Dual Vision: In Conversation with Cherise Morris

Cherise Morris is poet, multidisciplinary artist, ritualist and spiritual worker born and raised in rural Virginia and based in Detroit, MI. Her work merges experimental writing, poetry and prayer with performance, movement, sound and ritual practices to open loving, audacious and transformative spaces that invite us to explore, imagine and continue the infinite work of our individual and collective healing journeys and new-world building. Her writing has previously appeared in The Iowa Review, Longreads, Black Warrior Review and elsewhere. Her essays have twice been recognized as notable works of literary nonfiction in The Best American Essays Series 2018 and 2019 and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Morris is currently at work on her ongoing project, “Visions of the Evolution: The Ritual-Performance Series,” and her debut manuscript. 

How did you come to work with your specific collaborator? Did you know them before this? Were you familiar with their work?

We had worked together before and so we were intimately familiar with each other’s work. I’m always excited to excited to experiment and create together, even though we have different practices, there’s a heavy connection between the way that we approach work and the themes and forms that our work takes.

Before the actual process of making, what was the process of deciding on what to make like? What was the making process itself like?

The process was really fluid and organic, which I think is how both of us work. Because so much of what we do and what we create is in conversation with how we are living and the direct day to day practices that we are engaging in, it kind of arises naturally without any overthinking. When we spoke to each other and had our first conversation about what we would do, we realized that even though we were coming from different places, organically there was a dialogue happening between the themes and ideas that were resonating with us at that time, and that then influenced the work.

What new possibilities were offered through collaboration that would not have been possible working alone? Did you feel any disadvantages compared to working alone? 

I think collaboration really opens up the opportunity to see things from different angles and different perspectives, and to explore the same theme or things that resonate, with different perspectives and approaches in mind. And of course to see what newness comes from that. I think that on the one hand a lot of my work is incredibly solitary, but then on the other hand a lot of my process is collaborative and generative and fueled by the energies of others, and having those energies be present. And I think for me because so much of this is embedded within my spiritual practices and routines, although those from the outside may seem individualistic or solitary, but from my perspective when you are working within the realm of the spiritual, nothing is ever individual or solitary, there’s always a collaboration that’s going on.

So that’s how I work that in general, and of course it’s always great to work with someone who I understand and who understands me, and whose work I respect.

Did working collaboratively provide you with any insights that could be extrapolated and used outside of art in either a personal or political context? Were there lessons learned that could be used in other aspects of life? What did it teach you about democracy?

Yeah I think for us this work is automatically both personal and political. I don’t think there is any way to separate any of those different realms of life. I think that is a really integral part to my creative practice, and from what I see and what I know of bree’s creative practice as well and the work that we’ve done together. I would say yes, it certainly has provided us with context within both of those realms, but I think that’s also because it arose from contexts within both of those realms, and really beyond art and creativity, just as a vehicle to speak to the personal and political. I think that’s really specific to people with marginalized–I hate that word, but for lack of a better term–what people would think of as people with marginalized identities.

Going off of the title of the exhibition, how do you and your collaborator see your specific work differently? 

This is a tough one, because I don’t want to be presumptuous. I think the most obvious way that we think about it differently would just be the mediums that we work within. The difference is there, but I think ultimately that sense of poetry that comes with movement operates in both of our work. We have different forms of archiving, through the written word and the spoken word, through the recorded image, the body memory, but at the end of the day they’re all forms of archiving.

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