Skip to main content

Abigail DeVille:
Empire State Works in Progress

Floor 3

Calder: Hypermobility features an expansive series of performances and events, bringing contemporary artists into dialogue with Alexander Calder as they interplay their own disparate practices with his innovations. For her project, Abigail DeVille has worked closely with director Charlotte Brathwaite to develop a new piece, Empire State Works in Progress, 2017, which will also be activated by a performance titled The Invisible Project.

Empire State Works in Progress is a series of kinetic sculptures pertaining to current social, environmental and civil rights state of New York in 2017. Using a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a point of direct inspiration, visual cues transport its audience in a flight through space and time into the interior of a black hole collision. The project features the film, Only when it’s dark enough can you see the stars, created in collaboration with and directed by Charlotte Brathwaite. It uncovers two beings caught in a landscape of contrasting violence and beauty where history and future collide calling on the fantastical and the real.

“. . . The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around. . . . But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” 
—Martin Luther King, Jr., Mountaintop speech

Installation and film on view

October 13–14, 2017
10:30 am–5 pm

October 15, 2017
10:30 am–6 pm

Free with Museum admission.


DeVille’s sculptures will be activated in a performance entitled, The Invisible Project, directed by Charlotte Brathwaite, and featuring Okwui Okpokwasili, Paul Pryce, Justin Hicks and Meshell Ndegeocello. The piece is an eclectic afro-futuristic visual and audio experience where encounters with the horror, joys, desires and longings of the state of being Black intertwine in an intimate meeting with (re)birth and death. The piece is a meditation on how moving through the middle passage, up from the Underground Railroad, and through to today when running, walking or existing while black could cost you your life. Audience members are asked to participate in choosing what and how they perceive the world around them.

October 13–14, 2017
8 pm

Doors open a half an hour in advance of performance start time. Tickets are required ($25 adults; $18 students and seniors; free for members). Museum admission included in ticket purchase. This event is standing room only and capacity is limited. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance. Online ticket sales close two hours before the performance begins. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the admissions desk on a first-come, first-served basis.

Buy Tickets


Empire State Works in Progress was developed with research support from the American Academy in Rome and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency program.

Special Thanks 
Aina Fadina, Andrya Ambro, Andrew Kirchner, Jim Findlay/Collapsable Hole, Abena Floyd, Avery Wills Hoffman, Reggie 'Regg Roc' Gray, DeVille Family, Jessica Wasilewski/Park Avenue Armory, Rucyl Mills, Gabriel Azevedo, Sara Marhamo, Matt Hall, Carrell Courtright, Wesley Miller, Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Music and Theater Arts, and Deantoni Parks.

This installation contains texts from the following sources:
I've Been to the Mountaintop, Martin Luther King, Jr.
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms, Frank  B. Wilderson

