The installation is included with museum admission. All visitors to the evening performances are required to remain masked.
Topsy-Turvy is named after the dolls that originated on 19th-century U.S. plantation nurseries, crafted by enslaved Black people for use by white children. Featuring Black and white figures attached at the lower waist, the dolls’ single dress covers the face and race of the conjoining figure when flipped. Rogers transforms this children’s toy—charged with antebellum sentiment and the illusion of innocent enjoyment—into what she calls a “hyper-surrealist” reflection on the upside-down nature of contemporary life. The work features a daytime sculptural and sonic installation; at night, the installation sets the stage for ensemble evening musical and puppet performances.
Artist Alva Rogers is a vocalist and dramatist who began inventing worlds at Just Above Midtown, where she performed with Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris and in Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees’s ...And He Had Six Sisters (1984). Since then she has written plays and musicals; has participated in several collaborations, including work with the performance collective Rodeo Caldonia; and has been a muse/model for visual artists including Whitfield Lovell, Fred Wilson, Lorna Simpson, Dawoud Bey, Tina Barney, Lona Foote, Daryl Turner, Coreen Simpson, and Julie Dash, among others. Born and raised in New York City, she has received degrees from Brown University (MFA), New York University (MFA), and Bard (MAT).
Conceived, written, directed, and performed by Alva Rogers
Composer: Bruce Monroe
Sound design: Dave Pascal
Guitar and banjo: Brandon Ross
Violin: Jason K. Hwang
Puppet captain: Jessica Simon
Puppeteers: Jessica Simon, Amy Liou, Ashley Winkfield
Costume design and doll fabrication (textile): Sono Kuwayama
Doll consultant and fabrication (mechanism): Jeremy Gender of Powerhouse Arts
Topsy-Turvy is an excerpt from the play the doll plays, by Alva Rogers.
Rogers is currently adapting the doll plays into a puppet theatrical titled The Harlem Doll Palace.
Topsy-Turvy includes the song How'd You Get Your Teeth So White?
Lyrics: Alva Rogers, Negro Doll Factory Songs, ASCAP
Music: Vernon Reid, Dare To Dream Music, Inc. ASCAP
Recording produced by F.J. Rogers, Alva Rogers, and Robert Poss
Lead and backing vocals: A. Rogers
Guitar: Vernon Reid
Bass: Robert Poss
Violin: Jason Hwang
Coda Rap Lyrics: Lisa Jones Brown
Coda Rappers: Jason Hwang, Joie Lee, Cinque Lee, Vernon Reid, Alva Rogers
In conjunction with the exhibition Just Above Midtown: Changing Spaces, the JAM Performance Festival continues the path-making gallery’s commitment to live art with new works by artists who performed at the downtown Manhattan gallery during the 1980s.
Throughout the final weeks of the exhibition three new projects bring forth JAM’s spirit of improvisation, collaboration, and experimentation. Artist, vocalist, and dramatist Alva Rogers presents Topsy-Turvy;Vernon Reid, Greg Tate’s Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, and special guests come together for a Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris Conduction ®, the late cornetist and composer’s signature approach to structured improvisation; and Senga Nengudi Fittz and Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, who have worked together for over forty years, premiere their latest collaboration, Tying & Un-Tying.
Media and Performance at MoMA is made possible by Hyundai Card Performance Series.
Major support is provided by MoMA's Wallis Annenberg Director's Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art.
Generous funding is provided by the Lonti Ebers Endowment for Performance and the Sarah Arison Endowment Fund for Performance.