Sun Ra Arkestra
October 20

Sun Ra Arkestra + KESSWA

Concert in the Auditorium, seated. 

Sun Ra Arkestra is playing without Marshall Allen on this European tour. 


  • 6:30 p.m.: introduction by Joseph Ghosn, journalist and author of the book Sun Ra - Palmiers et pyramides (2014). 
  • 7:00 – 7:45 p.m.: KESSWA
  • 8:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.: Sun Ra Arkestra  

Admission until 9:00 p.m. 

In resonance with Mike Kelley’s exhibition Ghost and Spirit, the Bourse de Commerce has compiled a programme of concerts and performances that address the importance of music in Mike Kelley's work. This programme draws on his influences, close collaborators, and a generation of musicians and performers who have been inspired by his musical explorations. 

The Bourse de Commerce and the New York label Blank Forms present an exceptional concert by the spiritual Sun Ra Arkestra, which performs the music of the cosmic American jazz composer and pianist Sun Ra (1914 -1993) as well as its own compositions and arrangements.  This concert pays homage to one of the key moments during Mike Kelley’s years in Detroit. Kelley described two concerts from that period that left him totally transfixed: one was Sun Ra’s performance at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in 1973, and the other, a show that Iggy and the Stooges gave in a small biker bar in Wayne, Michigan in 1974. He said: “Everything of major importance that I know about performing, I learned from these two concerts.” The evening begins with a vibrant live set from KESSWA, a young artist from Detroit. 

Founded in Chicago in the mid-1950s, the Sun Ra Arkestra became the main vessel for jazz composer, bandleader, pianist, poet, and philosopher Sun Ra (1914-1993) to express his visionary approach and cosmic philosophy. Claiming to belong to the “Angel Race” and to be from Saturn, Sun Ra became a radical, pioneering figure of Afro-Futurism, which contemplated the place of Black People in the cosmos, as expressed in John Coney’s film Space is the Place (1972). In this film, Sun Ra is beamed down to Earth to convince African Americans to follow him into space to establish a community free of all racism. In the 1960s, the Sun Ra Arkestra’s music traversed the history of jazz, from ragtime to swing, and from bebop to free jazz, recording albums and touring constantly. The group decided to live together, at first in an apartment in the East Village in New York City where Miles Davis and John Coltrane would come and sit in on their jam sessions. In 1968, they moved definitively to 5626 Morton Street in Philadelphia, to what would become known as the Sun Ra House. 

    In 1993, Sun Ra left Planet Earth for good, leaving tenor saxophonist John Gilmore (1931-1995) at the helm of the Arkestra until he departed in 1995, at which point saxophonist Marshall Allen took over the band’s leadership. From Philadelphia, he conducted the Arkestra not as a repertory group, instead as a spiritual one that explored Sun Ra’s musical precepts. Together, they enriched an opulent and joyous repertory rich in spiritual grooves, singing, and music that expresses an ecstatic fire. 2018 saw the release of the album Swirling, which mixed historical compositions, unknown tracks, and new pieces.   

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Close Kesswa

     Originally from the eastern part of Detroit, Kesiena Wanogho, aka KESSWA, is a multidisciplinary artist, singer, producer, and director. Her vibrant and atmospheric sound universes channel the unique legacy of the Motor City, whose rich contributions to the history of spiritual jazz, electronic funk, house, and techno she combines to create a sense of transcendence. Her music mixes vibrant voices with rich soundscapes that draw on neo soul, dub, and trip-hop, as well as traditional Nigerian percussion and Afro-Surrealism. At the Bourse de Commerce, KESSWA presents Simulation, an immersive, groove-laden performance whose mantras and reflections transport audiences through the various phases of her creative process. 

     In 2022, KESSWA received a fellowship from the Kresge Arts Foundation in Detroit and toured Germany as the first artist-in-residence at Musicboard Berlin and the Detroit-Berlin Connection. More recently, she appeared on Theo Parrish's compilation DJ-Kicks. Soften [Deluxe Edition] came out in 2023, a re-release of her elegant debut EP. 

     Founded in 2016, Blank Forms is a New York-based non-profit organization that supports emerging and under-represented artists working across temporal disciplines such as experimental music, performance, dance, and sound arts. It seeks to create new systems for preserving, nourishing, and exhibiting to the public the work of historically established and emerging artists. Black Forms provides artists with curatorial support, residencies, commissions, and publications to help them document, disseminate, and make. 

In resonance with Mike Kelley’s exhibition Ghost and Spirit, the Bourse de Commerce has curated the following programme of concerts and performances:

- On 14 September, American artist Will Benedict presents the musical performance Pandemonium 

- On 14 October, a concert by the American trio Dick Slessig Combo

- On 15 October, a concert by the Japanese group Marginal Consort 

- On 19 October, British artist Anthea Hamilton presents Decade of Emotion

- On 21 October, Loris Gréaud and Lee Ranaldo present Cortical: Soundtrack for a Monograph

- On 7 February the artist Lily McMenamy will premiere her latest solo theatre piece “A Hole is a Hole” and the singer Bernardino Femminielli presents his concert « pot-pourri »

- On 16 February, on the occasion of the closing of this exhibition, the Bourse de Commerce and New York label Blank Forms are hosting a final evening of performances that combine poetry, noise, and extreme rock music with John Sinclair, Junko, Cannibal, Lizzi Bougatsos & Marc Edwards