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I Love That Photo! Or, An Ode to Solitude

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar. So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, […]

<i>Rothko and me</i>.  Submitted by Eric Mueller.

Rothko and Me. Submitted by Eric Mueller

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as the coordinator of Coffee House Press’s In The Stacks program, which places writers and artists into residencies in libraries and archives around the country, it’s that you always start your visit to an archive by looking for the familiar.

So, when asked to contribute to the Walker People’s Archive‘s series on the photos we love, I immediately went looking for museum-goers who, like me, prefer to visit the galleries alone. I found several photos of visitors (including many feral children) who appear to be alone, but who clearly had an unseen companion (the person behind the lens).

<i>Bluuue</i>.  Submitted by Amy Thompson

Bluuue. Submitted by Amy Thompson

Cora<i>Cora in Amazement</i> (2014).  Submitted by Robbie LaFleur

Cora in Amazement (2014). Submitted by Robbie LaFleur

Then I found Alycia Anderson’s submission, Blue BOOM! It’s impossible to tell for sure, but it appears that the young lady found herself a little alone time with the exhibition Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers. And, I have to say, I’m a bit jealous that she (a fellow Scandinavian, perhaps?) was able to enjoy Klein’s signature “fluid” and “consistent” blue unhindered by the visual clutter of other museum-goers, with their jackets and their hair and their purses and their brightly colored Walker pins.

<i>“Blue” BOOM!</i> (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

“Blue” BOOM! (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

In 2009, I was living three blocks from the Walker when light/space artist Robert Irwin recreated the scrim piece Slant/Light/Volume (1971) that was first installed at the opening of the Barnes Building in 1971. I tried several times to not only visit the museum alone, but to get the entire Irwin room to myself, as this lucky visitor did. But it never worked out. What would I have done there all alone? Dunno. But I was convinced the experience would be transformative. I had just read Lawrence Weschler’s engrossing biography of Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees (University of California Press, 2009), and I was completely taken with his work.

Those of us who visit galleries alone, are we truly looking for solitude? A bustling gallery on a Saturday afternoon rarely provides peace and quiet. But a Thursday morning at, say, 11am? Now you’re talking.

Or are we maybe just looking for love? My friend “T” was visiting the Walker alone recently and found the man of her dreams just waltzing through the galleries.

I think, rather, that we’re just not all equipped, in the moment at least, to fully process what’s before us and form an opinion of it. Especially with artists such as Yves Klein and Robert Irwin.

Against personal protocol, I recently visited both the Walker Art Center and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts with others. Technically, I arrived at Chris Schlichting’s dance performance Stripe Tease alonebut shortly before the program began, a friend arrived (also solo) and plopped down next to me. As the piece wrapped up and we walked toward the cafe for a cup of coffee, she turned to me and said: “You know, someday I hope to have the vocabulary to discuss dance. But right now, I’ve got absolutely nothing to say about that. Nothing!”

A short while later, I visited the MIA with a newish acquaintance to see the MAEP show of a mutual friend. As we passed through the various regional and period rooms en route to the exhibit, she paused, turned to me, and said: “Just so you know, I’m not ready to talk about art with you just yet.”

In both instances, I was happy to comply, happy to talk of simpler things. I was happy to have a companion, but happier yet to be alone with my thoughts, like Alycia in Klein’s sea of blue.

We’re asking folks to pick a favorite photo from the Walker People’s Archive and tell us what they love about it. Want to tell us about your favorite?  Contact WPA Project Manager Jennifer Stampe.

Walker People’s Archive: WPA Revue in Review

In October of last year, the Walker invited me to produce a stage companion to the Walker People’s Archive, the crowd-sourced photographic and anecdotal history launched on the museum’s website earlier that month. After looking over the archive, I met with Jennifer Stampe, project manager for the WPA, and Ashley Duffalo, coordinator of Public and […]

WPA3In October of last year, the Walker invited me to produce a stage companion to the Walker People’s Archive, the crowd-sourced photographic and anecdotal history launched on the museum’s website earlier that month. After looking over the archive, I met with Jennifer Stampe, project manager for the WPA, and Ashley Duffalo, coordinator of Public and Community Programs for the Walker, and we discussed our incipient ideas and settled on a performance date in mid-January. The commission was appealingly open-ended. Ideally, the show would represent, recontextualize, and have fun with the archive, but the means by which it did so was unfixed.