Collaborators and performers

Installation/Costume/Production Design: Abigail DeVille

Direction/Script/Co-producer: Charlotte Brathwaite

Performance: Okwui Okpokwasili and Paul Pryce

Composition/Sound Design/Performance: Justin Hicks

Additional Music/Performance: Meshell Ndegeocello

Lighting Design: Kent Barrett

Artistic Facilitation: Mo Geiger

Video Editing: Inspiraacoes: Clara Soria and Hugo Resende

Video Creative Collaborator: Felipe Morozini

Director of Photography Herman Jean-Noel

Assistant Camera/Field Audio Recorder Alvin Dollow

Creative Collaborator: Peter Born

Management Consultant: Gabriella DeVille

Costume Fabricator: Bethany Joy

Additional Performance on Video: Umechi Born

Video Production Assistant: Cruize Moreno

Video/Lighting Assistant: Kenya Bullock

Video Intern: Calvin Reedy


Abigail DeVille (b. 1981, New York, NY) received her MFA from Yale University 2011 and her BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2007. DeVille has exhibited a constellation of site-specific installations in the United States and Europe. Her most recent exhibitions include No Space Hidden (Shelter) ICA LA, Los Angeles, CA (2017), 20/20: The Studio Museum in Harlem and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (2017), A Picture of the Universe in Clock Time, Momentum 9, Moss, Norway (2017), Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO (2017), Harlem: Found Ways. Cooper Gallery at Hutchins Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA (2017) Urban Planning: Contemporary Art and the City 1967-2017, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO (2017) Chaos or Community? Michel Rein, Brussels, BE (2017), The Intersectional Self, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, New York, NY (2017), Home, Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, New York, NY (2016); LANDMARK, Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY (2016); Only When Its Dark Enough Can You See The Stars, The Contemporary, Baltimore, MD (2016); Revolution in the Making, Hauser Wirth, Los Angeles, CA (2016); America, Michel Rein, Paris, France (2015); From the Ruins… at 601Artspace, New York, NY (2015), When You Cut Into the Present the Future Leaks Out at the Old Bronx Courthouse, Bronx, NY (2015), The Day the Earth Stood Still, Johnson-Kulukundis Family Gallery, Cambridge, MA (2015); Puddle, Pothole, Portal, Sculpture Center, Queens, NY (2014); Playing with Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts, and Mischievous Actions, El Museo del Barrio, New York, NY (2014); Material Histories at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2014); Outside the Lines, the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Houston, TX (2014); Invisible Men: Beyond the Veil, Galerie Michel Rein, Paris, France (2013); Gastown Follies, Artspeak, Vancouver, BC, (2013); Bronx Calling, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY (2013); Future Generation Art Prize at Venice, The 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2013); They might as well have been remnants of the boat, Calder Foundation, New York, NY (2013); XXXXXXX, Iceberg Projects, Chicago, IL (2013); Fore, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2012); Future Generation Art Prize Exhibition, the Pinchuk Art Centre, Kiev, Ukraine (2012); If I don't think I'm sinking, look what a hole I'm in, Night Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2012); First Among Equals, ICA, Philadelphia, PA (2012); The Ungovernables, New Museum, New York, NY (2012); Bosch Young Talent Show, Stedelijk Museum, s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands (2011). DeVille has designed sets for theatrical productions—at venues such as the Stratford Festival (2014), directed by Peter Sellers, Harlem Stage (2016), La MaMa (2015), JACK (2014-16), and Joe’s Pub (2014) directed by Charlotte Brathwaite. She has received honors—2014-15 fellowship at The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, 2015 Creative Capital grantee and received a 2015 OBIE Award for design. DeVille is the 2017-18 Chuck Close Henry W and Marion T Mitchell Rome Prize fellow.

 Charlotte Brathwaite (Canada/Barbados/UK) is known for her unique approach to staging classical and unconventional texts, dance, visual art, multi-media, site-specific installation, video productions, performance art and music events. Her work has been seen in the Americas, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia and ranges in subject matter from the historical past to the distant future illuminating issues of race, sex, power and the complexities of the human condition. Named as one of the “up-and-coming women in theatre to watch” by Playbill, Brathwaite is recipient of several awards and citations including the Princess Grace Award, the Julian Milton Kaufman Prize (Yale), a Rockefeller Residency, the National Performing Network Creation Fund and a 2017 Franky Award. BA, Amsterdam School for the Arts (Netherlands); MFA, Yale School of Drama. Visiting Professor Amherst College; Visiting artist Williams College; Visiting Professor University of Fortaleza (Brazil); Assistant Professor Music and Theater Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

 Okwui Okpokwasili is a Brooklyn-based performing artist. She collaborates frequently with Peter Born. Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance premiered at Performance Space 122 receiving a 2010 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Production. Bronx Gothic, received a 2014 “Bessie’. Site Specific performance installations include Bronx Gothic: The Oval at the 2014 River to River Festival, When I Return Who Will Receive Me? at the 2016 River to River Festival, and Poor People’s TV Room solo at the Lincoln Center David Rubinstein Atrium. Poor People’s TV Room was produced and co-commissioned by New York Live Arts, the Walker Arts Center, and the American Dance Institute (“The Lumberyard”).

As a performer, Okpokwasili works with award- winning director Ralph Lemon, including How Can You Stay in
the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, Come home Charley Patton (for which she also won a New York Performance “Bessie” Award); and, most recently, Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room. Okpokwasili’s residencies and awards include the MANCC Choreographic Fellowship (2012, 2016); Baryshnikov Arts Center Artist-in-Residence (2013); New York Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Danspace Project (2013, 2014); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Program (2014-15); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Dance grantee(2014); BRIClab (2015); Wesleyan ICPP Artist in Residency; Artist in Residence at the Harkness Dance Center at the 92Y; 2016 LMCC President’s Award for the Performing Arts; the Rauschenberg Residency (2015); Creative Capital (2016), MAP (2016) and NEFA/NDP. Randjelovic/Stryker New York Live Arts Resident Commissioned Artist (2015).

Paul Pryce’s Notable Television credits include Netflix original series Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Unforgettable (A+E). Theatre: Hamlet featuring Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti; Yale Repertory Theatre, Pericles; Prince of Tyre and Julius Caesar. As a Producer/Writer: Come Out, Come Out (World Premiere; Cannes Short Film Corner 2017), Jus Sayin’ Comedy (Web series/NYC 2015) and The Deliverer (Short Film, Trinidad, 2017). His feature length screenplay The Deliverer was a shortlisted finalist at the 2017 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. As an Educator Paul has taught at The Yale School of Art, New York University Tisch School of the Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Music & Theatre department and H.B. Studio in New York City. He has an M.F.A in Acting from the Yale School of Drama. Paul was born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago.

