Deanna Bowen’s exhibition A Harlem Nocturne is like a library - an unusual one, with videos draped in cloth, life-size sculptures, newspapers stacked on the floor, and even a huge, dark mirror. Walking around the exhibition you might hear jazz, echoing through a stairway, or the sound of someone talking. You can watch an old TV broadcast, or two dancers together on a dark stage.

In A Harlem Nocturne we see many ways Bowen is spending time with her family members, even from far away. She explores places they lived, things they made, songs they danced to. She shows us some of the things they lost, or were afraid of.

Most of us are still far away from family and friends. Some of us had to say goodbye to someone this year. Or, we wonder about family we never knew. When a person no longer moves and talks, when we can’t call someone, hear their voice, or share a meal with them, are there still ways to be with them?

WEEK TWO : dreaming

Open a window. Notice how the air feels. What does the air inside the room feel like? What does the air outside the room feel like? Notice the air on your skin. Think of a person you’ve said good-bye to. Imagine them, feeling fresh air on their skin. Put your hand on your arm, or against your bare skin. Imagine it’s their hand. Stay like that for a while.

What languages do you speak? What languages do your parents speak? Your grandparents? What is a word or a phrase you say often at home? Talk to your family and figure out something you say that is funny, common, or useful. Write down this word or phrase. Look at the shapes. Say it out loud in one language. What does it sound like? Translate it and say it out loud in another language. What does it sound like? Listen to the sounds each language makes. How does it feel, hearing them?

Look around your house for objects that give you information about the world – little stories about how things work, who is right or wrong, why things happen, who is important. Choose something, like a book, a meme, a poster, or a shoe. Who made it? What does it say about the world?

How much do you know about your ancestors? Have you seen photos of your great-grandparents or others?
With a friend or family member, talk together about a great-great-great-grandparent. Even if you don’t know anything about them, imagine who they were. Did they look similar to you? What do you think they were like? Would you be friends with them?