Imagining a variety show that would blend the authentic WPA material with a modest fictional element, I started working on scenes and songs and reached to out to a group of collaborators: actors and codirectors Lara Blackwood Avery, Jenny Adams Salmela, and Bill Schoppert; singer Jayanthi Kyle; and bassist Jeffrey Sugerman. In the end, “The WPA Revue” was composed of three interlaced parts: an emceed slide show of WPA photos and their accompanying text; a lounge act of sorts in which Jayanthi, Jeffrey, and I performed original songs and thematically apt covers while photos flashed by without commentary; and a playlet centered on a fictional Twin Cities family, the Heitkes, Walker patrons and barons of the typewriter industry who fell into embarrassed circumstances with the rise of the personal computer.

The archive itself is a mix of tones: some of the submissions are goofy, others poignant; some are snapshots, others carefully composed. My hope was that the show would echo this tonal mix, that it would be funny but sometimes openly sentimental, loose but considered, and that it would casually treat some of the ideas suggested by the photos.

For instance, the Walker owns or has displayed many pieces made up in part or entirely of reflective surfaces, sometimes both reflective and distorting ones. Not surprisingly, WPA submissions often take advantage of these surfaces toward a kind of funhouse metaphotography. The archive includes selfies taken in one of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirror paintings, Three Girls on a Balcony, in sculptor Dan Graham’s Two-Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth, in a Morris Graves set piece for Merce Cunningham’s Inlets. These submissions in particular spurred thoughts about memory, photography, distortion, and point of view.

<i>Walker Reflections</i> (2014). Submitted by Marti Gudmundson.

Walker Reflections (2014). Submitted by Marti Gudmundson

<i>DiNino Father and Son Portrait in a Jim Hodges Piece </i>(2014). Submitted by Ben DiNino.

DiNino Father and Son Portrait in a Jim Hodges Piece (2014). Submitted by Ben DiNino

In the show, Lara played Jessica Heitke, an aspiring artist who’s working with a group of photographs found in an alley by her friend Emily. The project has led Jessica to research what psychologists have to say about memory perspective. “In field perspective,” she summarizes to Emily, “you picture the memory more or less as you actually experienced it: through your eyes, watching your hand shake someone else’s hand—you’re the subject. In observer perspective, you see your whole body in the scene, right? As if you’re in a movie or a photo.” (Maybe the vantage of every era and place resembles its signature entertainments: Don Quixote is the hero of novel who believes he’s the hero of a novel; we create online personas and sometimes feel as if we’re the stars of our own biopics.) Emily answers that all of her childhood memories are like photos. “But sometimes that’s because they are photos,” she says. “I don’t know whether I’m remembering the moment or the photo.”

Probably most of us have memories like this; they’re conflations of lived experience, photographic documentation, and the stories that attend the photos. The raw and the cooked blur: the photo might seem to provide evidence for a memory, which we understand to be fallible; or the photo might seem to have altered or created the memory. Now that many of us can easily photograph everything—our parking spaces, our children, our lunches, our outfits, our kegger antics—regular and photographed life are presumably blurring still further. It’s currently conventional to worry that our lives are so mediated that only documented and publicized personal events feel real. The ironies aren’t subtle. On holidays we take a break from our families to post on social media about the importance of spending time with one’s family. We use our phones to post a TV clip of Louis C.K. talking about how estranging current technology is, how it’s a defense against underlying sadness, and how he found an antidote when he stopped to weep over a Bruce Springsteen recording playing on his car radio. In other words, we see new technology as phony, impoverishing, defensive; old technology as authentic, enriching, cathartic. (I mean, I’m with the comedian to a point: I love the Boss and have resisted getting a cell phone, which is how I know how easy it is to get sentimental over this stuff.)

