Kenyon College

Shaun Leonardo: Testimony

January 17, 2019–April 18, 2019  [+]

Shaun Leonardo’s multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure. His performance practice is participatory in nature and invested in a process of embodiment, promoting the political potential of attention and discomfort as a means to disrupt meaning and shift perspective.

Testimony is a closed, public-participatory performance where guests locate intensely contested current affairs within their bodies. Utilizing the shifting perspectives embedded in testimony, news reports, and memory as a backdrop, participants translate their experiences into performative gestures. By embodying the texts, each participant has enacted different identities that elusively tie each person in the room to one another. This public participatory workshop and performance was limited to 24 guests. All arrived at the workshop with a written or memorized testimony connected to the prompt: police interaction (2nd event / immigrant experience).

Participants wear blindfolds in an attempt to imagine new identities for themselves, activating the texts through movement. Ultimately, participants will be called to discover themselves within these new identities in search not only for a personal truth at the heart of these events, but potentially a collective truth in regards to our inability to clearly see our inherent interconnectivity.

Leonardo (American, b. 1979) is a Brooklyn-based artist from Queens, New York City. He has been a Smack Mellon artist-in-residence, as well as a recipient of support from Creative Capital and Guggenheim Social Practice. His work has been presented in galleries and institutions, nationally and internationally, and recently featured at the Guggenheim Museum, the High Line, Recess, and VOLTA NY. Leonardo has a BA in Visual Arts from Bowdoin College and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Testimony Events
Workshops: January 28 and 29, Times TBD
Public Performance: March 28, 7:00 PM

Students are invited to participate in closed workshops based on visual story-telling, which will inform a public performance. In Testimony, guests will locate intensely contested, current affairs within their bodies. Utilizing the shifting perspectives embedded in testimony, news reports, and memory as a backdrop, participants will both recite their own testimonies and translate the narratives of others into performative gestures. While embodying these texts, the group will enact different identities, elusively tying each person in the room to one another.

Nominations are being collected from Kenyon faculty, administrators, and staff.  A signup sheet is also available in the exhibition space. To participate in a workshop, you must RSVP. Guest artist Shaun Leonardo will then invite select workshops participants to take part in the public event.


The Gund Gallery exhibitions and programs are made possible, in part, by the Gund Gallery Board of Directors and the Ohio Arts Council.


Image: Shaun Leonardo (American) Still from Testimony, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.


The Gund Gallery at Kenyon College reserves the right not to publish anonymous posts or those made using falsified email addresses or identities.