Programs/Corpus Delecti

Corpus Delecti

Presented in partnership with Arca's MUTANT; DESTRUDO World Premiere

At a moment of maximum anxiety and backlash over the fundamental human rights to autonomy, expressivity, modification, and self-transformation of the body, this convening of artists, activists, and intellectuals imagines and enacts transgender art and music as a vehicle for dialogue across differences.

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Park Avenue Armory Curator of Public Programming Tavia Nyong’o (he/him) welcomes audiences to “Corpus Delicti,” October 14, 2023.

Photo by Da Ping Luo, courtesy of Park Avenue Armory.

Welcome to Corpus Delicti

By Tavia Nyong’o

“Life is not at all like a biography. But it consists in the metamorphosis of one’s self being transformed by time, becoming not only other but others.” — Orlando: My Political Biography (Dir: Paul B. Preciado 2023)

The possibility of living life as a work of art is an underacknowledged dimension of the trans awakening in the world today. At least, so much seems to be the case for many of the artists, archivists, and other eminent beings who have converged at the Armory over the past two weeks, under the auspices of the New York City Trans Oral History Project, culminating in today’s public program, Corpus Delicti, held in celebration of Arca’s Mutant; Destrudo.

A common-law Latin term for “body of the crime,” the phrase corpus delicti is repossessed by this gathering to proclaim that trans people are not trapped in the wrong bodies, but bodies seeking liberation from a wrong society. Through embracing the surrealist practice of “exquisite corpse,” this gathering represents a diversity of intergenerational and multicultural voices and visions, coming together to create an immersive experience of living trans history.

I hope you will take time to engage with the marvelous sound installation in the Library by the artist Aviva Silverman, which they describe more fully in their note in this program. It represents a unique intersection between art and archival practice in which 36 voices (a special number as Silverman relates) invite us all into a trans-temporal constellation. This exquisite corpse is truly multi-sensorial: a curated collection of books and analog media are available for your perusal, and films selected by Xiomara Sebastián Castro Niculescu are also on view.

Corpus Delicti is the product of Silverman’s artist residency at the Idea Lab — a new incubating space for interdisciplinary study organized under the auspices of the public program. Past residents have included the poet Claudia Rankine, and we look forward to welcoming many more in the years ahead.

Many thanks, and many happy returns, to Arca, who set the vision for this day when she visited earlier this year, walked through the historic rooms, and declared she could hear the voices of trans people echoing throughout the Armory. It has been a real honor to play a role in amplifying this worthy convocation. The gorgeous murmur I hope you will hear today can stir up something powerful in every one of us, if we allow it to touch that part of our own history that conducts us into universal connection and perpetual becoming.