Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved

Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved

Part of Shaker Commonwealth, a celebration of Kentucky Shaker arts and culture at the Speed Art Museum.
Presented alongside Careful, Neat & Decent: Arts of the Kentucky Shakers.

August 21, 2020 – April 4, 2021
North Building, 2nd floor


The Speed Art Museum is proud to present Mariam Ghani + Erin Ellen Kelly: When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved, a video installation with related photographs by Mariam Ghani and Erin Ellen Kelly. Shot in 2018 at the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, the three-channel video When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved condenses a day-long performance by dancers into a 22-minute meditation on Shaker landscaping, architecture, song and dance as ways of organizing being-in-common. The filmed performance features dancers from the Louisville Ballet and Moving Collective.

A Christian sect led to America by Mother Ann Lee in 1774, the Shakers were devoted to bringing about a utopian society founded on simplicity, celibacy and equality of race and gender. They once boasted four to five thousand Believers across nineteen communities from New England to Kentucky, but only two people in the world maintain the faith today. When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved navigates through the historic meeting house and pastures of Pleasant Hill, evoking the Shakers’ lost way of life through their enduring physical sites.

When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved is part of Performed Places, a long-running collaboration between Ghani and Kelly. This series of site-responsive videos draws on landscape archaeology to activate the history and memory of place through movement.

About the artists:

Mariam Ghani (b. 1978 New York, NY) is an artist, writer and filmmaker. Her work looks at places and moments where social, political and cultural structures take on visible forms. She has exhibited and screened at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel and Kabul; 2004 Liverpool Biennial; Sharjah Biennials 9 and 10; CCCB, Barcelona; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Queens Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; St. Louis Art Museum; and Tate Modern, London.

Erin Ellen Kelly constructs ways of moving, ephemeral collages and performance pieces in gardens, galleries, warehouse spaces, gutted stores, boats, bombed out buildings, theaters and by the side of the road. Her choreographic work is site-specific and often collaborative, exploring the politics of the body and its relationship to the environment and society. Kelly has been an artist in residence at Movement Research, Rogaland Kunstsenter and the Camargo Foundation. She has exhibited at Anchorage Museum of Art; Bass Museum, Miami; Danspace Project, New York; Indianapolis Museum of Art; Knockdown Center, New York; Queens Museum of Art, New York; Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London; and Utopia Teatro, Barcelona.

Explore content and virtual programs related to Shaker Commonwealth via this YouTube playlist: WATCH NOW


When the Spirits Moved Them, They Moved Full Credits:

Directors: Mariam Ghani, Erin Ellen Kelly
Dancers: Lauren Argo, Theresa Bautista, John Brewer, Amanda Carrick, Lauren Frederick, Lizzie Gulick, Erin Ellen Kelly, Faryn Kelly, Rob Morrow, Sanjay Saverimuttu, Ashley Thursby, Philip Velinov, Natalia Velinova; Dancers appear courtesy of Louisville Ballet and Moving Collective Singer: Twana Patrick
Choreography contributed by: Theresa Bautista, John Brewer, Lauren Frederick, Erin Ellen Kelly, Philip Velinov Editor: Mariam Ghani
Cinematography, sound design and online edit: Adam Hogan
Production Manager: Robin Burke
AC: Roger Halliday
Sound Recordist: Eric Lutz
Production Assistants: Gwen Burke, Rina Lutz, J. Ryan McCleney, Don Simandl

DIT: Bob Urban
Catering: Wiltshire Pantry, Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill

Transport: Mint Julep
Produced by: Indexical Films, RYAN LEE Gallery

Research support: 21c Museum Hotels
Production support: Jody Howard, Owsley Brown III

Thanks to: Jeff Lee, Alice Gray Stites, Robert Curran, Mikelle Bruzina, Amy Bugg, Emalee Krulish, Jill Malusky, Miranda Lash, Dean Otto, Kim Schmidt, Jen Liu, Chelsea Knight and the Video Group.

Kentucky Exhibition Season sponsored by:
Eleanor Bingham Miller