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Questions of Practice: Poet and Performer Tracie Morris on Preserving a “Feeling of Liveness” in a Museum Setting

Tracie Morris was not present when audiences heard the sound poems she contributed to the Whitney Biennial, but she wanted them to be able to experience the “intimacy of a live event” anyway. Informed by her improvisational background, Morris used a variety of techniques to ensure the recorded work did not feel stiff, in both presentation and production. “If I felt that it didn’t work exactly right, I would do another take, so it could have that feeling of liveness even though it was contained in this digital format,” she says. “What I’m trying to figure out is how to make it a living experience, because that informs my improvisational work.”

Tracie Morris works extensively as a singer, sound artist, writer, bandleader, and actor. Her installations have been presented at The Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Biennial, and the New Museum, among others. Morris is the founding professor and coordinator of performance and performance studies at the Pratt Institute. She served as a Pew Fellowships panelist in 2017 and 2013 and as an evaluator in 2016.