Experiments in Joy by Gabrielle Civil

MEMOIR / NONFICTION
PERFORMANCE ART
BLACK FEMINISM

ISBN: 978-1-948700-15-3
274 pages
Release Date: February 15, 2019
#RECURRENT / Civil Coping Mechanisms

Cover photo by Sayge Carroll

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What can people do together that we can’t do alone?

What can we discover in ourselves only by way of other people?

Gabrielle Civil’s Experiments in Joy celebrates black feminist collaborations and solos in essays, letters, performance texts, scores, images, and more. Following her explosive debut Swallow the Fish, Civil now documents her work with From the Hive, No. 1 Gold, and Call & Response—whose collaborative Call inspired the title. The book also features her solo encounters with artists and writers, ancestors and audiences. Here you will find black girlhood, grief, ghosts, girls in their bedrooms, lots of books, dancing, reading, falling in love, fighting back, and flying. With lots of heart and the help of her friends, Civil keeps reckoning with performance, art and life.

Gabrielle Civil has made a book into a performance space and living archive. Words dance and bodies speak: together they invent languages of keen pleasure and ardent thought. Experiments In Joy is the memoir as solo and as collaboration with other questing artists. Led by Civil, they engage – tease, tangle with – the stuff of history, of particularity, of imagination. Read, watch, listen and dream. Be transformed.

Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland: A Memoir

Experiments in Joy is a transformational literary work of material magic. Poised alongside the most medicinal works of mystic intellectuals like Søren Kierkegaard, bell hooks, Jerzy Growtowsky, Eve Sedgwick, Grace Jones, Adrienne Kennedy and Leonard Cohen, this collection enacts (rather than professes) trans-disciplinary theories on inter-being, inter-rupture, and inter-becoming for the subtlest, hungriest and wisest organ of admittance – the mind-heart, which will not suffer bullshit. Go ahead and clear some space on your shelf for “Books That Help Us Be,” but know that you won’t be shelving it for long; like a stash of toys or a weird secret key, this book wants to be shared.

Anna Joy Springer, author of The Vicious Red Relic, Love

Civil’s Experiments in Joy invites readers to trace the idea of ‘gesture’ from the body to the page and back, to follow her footsteps to the various entryways into Black Girl Studies, and to witness the role of friendship in the making of art and survival. Reading it, we are also reminded that the blues is not just a document of trouble, but also a journey to the pleasure on the other side of it.
Mendi + Keith Obadike, creators of Four Electric Ghosts


Photo Credit: Catron Booker

GABRIELLE CIVIL is a black feminist performance artist, originally from Detroit, MI. She has premiered fifty original solo and collaborative performance works around the world. Signature themes included race, body, art, politics, grief, and desire. Since 2014, she has been performing “Say My Name” (an action for 270 abducted Nigerian girls)” as an act of embodied remembering. She is the author of Swallow the Fish and Tourist Art (with Vladimir Cybil Charlier). She currently teaches Creative Writing and Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. The aim of her work is to open up space.