created in collaboration with
This work is supported by a 2020 Van Lier Fellowship from Roulette Intermedium
SHANNON LUMPKIN and DAWN FELICIA KNOX
Swans Lakeless is an intermedia composition woven from experience, myth, and narrative poetry told from a disability gaze. It gives voice to Odin, a trans & nonbinary amputee tenant union organizer facing eviction and organizing a rent strike along with their comrades. These narratives are told abstractly from the nonlinear spaces of Odin’s recovery after their traumatic false-arrest, wherein they are assaulted by police and held in custody for over 20 hours. Upon feeling the force of police containment and abuse, Odin expands their understanding of the harsh realities of structural police violence into a somatic one. Odin later convinces the cop to see that he was harming himself by harming Odin, and to start an abolitionist choir.
The work addresses the intersections of gender identity from a disability justice lens on police abuse while offering imaginatives upon the specific interrelationships between shame, violence, masculinity and marginalization. These exist in disjointed harmony with the protagonist’s earnest and necessary explorations of radical empathy, self-healing, and a quest for transformative justice. The story uses an actual false-arrest experienced by Shannon Lumpkin as an initiatory point for creativity, expanding upon real-life events to create a fantasy world where one asks: Do abolitionist police choirs exist yet? How can we inspire a militarized force to give up violence for song?
This Roulette showing uses the empty theater to stage Swans Lakeless as live interaction with fixed media, which acknowledges the creators’ intentions to further iterate the work. From 2019–2021, Anastasia Clarke, Shannon Lumpkin, and Dawn Felicia Knox worked in parallel processes to develop the sound world, poetry, and visual terrain of the piece by compiling source footage, musical performance footage, and Shannon Lumpkin’s solo performances for camera. Confined to England due to the pandemic, Dawn Felicia Knox projected the video source material onto nontraditional surfaces intercepted by fields of colored light in the Star & Shadow, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The resultant work is an intermedia composition of the evolving installation, mixed with raw source footage and brought to life through Anastasia Clarke’s music and sound, which unfolds Shannon Lumpkin’s poetry.
Note on Accessibility
The process for creating, sharing, and discussing this work is informed by SURJ’s documentation on anti-ableism, access and Disability Justice.
The work is available as a livestreamed event. Closed captioning options are limited for this format; therefore, AI-generated closed captioning will be available during the livestream of the show, and corrected closed captions will be uploaded to the archived versions of the work. A full transcript with descriptions of sound/music will also be published as an auxiliary document to be published on the date of the show, to be linked in the video description on all of the streaming platforms (Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook) and on Roulette’s event page.