I Can't Breathe by Shaun Leonardo

Friday, November 11, 2016 6:00 - 8:00pm

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I Can't Breathe is a public-participatory workshop and performance that will take the form of a self-defense class. Over the course of a half hour, participants will learn a range of self-defense technique – from purely pacifist, self-protective maneuvers (including how one may relieve the pressure of a chokehold) to more overt, defensive strategies. (Participants will not learn offensive strikes or moves.)

Participants will then be placed and paired off in a staggered arrangement. With certain cues given by the artist, each pair will enact the self-defense technique just learned, alternating in the role of the aggressor. As the artist recites a script inspired by Nina Simone, each pair will elect which action to take solely based on how he or she internalizes the words' meaning.

The overall, impromptu composition of defensive actions will, thus, create a reflection and meditation on our community's legacy of self-preservation, and continued desire/need/fight to protect and survive. The piece will be conducted in memory of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Jamar Clark, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin … and countless others.

RSVP here.

This performance will be filmed.

Located in the 41 Cooper Gallery, located in 41 Cooper Square, on Third Avenue between 6th and 7th Streets.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.