Complex Movements

Review: Complex Movements: Beware of the Dandelions | Ignite/Arts Dallas | Tower Building at Fair Park

The Memory of Dandelions

Detroit's Complex Movements offers an unforgettable immersive performance and visual art experience with Beware of the Dandelions in Fair Park, in SMU's Arts and Urbanism initiative.

published Sunday, November 22, 2015

Photo: Kim Leeson
Complex Movements



Dallas — “We are the guardians of the seeds.”

Presented by Ignite/Arts Dallas and the SMU Meadows School of the Arts, Beware of the Dandelions by Complex Movements opened Thursday in the Tower Building at Fair Park in Dallas. In February of this year, this project was awarded the Meadows Prize by Southern Methodist University. A Detroit-based artists’ collective, Complex Movements connects hip-hop, art, architecture, science, gaming, technology, theater and science-fiction with community organizing for social justice. In the hands of some, this might have become unworkable, a recipe for disaster, but this group figured out how to do it—and well.

The artists are lyricist and organizer Invincible (ill Weaver), graphic designer and visual artist Wesley Taylor, music producer/sound designer/filmmaker Waajeed, and L05 (Carlos Garcia), multimedia artist/performance systems architect. Their producer is cultural strategist Sage Crump.

In addition to Ignite/Arts Dallas and Complex Movements, there are other collaborators, local organizations that comprise their Dallas cohort, including American Indian Heritage Day in Texas, Mothers Against Police Brutality, North Dallas Dream Team, Trans.lation, Iraq Veterans Against the War, CultureLab, Fahari Arts Institute, and SusuEco.

What is Beware of the Dandelions? It is an experience. It is an immersive art installation but not only. A live performance but not merely. It is storytelling but not simply. Complex Movements combines all three of these elements into a sensorial experience that marries sound and the visual in unexpected ways. Beware of the Dandelions uses the tools of science fiction to fuse the stories of people present, future and past into a mega-story about community and social justice. It is an exercise in memory.

Photo: Doug Coombe
Complex Movements

Our process for creating memories is like a puzzle with visual and sonic pieces. Sound is tactile; it touches us. In Beware of the Dandelions it feels as if the soundscapes are originating from inside one’s body, as if they have become one’s body. They seep into our sonic memory material. Some of the visual puzzle pieces contain symbology that the artists refer to as emblems: the ant, the fern, the starling, the dandelion, the wavicle, and the mycelium. Some of these puzzle pieces are memories of those that have gone before, “the ancestors.” This immersive experience offers the audience an opportunity to establish associations with our memories and to reconsider our perceptions.

How does it work? The evening is organized in three parts: the beginning that introduces the audience to the spaces, the development section where everything comes together and builds inside the pod, and the conclusion which moves to a third space and not only wraps back to the beginning, but nests the experience with a cohesion that is special, belonging strictly to that place, space, and moment in time. Because of this design, each evening will vary. Each audience will have a different experience because they will have partnered in directing its outcome.

The visual stimuli through rendered and pre-generative projections are contained within the pod but the aural component is actually live, performed by Complex Movements outside the pod in a different space. They are telling the story of a diverse community united through contemporary social conditions and issues. They join in a long established tradition of storytelling and activism, motivated in particular by the work of Grace Lee Boggs, and Octavia E. Butler.

“We all carry the weight of long term neglect.” It is impossible to overstate the power of the words spoken by Invincible. It is not simply the word choices but the tone and vocal inflections coupled with the rhythmic sense that reverberate like shock waves to the senses. “Forcing me to pay for my defiance.” The ‘beyond the barbed wire’ segment is aptly metaphorical, brilliantly seamed together in a way that is direct and unflinching in its pointedness. Waajeed’s bass accompaniment is sheer perfection, the music redirecting the audience’s pulse rendering all compliant and in full surrender to the textures and the beats. One can only imagine how many hours were spent modeling, building the animation, creating all of the imagery that causes the audience to pay attention to every detail. Thousands of hours. The work in Beware of the Dandelions is rigorous, intelligent, and provocative.

What does it mean? Ahh! That truly is for each person to determine. One overarching thought might be that we must not only look, but also see…not only hear, but also listen…not only acknowledge but also act. Beware of the Dandelions is a questioning. If not us, “Who are the groundskeepers?”


» Beware of the Dandelions has two more performances on Sunday, Nov. 22, and then returns Dec. 3-5. Performances are free, but reservations are required. They are all sold out, but each performance has a waiting list.

» Read our interview with members of Complex Movements here, and with Clyde Valentín of the SMU Meadows Arts and Urbanism initiative here

» Read Jeff Chang's story about Beware of the Dandelions on HowlRound Thanks For Reading

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The Memory of Dandelions
Detroit's Complex Movements offers an unforgettable immersive performance and visual art experience with Beware of the Dandelions in Fair Park, in SMU's Arts and Urbanism initiative.
by Janice L. Franklin

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