The last time I went to the Getty Museum, another visitor stepped in front of me to get an obstructed photo of—I don’t know, some painting. I kept an eye on this ludicrous man for a while and found that he was swiftly moving though the galleries, apparently photographing every piece of art the Getty then had on view. (If only I’d had a camera, I could have photographed him photographing art, à la Thomas Struth.) As I’ve already let on, I felt superior to this man shooting rather than seeing art, art that had already been professionally photographed and could in most cases be viewed on the Getty’s fine website. Then again, it wasn’t as if my viewing that day was terribly deep or concentrated: I can’t remember the painting the man stepped in front of, after all, and for several minutes he interested me far more than the art did. Who knows, maybe he’s not a compulsive collector of photographic souvenirs, but rather a postmodern aesthete who can only enjoy art at one remove. I count as favorites many paintings that I’ve only seen in reproduction, or that first caught my eye through a photo. Case in point: I had stood in front of Günther Uecker’s White Field before seeing Alycia Anderson’s WPA photo of it, but only her close-up made me a fan.

<i>Wondering at White Field</i> (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson.

Wondering at White Field (2010). Submitted by Alycia Anderson

When my mother-in-law was in hospice a few years ago, my wife posted a few old family photographs to Facebook. The moment I saw these photos (alone at my computer), I started to cry, more than I did, it turned out, at the funeral a week or so later. Partly I was responding to the outpouring of support for my wife and her sisters in the comments section, but also there was something about how the images looked on the screen. I thought immediately of the photos that turn up with the closing credits for based-on-a-true-story movies, those yellowing snapshots of the actual person whose life has just been dramatized. Those photos tend to prod tears as well, and I found myself in an ambivalent spot: I was having a profound, genuine emotional experience that was triggered in part by its association with kitschy, manipulative TV movies. To get to the real, I had to summon the fake.

Our show ended with Jessica and Emily sitting and talking in James Turrell’s Sky Pesher, a piece Jessica was originally wary of because she suspected, at second hand, “a certain coercive spirituality.” Her view has changed by the last scene, though, and she and Emily have a tender, perhaps transcendent, moment inside the piece, a moment of tenderness and transcendence that they self-consciously decide to preserve with simultaneous cell-phone snapshots. Then—I suppose I was thinking again of those TV movies—the selfies were projected on the Walker Cinema’s screen and (a recorded) Robert Smith, of the Cure, started singing, “I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you / that I almost believe that they’re real.”

Films for Families Matter

When most people see films about diving giraffes, walking houses and misfit toys they think silly and funny, these films also tell deep and profound stories. Each year in March, Free First Saturday hosts a Kids’ Film Festival featuring films from around the world. This is a once a year chance to expose families to […]

When most people see films about diving giraffes, walking houses and misfit toys they think silly and funny, these films also tell deep and profound stories. Each year in March, Free First Saturday hosts a Kids’ Film Festival featuring films from around the world. This is a once a year chance to expose families to different cultures and artists through short and feature films that are not widely accessible on a big screen.

Preparing for this event always begins with a visit to the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Last fall as I watched all types of children’s films in a screening room, I thought about connecting films to themes in art and exhibitions while also considering what kids and adults will enjoy. It is interesting how filmmakers are able to address identity, relationships, politics and the human condition in a way that is accessible to all. After watching over a hundred films I had the daunting task of selecting just a few to screen for families at the Walker.

I am really looking forward to sharing the films chosen and listening to the audience reactions. I hope you enjoy this year’s Kids’ Film Festival as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Short Films

5 Mètres, 80

A herd of giraffes launches into a sequence of acrobatic dives in a deserted swimming pool.

Directed by Nicolas Deveaux, France, 2012, 5 minutes.

 

Bear Story

An old bear goes out every day to a busy street corner, where he sets up and presents a special puppet show.

Directed by Gabriel Osorio, Chile, 2014, 10 minutes.

 

Copacao

In a fantastical story about the town of Copacao, an imaginary tree grows and grows to the point of taking over the whole planet.

Directed by Carciova Adrian, Romania, 2013, 3 minutes.

DSC01124

 

Home Sweet Home

Tired of its neighborhood, a house in Detroit breaks free from its foundation and sets out on an adventure.

