programming presented in person at the Fisher Center, the 2022–23 Biennial is truly global, as the subjects of foodways, seed preservation, and the right to access food and land are inherently interconnected. International editions of the program have been held in Colombia, Palestine, and South Africa—curated by Juliana Steiner, Emily Jacir, and Boyzie Cekwana, respectively. These three international programs are supported by the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard (CHRA). Documentation from these programs will be on display at the Fisher Center during the festival, with an in-person curator’s panel (May 6). 

Videos of video works commissioned by CHRA on the politics of food from Ama Josephine Budge, Brian Lobel with Season Butler, Alexandre Paulikevitch, and Emilio Rojas with Pamela Sneed will be on display throughout the festival.

The fourth edition of the Biennial, Common Ground, kicked off in October 2022. Fall programming included the U.S. premiere of When [Salmon Salmon [Salmon]], a trilogy of performative installations from the acclaimed Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe), tracing the effects of salmon farms on multiple ecologies, and the world premiere of The Belly is a Garden, a performance and walk through the cultivated Bard Farm and the wild spaces that surround it with celebrated seed keeper, artist, and chef Vivien Sansour, created with live artist Adrienne Truscott as dramaturg.

Common Ground follows the 2019 LAB Biennial, Where No Wall Remains, the first that Tania El Khoury and Gideon Lester curated together, which focused on borders—political, personal, and geographic—as sites of significance and contention. That festival moved beyond the walls of the Fisher Center to include a land art project by Emilio Rojas, who used the traditional “three sisters” crops to grow a vast map of the U.S./Mexico border at the Bard Farm, and a site-specific dinner in a former church, created by Mirna Bamieh, who traced the history of ingredients and dishes forgotten or erased during the occupation of Palestine. Those two projects resonated in the sociological, political, geographic, and historical context of the Hudson Valley, an agricultural region undergoing swift gentrification while still containing areas of significant poverty and even food apartheid.

The Fisher Center LAB Biennial is a curatorial platform that reimagines the Fisher Center as a site for performance and installations. Art works are installed in backstage areas, rehearsal studios, even storage rooms, to create a playful dialog with Frank Gehry’s building, and inviting audiences and artists to engage with it in unconventional and surprising ways.  Previous editions of the biennial have included The House is Open (2015) which explored the dynamic relationship between the visual and performing arts worlds, and We’re Watching (2018) which focused on surveillance.

The 2022–23 biennial is also inspired by the various social and political initiatives happening in the Hudson Valley, some of them on BIPOC-run farms that are experimenting with sustainable and equitable farming practices, often rooted in indigenous practices of seed preservation and in collaboration with the original stewards of the land.

Gideon Lester, Artistic Director of the Fisher Center, said, “The subject matter of the 2022–23 Fisher Center LAB Biennial is both vast and timely, encompassing questions of ethics, politics, history, science, and aesthetics. We’ve commissioned some of the world’s most imaginative artists to address these urgent concerns. Taken together, the wide-ranging works they’re creating for Common Ground will provide audiences with a complex, multi-dimensional opportunity to explore foodways, land politics, and their central importance in sustainability, social justice, and climate action. The festival is a thrilling demonstration of what’s possible when the Fisher Center collaborates with the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts and a reflection of Bard’s commitment to sustainability, advocacy, and support for marginalized communities in the region, and to the study and implementation of new directions in regenerative farming practices and food science.”

Tania El Khoury, Director of the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard, said, “Common Ground is about connections: between different species; between our food and art practices and the land on which we are settlers; and in between artists and seed and food activists across the U.S., Colombia, Palestine, and South Africa.”

Spring 2023 Common Ground Schedule and Descriptions

Kenyon Adams
COMMUNION: a ritual of nourishment and commemoration
World Premiere

May 5 at 8 pm
May 6 at 8 pm
May 7 at 4 pm

Sosnoff Stage Right
Live Performance

In what ways does a meal distinctly allow commemoration, and also provide nourishment? And where are the joy-working and life-sustaining spaces of the future?

COMMUNION: a ritual of nourishment and commemoration is a participatory “blues Eucharist” – inspired by Kenyon Adams’ early experiences in the Black Protestant churches of his childhood in the Southeast region of the United States. In collaboration with chef Omar Tate (featured in the Netflix series High on the Hog), writer Osayi Endolyn (The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook), and visual artist Ambrose Rhapsody Murray, Kenyon is creating an offering to the audience, with poems, prayers, movement, music, and food. The ritual applies the distinct paradox that imbues a Eucharistic meal: the partaking of which is simultaneously a commemoration of death as well as a claim of unity with that which cannot die or be diminished. COMMUNION seeks to construct new spaces and traditions of testimony and witness.

This work is part of the artist’s own reckoning with death in the pandemic and the ways it has disproportionately affected BIPOC communities, as well as the ongoing violence against black bodies within American society. COMMUNION is the second installment of a ritual trilogy, WATCHNIGHT: WE ARE ALMOST TO OUR DESTINATION. The first part, Prayers of the People, was presented by the Fisher Center in 2018, in collaboration with the Hannah Arendt Center.

All tickets $25
$5 tickets available for Bard students through the Passloff Pass

Tara Rodríguez Besosa
Somos OtraCosa
World Premiere

May 5 from 5–7 pm
May 6 from 1–6 pm
May 7 from 1–3 pm

Sosnoff Backstage
Interactive Installation

Architect, activist, and farmer Tara Rodíguez Besosa is creating an installation and resource center to introduce the public to OtraCosa, an off-grid DIY queer homestead in the rural, mountainous community of San Salvador, Puerto Rico. For the past year Tara has been mapping and cataloging the species and food systems of OtraCosa, creating a decolonized, living manuscript of the different human and non-human exchanges that provide nourishment, healing, and life. Tara, inspired by the Drake Manuscript, is creating their own decolonized version of a living manuscript, handmade by them on the farm. Throughout the festival Tara will guide audiences through the installation and its manuscript, inviting us to explore the principles and practices of OtraCosa and those who steward its land.

Free and open to the public

Tania El Khoury
Memory of Birds
World Premiere

May 4 from 5–7 pm, on the half-hour
May 5 from 5–7 pm, on the half-hour
May 6 from 1–6 pm, on the half-hour
May 7 from 1–3 pm, on the half-hour

Fisher Center Lawn
Interactive Sound Installation

Memory of Birds is an interactive sound installation in trees, in collaboration with a trauma therapist and migrating birds. The work explores political violence that gets buried in the soil of contested lands. Through a  guided somatic experience, Memory of Birds transforms into a work that eats itself, designed to be forgotten.

Limited Capacity
All tickets $10
$5 tickets available for Bard students through the Passloff Pass

Kite (MFA ’18)

May 4 at 7:30 pm, with guest Corey Stover
May 5 at 6 pm, with guest Lou Cornum
May 6 at 6 pm, with guest Jolene K. Rickard
May 7 at 2 pm, with guest Alisha Wormsley

Veterans of Foreign Wars Red Hook Post 7765
30 Elizabeth St, Red Hook, NY
Transportation available from the Fisher Center, check website for schedule.
Live Performance

Sharing cakes at funeral wakes is a practice common amongst the Lakȟóta people; often these cakes have an image of the deceased imprinted in the frosting. Kite, an Oglála Lakȟóta performance artist and composer, explores this tradition in a performance in which she decorates funerary cakes made from local indigenous ingredients while speaking with friends, relatives, and elders about traditions, kin, land, and species they have lost. As we face death in the world, Kite hopes to turn towards protocols for mourning to process the death of beings, human and non-human. Cake and coffee will be served.

All tickets $10
$5 tickets available for Bard students through the Passloff Pass

More Common Ground
in Colombia, Palestine, and South Africa
LUMA Theater Lobby
Common Ground also includes three international programs, curated by Juliana Steiner (Colombia), Emily Jacir (Palestine), and Boyzie Cekwana (South Africa), supported by CHRA in collaboration with students and faculty at Universidad de los Andes in Bogotà, Al-Quds Bard College in East Jerusalem, and University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Documentation from these programs will be on display at the Fisher Center during the festival.
Common Ground Curators Panel
May 6 at 1 pm
Resnick Studio
CHRA Video Commissions on Food Politics
Works from Ama Josephine Budge, Brian Lobel with Season Butler, Alexandre Paulikevitch, and Emilio Rojas with Pamela Sneed
LUMA Theater Lobby
CHRA has commissioned international artists to create digital commissions on the politics of food. First released online in 2022, these four videos will be on display during the festival.

Common Ground: An International Festival on the Politics of Land and Food is presented as part of the Fisher Center’s 20th Anniversary Season: Breaking Ground, which features genre-defying new visions for dance, theater, opera, and public discourse and culminates with the groundbreaking for a new performing arts studio building designed by Maya Lin (October 2). The Fisher Center’s new 25,000-square-foot building which will offer artists at all stages of their careers vastly expanded room to explore as they build works from the ground up.

Funding Credits

The Fisher Center LAB Biennial has received grants from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Educational Foundation of America, in support of COMMUNION, and the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

Kite is a 2022 Rethinking Place: Bard-on-Mahicantuck Artist-in-Residence.

The Fisher Center’s 20th Anniversary Season is dedicated to the founders of the Fisher Center who have cultivated extraordinary artistic experiences—past, present, and future. We honor the memory of Richard B. Fisher, a true champion of the arts and Bard College, and his visionary leadership.

The Fisher Center is generously supported by Jeanne Donovan Fisher, the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation, the Advisory Boards of the Fisher Center at Bard and Bard Music Festival, Fisher Center and Bard Music Festival members, the Ettinger Foundation, the Thendara Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature. Fisher Center LAB has received funding from members of the Live Arts Bard Creative Council, the Lucille Lortel Foundation, and the Fisher Center’s Artistic Innovation Fund, with lead support from Rebecca Gold and S. Asher Gelman ’06 through the March Forth Foundation.

A special thank-you to all who have made this special season possible. Thank you for your contribution to our artistic home.

About Fisher Center LAB

Fisher Center LAB is the Fisher Center’s artist residency and commissioning program, providing custom-made and meaningful support for innovative artists across disciplines. Since its launch in 2012, Fisher Center LAB has supported residencies, workshops, and performances for hundreds of artists, incubating new projects and engaging audiences, students, faculty, and staff in the process of creating contemporary performances. LAB strives to provide artists with the environment, resources, and funding they need to experiment, dream, and fully realize their artistic potential. Where possible, Fisher Center LAB builds long-term relationships for artists, powering their work by taking on administrative and producing support of their practices and companies. Productions developed by Fisher Center LAB often premiere in the annual Bard SummerScape festival and frequently tour around the country and across the world.

About the Fisher Center at Bard
The Fisher Center develops, produces, and presents performing arts across disciplines through new productions and context-rich programs that challenge and inspire. As a premier professional performing arts center and a hub for research and education, the Fisher Center supports artists, students, and audiences in the development and examination of artistic ideas, offering perspectives from the past and present as well as visions of the future. The Fisher Center demonstrates Bard’s commitment to the performing arts as a cultural and educational necessity. Home is the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, designed by Frank Gehry and located on the campus of Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Fisher Center offers outstanding programs to many communities, including the students and faculty of Bard College, and audiences in the Hudson Valley, New York City, across the country, and around the world. Building on a 163-year history as a competitive and innovative undergraduate institution, Bard is committed to enriching culture, public life, and democratic discourse by training tomorrow’s thought leaders.
The Center presents more than 200 world-class events and welcomes 50,000 visitors each year. The Fisher Center supports artists at all stages of their careers and employs more than 300 professional artists annually. The Fisher Center is a powerful catalyst for art-making regionally, nationally, and worldwide. Every year it produces 8 to 10 major new works in various disciplines. Over the past five years, its commissioned productions have been seen in more than 100 communities around the world. During the 2018–2019 season, six Fisher Center productions toured nationally and internationally. In 2019, the Fisher Center won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical for Daniel Fish’s production of Oklahoma!, which began its life in 2007 as an undergraduate production at Bard and was produced professionally in the Fisher Center’s SummerScape Festival in 2015 before transferring to New York City.

About the OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard

The OSUN Center for Human Rights and the Arts at Bard College (CHRA) researches and supports art and activist practices globally. CHRA is committed to creating networks of collaboration and solidarity and to enriching the conversation on the political potential of art within human rights discourse. Through its M.A. program, it opens a space for activists, artists, and scholars from around the world to colearn and cocreate. CHRA supports research with annual grants to OSUN faculty and students, hosts two resident research and teaching fellows each year, and actively collaborates with activists engaged in frontline struggles. The center engages with innovative art practices that investigate human rights and use creative tools of resistance. Its public program, operating locally in New York’s Hudson Valley (occupied homelands of the Munsee and Muhheconneok people) and internationally, includes public talks, digital art commissions, free and accessible publications, and multidisciplinary art festivals.

For more information, please contact Blake Zidell of Blake Zidell & Associates at [email protected] or 917.572.2943.


This event was last updated on 04-21-2023