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Essay by Michèle Steinwald: Jefferson Pinder, Relay

Jefferson Pinder, Relay

If there were no inequity, then Relay would be a simple literal narrative with people performing actions in an environment without opposing forces. In today’s world, Jefferson Pinder’s video and performance installations fall into basic parables, applied to current conditions on race, class, the opportunity gap, immigration, and possibilities. You could decide to play out each one through the story to a conclusion, forming one among many interpretations. Yet Pinder’s works suggestively focus on recurring elements (specifically, Black bodies in motion), and we now apply layers of meaning and infinite consequences to obtain multiple truths and combinations of realities.

In sports, we view strain and effort as indications of passion and dedication. In contrast, performing arts training typically masks these industrialized bodies, elevating poise and ease as signals of great accomplishment. The Minnesotan bodies in Relay persevere in performance elegantly and athletically. We witness the impact of the ground under their feet. We imagine the pounding of their hearts inside their chests. We sense their goals and struggles inside every movement: this is how our minds play out their histories.

Race* brings us together for a cause. Many align to face together in a single direction. We see parts of ourselves in every one of the runners. Stories vary. Generations carry differing perspectives and potential. Or not. Movement animates spirit and we want to know what is behind an individual’s journey. We recognize our city, our people, our neighbors. As witnesses watching a video, do we fill in the backstories to define the extraordinary in order to explain the ordinary or promote the ordinary to become the extraordinary?

Each stride is a rhythm. Pace is a part of life. Momentum gives energy and purpose. Interferences are the enemies. We know the rules even if we didn’t make them up. When the odds are stacked, we see the injustices. When do we become emotionally tied to the competitors? What defines our actions? We are all implicated in this race.

—Michèle Steinwald, Dance Curator and Writer

*race: noun. 1. a competition between runners, horses, vehicles, boats, etc., to determine the fastest over a set course; 2. (a) a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock; (b) a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics.