The Anastasio Project Update

The Anastasio Project grows out of NAKA’s longtime interest in investigating social and environmental issues. Artist-Investigators/NAKA Dance Theater artists José Navarrete and Debby Kajiyama collaborate with young performers Nate Armstrong, Mike Turner, Ricardo Ceja, and Hector Torres to unearth stories from their lives about violence and racism.

When the graphic imagery of young Anastasio Hernandez ­Rojas was shown on public television, it instantly recalled the brutal beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles. “The public killings of Hernandez­Rojas, Rodney King, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin have brought violence right into our living rooms, oftentimes leaving us overwhelmed with emotions of outrage, sadness, helplessness, and increasingly, desensitization. The Anastasio Project shares an indignation about the brutality of these crimes, and creates work that allows the audience to address these issues and our multifaceted reactions when confronted with these deaths,” notes Elena Serrano, co­presenter of the work at Eastside Arts Alliance,

The Saturday performance interventions begin at NAKA’s “home base,” Eastside Cultural Center (2277 International @ 23rd, Oakland). The Sunday performances begin at Josie de la Cruz Park, (1637 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland.) The hope is to make these performances accessible and engaging to the local community by bringing them to public spaces and creating opportunities to discuss issues of race, immigration, and police brutality.

NAKA will also be working with video and animation artist Steven Sanchez to create animation sequences using elements of a mural by Leslie Lopez for the Saturday night performances.

Performing in this installment of The Anastasio Project are Dancers Nathaniel Armstrong, Michael Turner Jr, Hector Torres, Ricardo Ceja, Debby Kajiyama, Jose Navarrete and Amara Tabor Smith.

Muralist Leslie Lopez, and video artist Seven Sanchez will oversee the visual art component of the offering while music composer David Molina will present original work also created for the piece.

Saturdays and Sundays, October 26­/27 and November 2­/3, 2013

Saturdays at 7pm outside Eastside Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland Sundays at 3pm Josie de la Cruz Park, 1637 Fruitvale Avenue, Oakland 

Photo credit: Steven Sanchez

Interview with Artist-Investigators Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete

Artist-Investigators Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete recently had an exchange over email with the Triangle Lab about their investigation, The Anastasio Project. Read their discussions of race relations, border violence, youth involvement, and explorations of art forms below. 

The Triangle Lab: Could you briefly describe “The Anastasio Project”?

Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete: The Anastasio Project is a multidisciplinary public performance work that kickstarts an investigation of race relations, state brutality, and border violence using the story of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas as a point of departure. Hernandez-Rojas was a Mexican national who was detained at the US-Mexico border in May 2010. His detention ended not in deportation but with his death at the hands of a dozen Customs and Border Patrol agents.

Unfortunately, like the US-Mexico border, Oakland is no stranger to the issues of race and violence. We want to shine a light on the situation and encourage  dialogue and reflection on the problems we face. The Anastasio Project is a multidisciplinary performance, using sound design, spoken word, movement and video design to bring light to issues affecting our community.

The mobile performances will take place around Eastside Cultural Center: October 26 & 28 and November 2 & 4, 2013. For this iteration, we will focus on four main sites:

  • Taco Track Sinaloa, 22nd Ave and International Blvd
  • Super Mercado “Mi Pueblo,” 29th and International Blvd
  • Clinica de La Raza, Fruitvale and East 16th Street
  • Fruitvale Plaza near the Fruitvale BART Station

TL:  The Triangle Lab supports experiments where artists explore different ways of making work (HOW) and alternative places to make work (WHERE). Is this an exploration of where or how?

DK & JN: In our initial proposal, we said it was a “where” experiment, but now it is becoming a bit of both. We are getting out of the typical theater setting and see what happens when we bring performance to the streets. Instead of inviting audiences to come to a venue and buy a ticket, we bring the show to them. Instead of “we do a show, and you watch us,” we want to spark a dialogue in front of the taco truck or across from the BART station.

The “how” experiment starts by getting to know the stories of the performers working with us. We’re definitely clear that this work is about race, violence, profiling, power. At this time we are in the process of creating strong rapport with all the participants. Our challenge for this phase is to listen to what is “hot” in their lives today. What feels urgent to them? What stories do they need to tell; what movement comes out of their bodies? How can create an open space, yet give some guidance to help surface their personal stories, and find a vocabulary to contextualize their individual stories in a global frame? Another consideration of “where” is that three of our artists are from San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunter’s Point district. We are contemplating ways to engage that community through our mobile performances in the longer term scope of The Anastasio Project.

TL: Why did you choose to focus on this issue?

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The Anastasio Project’s New Bike

Artist-Investigators Debby Kajiyama and José Navarrete’s The Anastasio Project is a mobile, multidisciplinary street performance work using the stories of Rodney King and Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas as inspiration to investigate race relations with East Oakland youth.

Sound Trike built by Matt Gereghty of Oakland’s The Bikery!