This weekend at Intermedia Arts, the New York-based multi-voice, spoken-word, and multimedia-arts duo Climbing PoeTree will be holding two performances as part of a national tour. Made up of Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman, the collective group uses spoken work, hip hop, and projections to muse on topics that include social justice issues, love, and human transcendence.
Junauda Petrus, whose group, Free Black Dirt
, is co-presenting Climbing PoeTree with Intermedia Arts, says she's been a fan of the group for years, and has been impressed with not only how powerful and dynamic their shows are, but also their commitment to social justice, love, light, and beauty. "They see creativity as a way of healing and transforming the world, and I feel like the Minneapolis arts and community landscape reflect those values as well, and their work will resonate deeply," Petrus says. "They are soul sistas, visual and performance artists and writers."
Petrus first met Garcia and Penniman in 2006. "I met them at a dinner party when I first moved to New York, and was blown away by them," she says. "I met Naima again in a dance class in Harlem, and soon we became good friends."
Petrus first saw the duo perform "Hurricane Season: the hidden messages in water" in 2009 at a church in Harlem, which they had transformed into a temple. "They had helped design and build a set of bamboo, light, glass, and water," Petrus says. "Each audience member was warmly greeted, and given a gourd to ladle water from a huge gourd at the entrance and pour it onto a vessel on the stage." The show, which used dance, video montage, spoken word, and ritual, addressed issues of environmental devastation, corporate greed, and destruction, as well as power, love, and light. "It was inspiring. I saw it twice," says Petrus. "Their words are profound, haunting, and electric."
According to Penniman, the presentation this weekend will include a blend of different pieces utilizing their characterizing multi-voice poetry and unconventional hip hop. There will also be still and moving projections that the artists have created.
Their hip hop is "different from what you expect to hear on mainstream radio," Penniman says. Instead, it contains dense lyricism and is multilingual, where Garcia speaks verse in Spanish and Penniman speaks in English.
Climbing PoeTree will turn 11 next month, and while they have always performed poetry, they have definitely evolved over time. The group typically takes on topics such as racial and economic justice, and climate change, but also "sexuality, spirit and human transcendence," she says.
The group has previously performed at traditional theaters, concerts, festivals, prisons, reservations, at rallies, and with Occupy Wall Street.
8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4
$12/$15 at the door