Directed by Alejandro Diaz, Pierre Clenet, Romain Mazevet, and Stéphane Paccolat, France, 2013, 10 minutes.

 

Lambs

Sheep parents are bewildered by their little lamb whose style sets it apart from the herd.

Directed by Gottfried Mentor, Germany, 2013, 5 minutes.

Lambs_Still_02

 

Little Matryoshka

A matryoshka family, wary of strangers, takes shelter in solitude but the curiosity of its youngest member soon leads them on a life-changing adventure.

Directed by Serin Inan and Tolga Yildiz, Turkey, 2014, 9 minutes.

 

Macropolis

Two defective toys discarded from a factory go on a hunt to find a new home that appreciates them for their uniqueness.

Directed by Joel Simon, Northern Ireland, 2012, 7 minutes.

 

Mia

In her quest to help her mother, a little girl unlocks the hidden secrets that make the world turn.

Directed by Wouter Bongaerts, Belgium, 2013, 9 minutes.

 

The Dam Keeper

A small town’s survival is solely due to a large windmill that acts as a fan to keep out poisonous clouds. Its operator, Pig, works tirelessly to keep the sails spinning, despite bullying from classmates. When a new student joins his class, everything begins to change.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

Directed by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutusmi, USA, 2013, 18 minutes.

The Numberlys

In a world where there is no alphabet and only numbers, a group of friends sets out to devise a new way to communicate.

Directed by William Joyce & Brandon Oldenburg, USA, 2013, 12 minutes.

 

Feature Film

Song of the Sea

From the creators of the Academy Award-nominated The Secret of Kells comes a hand-drawn masterpiece. Based on the Irish legend of the Selkies, Song of the Sea tells the story of a seal-child and her brother who go on an epic journey to save the world of magic.

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Film.

Directed by Tomm Moore, Ireland/Luxembourg/Belgium/France/Denmark, 2014, 93 minutes.

 

Join us for an exciting day of kids’ films from around the world! Enjoy free gallery admission and family fun on March 7 from 10 am-3 pm. Activities designed for kids ages 6 to 12.

You Must Get Back Up

banana fall

banana fall

*Levi Weinhagen is serving as Artist in Residence for Education and Community Programs from September 2014 through February 2015*

Every second and fourth Tuesday of the month the Walker presents “Arty Pants,” activities and programs aimed at people aged 3 to 5 and their adults. On Tuesday, November 25th, I had the great privilege of working with a group of tiny artists, sharing an art form I love, falling down. I worked with an excited and hilarious group of children to help them make their own banana peels and then we went over how to do a proper physical comedy fall. And then all these 3, 4, and 5 years olds fell down and clapped for each other. It was one of the best things I’ve ever seen in a museum.

There was a moment early into the falling down part of my art activity with these youngsters when one of them fell down on my blue padded mat and everyone clapped and then he just laid there. He wasn’t hurt or anything, I think he was just enjoying laying down after having just gotten a round of applause. I’m a little embarrassed how well I can relate to that desire to bask in the applause. So, I helped him to his feet and then said to all the participants that I had left out one key part of doing physical comedy. I had forgotten to tell them what is needed in every comedy fall or physical comedy injury, you have to get back up.

It’s is a very grounding, human thing to laugh when someone trips and falls. One of my favorite things about physical comedy is that it doesn’t require everyone speak the same language or even share the same cultural touchstones. But, the laugh at a fall is quickly cut short if the “audience” thinks the person who fell is actually badly hurt. The biggest laughs, when it comes to physical comedy, require the at least assumed knowledge that no one is tragically hurt. Trust me, it’s not funny unless you get back up.

You want to know an amazing secret, though? This same principle applies to every fall or failure in life. If you get back up, you can always make something great out of what appears to be a fall.

History is littered with entrepreneurs who have had businesses collapse, scientists who have had experiments blow up in their faces, and artists who had work rejected time and again only to have them regain their footing and do things that change the way people think, create or do business. The successes and breakthroughs of a company like Apple with Steve Jobs at the helm after he had been forced out of the company makes everyone look back on his past work and reassess what appeared to be failures and view them as setups to an amazing punchline. I think you can see the same reassessment of one’s artistic past in the ups and downs of Robert Downey Jr’s acting career or the way Georgia O’Keefe’s early work as a commercial artist, although it was work she hated doing, is now viewed as informing what would become her unique views and approach to painting.

