Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties
Don’t Rain On My Bat Mitzvah by Morgan Bassichis, co-created with Ira Khonen Temple, featuring Emma Alabaster, Zoë Aqua, April Centrone, and Pam Fleming. Commissioned by Creative Time for Red Stage by Rashid Johnson, June 5-July 4, 2021. Performed live in Astor Place, July 4, 2021. Photo by Matteo Prandoni/BFA.com.
Klezmer for Beginners by Morgan Basssichis, co-created with Ethan Philbrick, featuring Eva Boodman, Christina Crowder, and Debra Kreisberg, 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Abrons Arts Center, New York. Klezmer for Beginners was commissioned by Abrons Arts Center through the Performance AIRspace Residency, which is supported by the Jerome Foundation.
Morgan Bassichis and Ethan Philbrick, March is for Marches: May and November, 2019. Digital audio recording, commissioned and published by Triple Canopy. Captioning by Ethan Philbrick. Installed with cushions by Sam Roeck. 53:11. Courtesy: Morgan Bassichis and Ethan Philbrick
Morgan Bassichis, Quarantunes, March 17, 2020. Instagram video, 52 seconds. Courtesy of the artist.
Morgan Bassichis, Quarantunes, April 4, 2020. Instagram video, 59 seconds. Courtesy of the artist
Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties is the first solo institutional exhibition by comedic performance artist Morgan Bassichis (b. 1983, Newton, MA). Spanning video, music, and performance works, Bassichis’s practice is anchored in playful encounters, both intimate and collective, with lineages of queer and Jewish radicalism. Through deceptively simple and incantatory “little ditties,” Bassichis approaches urgent questions head-on with critical curiosity, poetry, and—crucially—pleasure and humor. The video works, music albums, and performance documentation in this exhibition, created both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, foreground the artist’s practice of marking time, loss, desire, disappointment, and joy through music and participatory performance. Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties is co-organized with the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The exhibition includes video works and performances from the last few years. Quarantunes (2020), a series of short songs and piano accompaniment created during the early weeks of the pandemic and shared via Instagram, the artist offered comedic and vulnerable solace during a time of shared isolation. Questions to Ask Beforehand (2022) is a collection of self-help pamphlets. In their collaborative work March for Marches (2019), Bassichis and the musician and scholar Ethan Philbrick recorded monthly, site-specific musical improvisations around New York City, using voice and cello to reflect on queer history and friendship. More Protest Songs! (2018), a live album recorded at St. Mark’s Church in New York City, irreverently charts a way through the Trump years. As noted by the artist, these “songs fall somewhere between adult lullabies and practical spells, and will not include concrete policy recommendations but maybe they should?”
A central thread in Bassichis’s work explores the rich tradition of Jewish opposition to Zionism. More Little Ditties will debut a new piece that culminates a trilogy of recent performance works on this topic, bringing together these interconnected works for the first time. Klezmer for Beginners (Abrons Arts Center, New York, 2019), co-created with Philbrick, looks toward Eastern-European Jewish popular music as a potential site of resistance to Jewish nationalism. The second work, Don’t Rain on My Bat Mitzvah (Creative Time, New York, 2021), co-created with musician Ira Khonen Temple, which took place outdoors in New York City’s Astor Place, began an engagement with the Jewish coming-of-age ritual as a generative opportunity for community learning and radical reworking. The Carpenter Center and ICA project will premiere a newly commissioned animated pop music video that completes the trilogy of performance projects. In conjunction with the exhibition, Wendy’s Subway will release a new publication co-edited by Bassichis, Jay Saper, and Rachel Valinsky titled Questions to Ask Before Your Bat Mitzvah, an anthology collecting the voices of educators, artists, activists, and parents responding open-heartedly and creatively to questions about Jewish tradition, Israel, Palestine, and Zionism. This trilogy expands Bassichis’s interdisciplinary research into modes of transmission and community across generations.
Morgan Bassichis is based in New York City. Their work has been presented by Abrons Arts Center, Danspace Project, The Kitchen, and New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York; and the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) in Portland, OR. Bassichis’s first solo gallery exhibition, Questions to Ask Beforehand, opened at Bridget Donahue in New York City in March 2022. They were included in the 2019 Whitney Biennial and the 2015 edition of Greater New York at MoMA PS1. Their book The Odd Years was published by Wendy’s Subway in 2020. Bassichis has released two album-length recordings: March Is for Marches with Ethan Philbrick (2019) and More Protest Songs! Live From St. Mark’s Church (2018).
Morgan Bassichis: More Little Ditties is co-organized by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA. The exhibition is curated by Dan Byers, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts; and Amber Esseiva, Curator, Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University; with Danni Shen, Curatorial and Public Programs Assistant, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts.