A Reflection on Solange’s Guggenheim Museum Performance Piece ‘An Ode To’

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It was a very warm day in NYC on May 18th and a life changing one for the more than 900 people that were lucky enough to witness Solange Knowles make history at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum with her deeply moving performance piece An Ode To.

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A sea of people from different cities, backgrounds, ethnicities, professions, religions and social circles dressed in all white were directed into the Guggenheim’s main entry, some seated on the main floor, others escorted to various levels where they would have an equally breathtaking view from above. And then it happened. The room was suddenly charged with a seraphic energy as Solange and her singers entered to the roaring and abstract sounds of her band’s audible ornaments. Before we knew it, we were witnessing the unfolding of a reflective work of art.

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Performing select songs from A Seat at the Table, Solo’s angelic voice flawlessly hit every mark with the supporting oneness of Isadora and Franchelle’s harmonies. The band’s live arrangements made everything feel new but still recognizably familiar enough to sing along to. About forty human bodies also dressed in white were arranged like moving, human art adding an unexpected element of surprise that felt nothing short of a sacred assembly of humanness that included us, the viewers. Shortly after, live horns were filling every corner of the room by musicians who appeared from hiding on each of the room’s upper levels directly across from where the up-top guests watched.

Solange

Like the breaks between Acts in a theater show, there were artistically strategic pauses throughout the performance that felt like a gracious offering (and symbolic representation) of rest to take in and process what preceded it. There was a brief moment taken to acknowledge the validity of anger when Solange literally screamed in unison with her singers, a moment of joy where she held onto a wall for a quick celebratory twerk, moments of peace as we heard nothing but our own thoughts atop the soft pitter-pattering of her self-choreographed expressions. We even witnessed pride as every performer commanded their bodies and instruments with assured confidence and no missed steps. But the bliss was in the close intimacy of Solange’s engagement with the crowd beyond the front row as she avoided performing for us, opting for performing to us instead.

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There were no pyrotechnics or large screen displays. In fact, the only electronics in the room were a couple of keyboards and a few microphones since there was blood pumping through the veins of every other component of An Ode To. It was a pure encounter with the relatable humanness of one of this generation’s most extraordinary creatives that ultimately inspired an equally unadulterated encounter with self. Totally devoid of anything not real, it felt as if Solange was encouragingly challenging each and every guest to acknowledge his/her own purity, and the complexities that naturally go with it. Every element of the organic performance was calculated and still free, polished and still raw, elegant and still wild, but most importantly unapologetically and wholly authentic.

An ode to overcoming, an ode to personal atonement, an ode to life and an ode to community. That was Solange’s An Ode To.

Solange

Solange

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Solange

Photography by Carys Huws, Krisanne Johnson and Stacy Krantitz

Co-stylist: Haley Wollens

An Ode To (program)

An Ode To (program)

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