Justin Hicks explores various themes such as economics, marriage, and identity through compositions and performances that range from singer/songwriter-style presentations to interdisciplinary and collaborative works. His work has been featured at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, PS 122, The Japan Society, The Julliard School, The Knitting Factory, Jack, Bowery Arts and Science, Invisible Dog, Culture Station Seoul 284, MoMA, NURTUREart, Dixon Place, and La Mama. He was a member of Kara Walker’s 6-8 Months Space and was a performer and sound designer for The Geneva Project by Jennifer Newman and Charlotte Brathwaite (Jack 2015, Jack 2016), as well as the Obie Award-winning (Abigail Deville, design) production of Prophetika: An Oratorio by Charlotte Brathwaite. His work The Odetta Project: Waterboy and the Mighty World was featured during Jack’s Freedom Songs Festival: Which Side Are You On, Friend? (Jack 1015). Justin's collaboration with artist Steffani Jemison (Mikrokosmos) has presented work internationally at venues and festivals including Festival Steirischer Herbst in Graz, Austria. Justin was also a contributing songwriter for Meshell Ndegeocello’s Can I Get A Witness (Harlem Stage, 2016). Recently, Justin and the HawtPlates completed a PS122 Ramp Residency at the Park Avenue Armory.

Meshell Ndegeocello has lived through the boom and bust of the music industry and emerged just as she entered: unequivocally herself. Her fans have come to expect the unexpected from her, and have faithfully followed her on sojourns into soul, spoken word, R&B, jazz, hip-hop and rock. What unites Ndegeocello’s widely varied musical explorations is her lyrical, spiritual search for love, justice, respect, resolution and happiness. A vast array of influences has informed Ndegeocello’s albums, and there are traces of her native go-go, hip hop, R&B, new wave and punk in each. Every one of her recordings has been a step away from the last—a chance to investigate and integrate new sounds and ideas, from the deep-funk of Plantation Lullabies to the raw and confessional approach of Bitter to the melodic, lyrical music of Weather. Possessed with instrumental gifts as diverse as her interests, she composed, arranged and produced a jazz record in 2005. She has also paid homage to Nina Simone, a kindred musical spirit and one of her most cherished inspirations. Her most recent release, Comet, Come to Me, is her eleventh album. Ndegeocello recently paid homage to her hero James Baldwin with the original performance work Can I get a Witness: The Gospel of James Baldwin at Harlemstage 2016 (co-created and dir. C. Brathwaite). A bass player above all else, Ndegeocello has appeared alongside the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Alanis Morrisette, James Blood Ulmer, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tony Allen, John Medeski, Billy Preston and Chaka Khan. Among her own bass-playing influences are Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Family Man Barrett and Stevie Wonder. Ndegeocello was the first woman to be featured on the cover of Bass Player magazine and remains one of few women who write the music, sing the songs, and lead the band.

Kent Barrett is a multi-disciplinary theatrical designer and artist who has developed a wide-ranging body of work and established a national and international presence on the performance scene. Kent currently teaches theatrical design and new technology at Dickinson College. Kent is a former company member with The Wooster Group, an NEA Grant recipient and an instructor at MIT. A prolific technologist, Kent's works have been seen at venues such as Harlem Stage, La MaMa, Signature, The Public, The Brooklyn Lyceum, and Lincoln Center as well as internationally in fourteen different countries. In addition to his work in theater, dance and performance, Kent has also collaborated widely on independent films, art installations, and with various architectural lighting firms.

Mo Geiger is an artist and theatrical technician. She currently keeps a studio in rural Pennsylvania where her practice examines waste, salvage, searching, and the value of traditional labor. Her work in props and scenic painting has been seen at the Vineyard Theater, New 42nd Street Studios, Manhattan Theater Club, New World Stages, and the McKittrick Hotel, among others. Her scenery design has been seen at venues such as the Irondale Center (Brooklyn), Tank NYC, Incubator Arts Project, and Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater. She participated in a National Park Service Artist Residency at the Mojave Preserve in the high desert of southern California, and most recently in a sculpture residency at Vermont Studio Center for her work in mixed media fiber.

Felipe Morozini is a photographer and plastic artist living in São Paulo, Brazil.  Morozini develops works that go beyond photography to magazines, creative projects involving brands and social art projects.  He has exhibited in several countries and is represented by Zipper Gallery.  He has been conducting research on public space for over eight years and is now one of the directors of the Parque Minhocão Association.

Clara Soria (Rio Janeiro, Brazil 1980) is an interdisciplinary artist, actress, video maker, visual artist and creative director and producer. She develops audiovisual, art and fashion content as a co-producer of the brand Inspiraações. 

Hugo Resende (b. Rio Janeiro, Brazil 1976) is an interdisciplinary artist, actor, video maker, visual artist and creative director. He develops audiovisual, art and fashion content as a co-producer of the brand Inspiraações. 

Herman Jean-Noel is a visual philosopher, cinematographer, artist, husband, cyclist, tech nerd, and a lover of everything tropical hailing from Anse-A-Foleur Haiti. He looks to consistently expand his knowledge and creativity in the world of community building, art, documentary and feature film making, digital video, food, spirituality and technology. Hermans style is a by-product of his multicultural upbringings, mixed with his love of nature and fine attention to details and the ability to capture the mood and emotions of the most mundane or the most remarkable of moments.

Learn more about access services and programs.

COVID-19 vaccination and face coverings are not required but strongly recommended. Book tickets in advance and review our visitor policies.



A 30-second online art project:
Sara Ludy, Tumbleweeds

Learn more

Learn more at