“Beware of the Dandelions” Brings Communities Together Through Art & Activism

“With the end of empire, we are coming to an end of the epoch of rights. We have entered the epoch of responsibilities, which requires new, more socially-minded human beings and new, more participatory and place-based concepts of citizenship and democracy,” activist Grace Lee Boggs wrote in The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.

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Boggs, who died last year at the age of 100, inspired generations of artists and activists to take up the cause, to bring communities together to create, cultivate, and foster connections that will serve the greater good. Inspired by Boggs’s mission, Complex Movements, a Detroit-based artists collective, has created Beware of the Dandelions, a 3-part residency at Talking Dolls, Detroit, that includes live performances, installation viewings, and community workshops through October 29, 2016.

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Beware the Dandelion is the brainchild of Complex Movements, which includes graphic designer/fine artist Wesley Taylor, music producer/filmmaker Waajeed “Jeedo”, hip-hop lyricist/organizer Invincible/ill Weaver, and multimedia artist/performance systems architect Carlos (L05) Garcia. Their work is created in partnership with architect Aaron Jones and producer Sage Crump.

Developed over a period of five years before embarking on a tour that has included stops in Seattle and Dallas, Beware the Dandelions is a science fiction story that combines quantum physics and Hip Hop to spectacular effect, creating an entirely new way of experiencing the world in which we live. Comprised of three “modes,” the work turns the audience into participants who become the driving force of the experience.

Beware of the Dandelions begins in Performance Mode, which takes place inside a 400-square-foot polyhedron dome-like pod where a live performance of sight and sound creates a wholly immersive experience. Here, the story reveals itself, as the participants are transported to the twenty-fifth century, and informed that they are the descendants of the Dandelion Revolution, gathered by the ancestors to learn their history.

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In the twenty-fourth century, on the last inhabitable portion of the planet, known as “The Planetation,” the Captains of Industry force the Townspeople to work in an orchard filled with life-extension apples. After an elder who goes by GG, the great Grand Sibling, dies while on a hunger strike, the Captains employ the Groundskeepers, a military force, to repress the uprising. In the process of organizing themselves, the Townspeople splinter into factions, fighting among themselves. The story then focuses on the ways that the Townspeople must unlearn the values they had been taught by the Captains in order to heal the divide.

In addition to the Performance Mode, Beware of the Dandelions includes an Installation Mode, which highlights local stories of community resistance and resilience, along with the Community Workshop Mode, that includes a series of engagements between participants to foster authentic relationships with each other and local organizers that can continue beyond the event.

The reaction from the participants allowed the collective to discover how they could push creative boundaries in order to find deeper, more profound connections between people and strengthen the bond of community. Sage Crump observes, “Being in the pod during performances, we learn about how hungry folks are for the opportunity to find a space to open their imaginations for the work that they do, and for the opportunity to come together as a group and go though the experience. It’s very intentional, sort of an experiment that supports folks to work with each other. We went in hoping but came out knowing afterwards by the comments. People want to stay in contact with each other and with us.”

CM BoTD Screenshot Ants interactive copy

Beware the Dandelions functions on several levels simultaneously, speaking to people from all walks of life on their terms while introducing them to new ideas and perspectives. As Invincible/ill Weaver, who plays 12 different characters, reveals, the work has given them the opportunity to explore questions of, “How do we share the space with other people with backgrounds in techno and Hop Hop who come into this and do not usually attend art installations?”

Carlos (L05) Garcia reveals, “I think that from a creative standpoint, this medium is new to all of us, so a lot of the exploratory process has been very heavily dependent on experimentation, from music to visual to performance, and how they fit together. There are a lot of happy surprises.”

Invincible/ill Weaver adds, “We surprise ourselves anytime we come up with an idea. There are so many layers that the seed grows beyond expectations. The need to create new ways to share ideas through music started the idea of making a ten-inch music box, which became an eight-foot music box—then everyone was inside the music box [which became the pod].”

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As the work grew by leaps and bounds through experimentation, new challenges were met as Beware of the Dandelions found its shape: an ever-growing space of cosmic transformation, like the flower itself. Consider how the dandelion has been typecast as a weed, its natural healing properties and gracious beauty overlooked by those who cannot see.

But the dandelion is resilient, and cannot be stopped, for in its last breath of life the wind whisks away the spore that will be take root wherever life can be, calling to mind the Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”

All photos: © Complex Movements.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.