SUBTEXT is the first part of a new performance series by artist and composer Colin Self based on The Siblings Compendium, a collection of writings and quotes that inspired Self’s recently released album Siblings (2018). Focusing on the sedimentary layer, the research, and archive on which the album resides, SUBTEXT (2019) weaves together text, song, and movement into a sequence of ambulatory exercises, or “bets,” performed by a group.

The Siblings Compendium is a collective research document inspired by writers and thinkers including Ursula K. Le Guin, Donna Haraway, Every Ocean Hughes, Fred Moten, and José Esteban Muñoz, among others, acting as a binding agent between Self’s various solo and collaborative artistic experiments. In SUBTEXT, Self presents an imaginary stage beneath the opera of Siblings, having agents perform and recount the research in simultaneity, through recitation, song, and games.


Lori Baldwin, Marie Gailey, Anna Fitoussi, Joey Hansom, Joshua Lerner, Alex Mara, Aaron Reeder, Maciej Sado, Harald Stojan and Melanie-Jame Wolf

SUBTEXT is part of HORIZONTAL VERTIGO, a year-long program at the JULIA STOSCHEK COLLECTION in Düsseldorf and Berlin, curated by Lisa Long.

opening monologue:

inturrupted by….

inturrupted by the thought

something intruded 

interrupted the stream

when i say we are subtext, i say we are the beneath and between, the unseen arranger of elements unfixed, 

I’m gonna get in trouble I’m gonna get in trouble I’m gonna get in trouble

i am in trouble

i am in trouble

and i will…. 


i don’t feel like explaining everything to you. not because i couldn’t but because i don’t know if explaining holds ground down here. when systems self-organize, and the process of assembly is built beyond conditions beyond our control, we have some trouble. and well trouble is how we know each other well. for some of us it’s the only way we can get to know one another. it becomes the face, the skin, the external part of ourselves that resembles…. something else, unnamed. I don’t know it…

release the ordering energies, release the ordering energies

….handed off to a page, that’s when I started changing, wasn’t it? something changed quite quickly when I found myself amongst the other parts. it was uncomfortable at first to get to KNOW myself this way, having come from another page, printed

the analogy printed a different surface for me, the page has always been the skin to another body

like papyrus, born in ink, swallowed whole, conceptually i didn’t feel the need to befriend everyone else because i knew my origin story was not about assimilation. In fact when I came here as the “her” that I am, I didn’t even have a name…. 

then this sort of…. equilibrium began to sit with me. it’s almost as though i was sitting down at a dinner table with people I met as a child, familiarity uncommon to the ideas stacked within the shelves of an archive, a library. 

imagine a prowess in the archives… she has no name but you recognize her as “the thinker”…. alive in her hands, underneath the idea, turning the pages and telling the story. 

so many people get me confused with the idea of “downstairs” which i get because there is darkness and ambiguity in the subtext, countless questions in the margins that will never get illuminated

the margins don’t need you to see them to have words, 

they don’t need to know them

not about what is worth sharing, but what is chosen

worth is not a metric down here

so if you see a light, or hear a voice, i am going to need you to follow it and trust it. if you don’t, you’ll be left in the dark to wander inside yourself.

im asking you to be careful, because we have been. some of you will see things others don’t, and we want to keep it that way. if you get lost, look for a light, travel slowly, and listen carefully.

without further ado, here we go.


Each performer is on respective platform, who are visible by body light
Colin begins Irresolution tune ADD ensemble
In intervals of 10-15 seconds performers turn off body lights in assigned chronological order:
1. Alex                                             6. Josh                                             
2.                                                      7.
3. MJ                                                8.
4. Marie                                           9. Laurie
5. Hari                                            10. Aaron
                                                       11. Colin 

After falling into darkness ensemble slowly X to center, in circle, “irresolution” speed increasing and eventually to whisper 
Melanie Jane turns on body light and speaks as she moves about the space:
At about “TROUBLE” ensemble sways books left/right
At about “OTHER PARTS…” ensemble rotates clockwise
Line of ensemble follows Colin about the room…
Just before “HER, THAT I AM…” encircle, At about “…HERE WE GO,” toss up books and catch
Go to kneeling position, Colin begins recitation of The Research Sister, text is delivered up to the ceiling 

Transition OPTION 1: Anna stands, turns on body light, delivers “..the ante-opera” text while X slowly to the door
RE-DEFINITION” 2-3 ensemble members turn on lights, stand, X to door – Matt Harry Alex, Aaron Marie, MJ…. 
OPTION 2: Snaps, Colin and upper voices begin, Colin and middle, Colin and lower
Stand, Light with hand cover(?)                OPTIONS: stand, hands and books up; sing, hands and book up
OPTION 3: Grp 1 Singers stand, light, snap X door EXIT; Grp 2 Singers stand, light, snap X door EXIT; Grp 3 Singers stand, light, snap X door EXIT
Ensemble members line hallway walls, crescendo to climax of transition song 
*Laurie song/monologue along Joey moment 
OPTION 1: assume two spaces OPTION 2: standing at opposite ends of hallway present, X to C
V.O. Colin for audience instruction to follow / break audience into four groups

Transition TROUBLED ASSEMBLY: the first person of four groups to recite full text = audience leader, turns body light on, begins exit to respective assigned rooms
Colin create call/response arrangement and ensemble presents in over the top vignette   
Once text is complete, hum, exit room, dragging book, circle clockwise in center of hallway
Once every ensemble member is circling approx. 3 rotations solo people turn on lights, peel off to respective assigned rooms for:Solo moments: Alex- long room with Josh and Harry        Aaron and Colin- projection room              Marie- Main room with remaining ensemble
Transition: Blue Tooth Moment with Josh and Anna, leading to Projection Room for Colin drawing (kneel around table), Elation (gesticulate and interact), Conference (MP3/music, sit on table) 
Harry exit to Main Room for Puppet ADD Matt ADD Colin; ensemble continues naming and exits 2 by 2 to Main Room
All sit for puppet show--- After “3rd thing” 3 guys dance for the book, everyone lights up, dances
Turn off books, gather tarp, encircle at center of tarp, play roll the light game, tarp tent (at this moment make sure tarp is long ways)
Body lights on under tarp
Under the tarp discussed:
OPTION Colin and Laurie sing / monologue 
OPTION EPITAPH recited by Anna Joey Josh Colin 
OPTION EPITAPH shake shake shake, balling up tarp to center, closely assembled, recite text 

Exit singing