I Can’t Breathe Workshop

Public-participatory workshop and performance led by alumni artist Shaun Leonardo

McColl Center for Art + Innovation alumnus artist Shaun Leonardo’s public-participatory workshop and performance I Can’t Breathe takes the form of a self-defense class. Over the course of a half hour, participants learn a range of self-defense techniques, from purely pacifist, self-protective maneuvers—including how one may relieve the pressure of a chokehold—to more overt, defensive strategies. Participants do not learn offensive strikes or moves. 

Participants are then paired off and, following cues given by Leonardo, each pair enacts the self-defense techniques just learned, alternating in the role of the aggressor. As the artist recites a script inspired by Nina Simone, each pair elects which action to take solely based on how he or she internalizes the words’ meaning. The impromptu composition of defensive actions creates a meditation on self-preservation and the continued desire/need/fight to protect and survive. 

The participatory performance will be followed by a conversation between the artist and Charlotte police officer Mike Campagna.

Capacity for the workshop and performance participants is 12 people. Audience capacity is limited to 40 people. RSVP required.

I Can't Breathe was created in memory of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Ramarley Graham, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, and countless others. It is a public program of the exhibition The World is a Mirror of My Freedom.