Almost any fall can be made a comedic success if you you aren’t so damaged from the landing that you aren’t able to get back up. And almost any metaphorical fall can be turned into a success if you can figure how to get back up and keep on moving. The only way we can turn our personal tragedies into triumphs is by letting everyone know the falls didn’t kills us. Heck, sometimes they’ll even applaud.

Artists Respond to Fluxus

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus.  FluxField artists included Beatrix Jar (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, and Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. The indomitable Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside.  Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

We asked several of these FluxField artists to share their thoughts on working with Fluxus, and what follows is a compilation of their responses.


 Part One: What is Fluxus?

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Alison Knowles walks down Nicollet Mall with Jacob Aaron Roske, photo by Lacey Criswell

Fluxus is People

I think of Fluxus first and foremost as the loose network of artists in the late 1950s into ’60s who first carried the name – who understood art as inseparable from everyday life, and vice versa, and performed lots of public experiments accordingly. And who also constantly disagreed with each other about what “Fluxus” was about. I think of names like John Cage, George Maciunas, Alison Knowles, George Brecht, Nam June Paik. So in that sense, I think Fluxus is people.

Rachel Jendrzejewski

Fluxus began as a network of ad-hoc, often disputed, orchestrated acts that turned noticing into craft. These orchestrations were performed around the world, and have infected all fields of art.

Maria Mortati

Maria Mortati's FluxField Interpretive Trail

Maria Mortati’s FluxField Interpretive Trail

Fluxus is the Score

If you were to say one true thing about Fluxus, you could say that Fluxus is about the primary experience itself. The vehicle for exploring the now moment in Fluxus is through the Event Score or the Fluxkit. To create a score, we have to envision ourselves as someone uninitiated with our ideas. We put ourselves in the shoes of another person—an act of empathy—and we offer an experience to anybody who would invest time to decode the document and act it out in real time and space. A score is a set of rules for engagement. It is the same for a recipe, a manual, or a blueprint.

Chris Kallmyer

Event Scores involve simple actions, ideas, and objects from everyday life re-contextualized as performance. Event Scores are texts that can be seen as proposal pieces or instructions for actions. The idea of the score suggests musicality. Like a musical score, Event Scores can be realized by artists other than the original creator and are open to variation and interpretation.

Alison Knowles (via Chris Kallmyer)

Through the Fluxus score, I find a great closeness in the contract between the artist and participant.

Mike Haeg

100Scores02_Resize

Rachel Jendrzejewski’s Walker Yam: 100 Scores for Open Field, photo by Steve Cohen

Fluxus is Contradiction

I think of Fluxus as a kind of fluid philosophy and practice, which is still very much alive today— a view that art is indeed inseparable from everyday life, and vice versa, and an embrace of constant contradiction. You can’t actually pin Fluxus down because it’s always moving:  Fluxus says that all of life is art, and yet it’s deliberate in its framing and rigor; Fluxus says that art is for everyone, but it’s not necessarily people-pleasing or meaningful;  Fluxus simultaneously disowns and embraces institutions, not to mention the very concept of “art.” And I believe all those contradictions are exactly what makes it true to everyday life- it’s a way of seeing that embraces the complexities of the world, that doesn’t pretend anyone or anything is static.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski

Fluxus is an insular form speaking to the art world’s nuanced concepts of the object, vision, and experience. Simultaneously, Fluxus is an open initiation to life and living, enabling the public to take the scores into their own everyday.

–Chris Kallmyer

In the words of founding Fluxus member Ben Vautier, “Fluxus was a pain in art’s ass.”

–Maria Mortati

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Chris Kallmyer’s Play Catch, All Together, photo by Gene Pittman

Fluxus is Experience and Togetherness

Fluxus is changing together.

—Mike Haeg

Wandering in a field is experiential, and fit the notion that I needed– for people to be, do, and have the opportunity to ‘participate’ as well as reflect; to take in and try it on for size, in a low stakes way.  The public wandered along, beer in hand, taking a picture or two. Near the “Play Ball” score, a giant poodle took off with all the balls. In the end, the question of “What Is Fluxus?” came down to experiences.

