Mapping Loss as Performative Research in Ralph Lemon's Come home Charley Patton


performative research
African American

How to Cite

Henry, K. (2020). Mapping Loss as Performative Research in Ralph Lemon’s Come home Charley Patton. PARtake: The Journal of Performance As Research, 3(1).


In 2004, Ralph Lemon presented “Come home Charley Patton,” the last of his three-part project entitled The Geography Trilogy. The performance marked the end of a ten-year research journey for Lemon during which he struggled to define his relationship to
contemporary modes of dance. Lemon’s entire “Come home Charley Patton” project is an attempt to mourn and access the remains of a legacy of racialized violence. His travels throughout the South highlight the absence and complicated nature of memorializing
efforts in regard to events associated with racialized violence. However, his project also exposes the difficulties in developing a sense of relation to this past as he navigates between collective and personal memories. The structural and thematic arrangement of
the performance reflects Lemon’s efforts to negotiate the limits of representing a history of loss associated with racialized violence. In positioning the body as key in accessing the past, he employs the buck dance as the conceptual and physical framework to ask if and
show how embodied memory can transcend the spatial and temporal boundaries enforced by the stage. By examining Lemon’s own efforts to find an affective and aesthetic language as he maps loss across a number of sites, I read these interactions through a
theoretical framework of mourning and melancholia to show that Lemon’s research provides him with a social and aesthetic understanding of loss that he then uses to construct the movements on the stage.