—Maria Mortati

[Fluxus Drawing Club] didn’t just point at the art history and try to teach someone something, but facilitated doing — and that doing was the Fluxus part. The doing — everyone doing — is the art part and the experience part; the understanding part, and the “it” of it.

Margaret Pezalla-Granlund

 Part 2: Why Fluxus?

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Chris Kallmyer leads catch with lemons, photo by Gene Pittman

I’ve always been drawn to Fluxus for the way it can both disrupt us from and draw us deeper into everyday life. Those sound like two different actions, but both are wake-up calls. I particularly love the early Fluxus event scores – the text as well as the actual doing of them. They feel simultaneously sacred and disposable, which I think signals a certain kind of wisdom – related to loving fully while not clinging too hard, or honoring all life while accepting nothing lasts forever, or keeping a healthy sense of humor about serious hard things – in short, getting comfortable with letting contradictions co-exist. I think our culture could use way more of all that, hence the ongoing appeal and relevance of Fluxus.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski

I’m inspired by the playfulness of Fluxus and the simplicity. But most of all, I’m moved by Fuxus’ spirit of kindness and revolution: change the world with a box full of smile– hell yes!

–Mike Haeg

I saw the original Walker Art Center Fluxus show years and years ago, and have remembered and thought about it often since. What has stuck with me is the sense of wide-ranging curiosity and creativity, the willingness to cede some seriousness to get at something engaging, and the feeling of wit and humor and shared experience. I also think it’s really smart: as much as Fluxus was about freedom and play, it was also about context and care and a kind of precision. Simple is not easy.

–Margaret Pezalla

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Mike Haeg’s Fluxus Running Club, photo by Gabby Coll

This is the thing that surprised me about the Event Scores: the works are a direct invitation to play, as well as an invitation to presence. Serious focus and purposeless play are both intensely human and increasingly rare. Goofing off is another form of presence, or rather a complete lack of presence when we abandon our veneer to embrace a purposeless sense of wonder. We goof off and are human. In this way, Fluxus and their Event Scores point to our human condition in a way that is wildly dynamic. The score is an invitation, a call to action, and first-hand study and performance of these scores would be healthy for any of us.

–Chris Kallmyer

Part Three: Making Something Out of Fluxus

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Mike Haeg’s Penny Event, photo by Gabby Coll

Fluxus is all about change right? So, why not shine a spotlight on change? That’s why I made the Penny Event change tray sculpture emblazoned with its inherent and unintentional score “LEAVE-A-PENNY / TAKE-A-PENNY”. I placed the pieces on the counters in gas stations and bodegas to spark an artful exchange in an unexpected moment of the day and to spark a thought of commerce at a point of give and take that has been obscured by the credit process.

–Mike Haeg

I’ll be the first to admit that “living the life of the idea” of Fluxus was not something that came easily. On projects I take the deep dive into the world of the place, space, or community until I can swim around with it. It was a harder start to get my brain around and into Fluxus. I am accustomed to museums wanting to pin things down, so working with the antithesis was both liberating and focusing. It sharpened my thinking around the historical trajectory of social practice art, and around opportunities to bring the public into art and vice versa.

–Maria Mortati

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Walker Yam: 100 Scores for Open Field, photo by Steve Cohen

My performance/writing practice is a kind of awareness practice, and Fluxus always has served as an influence in that sense, but I’ve never really written Fluxus-style scores. Talking with Sarah Schultz about why Fluxus matters in 2014, and how Fluxus might live in Minneapolis on the Open Field, made me want to write my own Fluxus-inspired scores to find out. I spent a lot of time reading through the Fluxus Performance Workbook, and I started writing my own scores in response to some of them, and then spinning off some of them, and then writing some completely removed from them. I wrote them quickly (and I don’t usually write quickly) because I really wanted to let them be disposable. I wrote them on the bus and in my apartment and in parks and on an airplane. I thought a lot about the field, and people coming and going from the field to other places. I edited them down to a batch of 100 that felt the most rooted in this time and city. I don’t know why the number 100 felt right — but it feels like just the beginning. Now I want to write 1000.

–Rachel Jendrzejewski


Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibit Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art.  Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explore the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 70’s, is on view through March of 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical […]

What do Walker Open Field, the avant-garde art movement Fluxus and socially-engaged art practice have in common? That is what the Walker’s Education and Community Programs department explored through this summer’s program, FluxField.  This project took advantage of the concurrent timing of Open Field and the opening of Walker exhibitions Art Expanded: 1958-1978  and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, both containing a strong Fluxus presence.

We invited a range of artists to create projects or events for Open Field inspired by or in some cases in reaction to the works, philosophy, and cosmology of Fluxus.  FluxField artists included Beatrix Jar (Bianca Pettis and Jacob Aaron Roske), BodyCartography Project (Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad), Andy Ducett, Mike Haeg, Rachel Jendrzejewski, Chris Kallmyer, Maria Mortati, and Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Key Fluxus figures Alison Knowles and Benjamin Patterson were invited to perform their work during the summer and fall.

Choreographer and curator Laurie Van Wieren also jumped into the flux fray with her Open Field piece, 4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside, a celebration of the Twin Cities’ thriving dance scene. She describes the process of putting together the piece below.


Laurie Van Wieren prepares the audience for the coming event

by Laurie Van Wieren

When Laura Holway, coordinator of Walker Open Field, asked me if I had anything that I might want to share this summer, I realized I knew something that most people aren’t aware of: there are more than 350 dance-making entities in the Twin Cities. I suspected that, if I designed a structure that lasted just 30-minutes and was very clear about the parameters, I just might be able to gather together 100 choreographers at Walker Open Field on a Saturday afternoon. This was a chance to demonstrate the diversity and quantity of choreographers in the Twin Cities, as well as to explore my own dual role as choreographer and curator.

Background

My connection with the Walker Art Center started early on in my life in the Twin Cities. I was a guard at the Walker, and as a dancer and visual artist, I was influenced by many of the choreographers and performance artists that came through, including the Fluxus artists. My first work of choreography was presented at a Walker Choreographers Evening in 1981– a dance made up of looped gestures, performed by my fellow guards (artists themselves) within a grid pattern.

Dance community members reunite, including Molly Van Avery, Chris Garza, Baraka de Soleil and J. Otis Powell

Dance community members reunite, including Molly Van Avery, Chris Garza, Baraka de Soleil and J. Otis Powell

I have been working as a choreographer and performance artist in the Twin Cities since then. Ten years ago we didn’t have many places to show works in progress or talk about dance work, so I started 9×22 Dance/Lab at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Every month, I invite three dance-makers to show and discuss their work. With that experience, I stepped into the role of curator at the Southern Theater, and then the Ritz Theater. My hope was to help grow the presence of dance in those venues. Unfortunately both of these mid-sized theaters have folded as presenting institutions, and are now struggling to find their footing.

The numerous props are set for 4x4=100 Dancing Outside

The numerous props are set for 4×4=100 Dancing Outside

For artists and choreographers, it is a new, not-so-brave world. The low economy pushed performing art onto the back burner in the minds of the audience community. Yet, the artists are still out there creating work in ever more expansive ways, as well as blurring the lines between presenting, producing, curating and making art directly. To survive and thrive, dance artists are compelled to create new models all the time. I am hoping that we can find new ways to sustain ourselves. Until then, we work with what is in front of us.

Motivation and Logistics

The impulse to create 4×4=100 Choreographers Dancing Outside came from a handful of different ideas and influences: an interest in experimenting with Curation-as-Choreography and the artist as curator; my visual arts background; the Fluxus score; my interest in compositions of live action. I am especially proud of being a part of an extremely engaged and active dance community. I wanted to showcase this profusion of talent. For me, curation is about making space and time for artists to do their own specialized work. I created parameters within the piece that allowed all participants to simultaneously perform their own dance and be seen within a large community group.

The choreographers parade into the chalked grid, including Arwen Wilder, Sharon Picasso, Kristin Van loon, Morgan Thorson, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Stacy Sabin, Dylan Fresco, Chris Schlichting, Max Wirsing, Emily Gastineau, Chris Holman, Neel and Pramila Vasudevan, April Sellers, Judith Howard, Megan Mayer, Matt Regan, Paul Stucker, and Anat Shinar

The choreographers parade into the chalked grid, including Arwen Wilder, Sharon Picasso, Kristin Van loon, Morgan Thorson, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Stacy Sabin, Dylan Fresco, Chris Schlichting, Max Wirsing, Emily Gastineau, Chris Holman, Neel and Pramila Vasudevan, April Sellers, Judith Howard, Megan Mayer, Matt Regan, Paul Stucker, and Anat Shinar

This summer’s Open Field had ties to the Fluxus art movement, which felt like a happy coincidence. My interest in Fluxus started in art school, where I was drawn to the work of John Cage and Yoko Ono. In 1993, I was invited to work with Fluxus artist and archivist Larry Miller on the Walker exhibit In the Spirit of Fluxus. We performed the scores of Alison Knowles, George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Lamonte Young, Emmett Williams, Yoko Ono and more. I loved that the actions of the Fluxus scores were simple and restrained, but also exciting and fun; every Fluxus artist seemed to have their own style of putting a score together. Fluxus influenced 4×4=100 Dancing Outside in a number of ways, from the organization of the grid pattern, to the simple score (or set of instructions) described below.

Akiko Ostlund and the other 30 minute performers begin

Akiko Ostlund and the other 30 minute performers begin

The piece was an open call, with a notice put in the dancemn newsletter and on Facebook. The first week of the notices, 25 people signed up. By the middle of June there were 80, and one week before the show, 100—plus a waiting list. Some people had to drop out at the last minute, and all waitlisted folks got in. In the end we had exactly 100 choreographers.

Dustin Maxwell cuts a piece of grass

Dustin Maxwell cuts pieces of grass

Each choreographer was instructed to perform in an assigned 4’x4’ space, within a larger 40’x40’ square for one of three intervals: 10, 20 or 30 minutes. There were no restrictions or stipulations on what they performed (it could be an improvisation or finished work or anything else), other than that they stay exactly within their 4’x4’ space. There were no group rehearsals, although the performers were invited to practice on the field if they chose.

100 Outside

Judith Howard and April Sellers spray paint squares outside of the 40'x40' space

Judith Howard and April Sellers spray paint squares outside of the 40’x40′ space

The night before the performance, Laura Holway and I created the grid with a baseball field chalking machine, aided by the very helpful math and spatial skills of Jael O’Hare. Fortunately, it didn’t rain…yet.

Pramila Vasudevan and her son Neel in their 4'x4' space

Pramila Vasudevan and her son Neel in their 4’x4′ space

The next day all 100 choreographers showed up, raring to go. We talked through the score, made sure that everyone knew the location of their assigned square, and set props. It was a quite pleasant day; the weather folks predicted showers later in the afternoon, but we remained undaunted. The group prepared to parade towards the grid, dancers costumed in bright, beautiful and sometimes extravagant attire. It was a cacophony of riotous color. And then, 8 minutes before show time a very dark and ominous cloud parked itself immediately on top of us.  With this not-so-subtle prompt, I started us off early. As the large mass of choreographers and dancers moved up the hill, the dark cloud began to leak. Out went the 30-minute performers. The rain quickened, and I sent out the 20-minute performers early. Suddenly the steady sprinkle became a downpour and the audience, surrounding all sides of the 40’x40’ grid, grabbed their umbrellas and let out a collective shout… and NOT ONE PERSON LEFT!

Deborah Jinza Thayer pours water over her head

Deborah Jinza Thayer pours water over her head

Jennifer Arave performing as the rain begins

Jennifer Arave performing as the rain begins

Erika Hansen dances, surrounded by Courtney Baga, Leah Nelson, Galen Higgins, Dylan Fresco and HIJACK

Erika Hansen dances, surrounded by Courtney Baga, Leah Nelson, Galen Higgins, Dylan Fresco and HIJACK

It poured buckets! The wonderfully diverse (and drenched) mix of dancers stayed and continued to perform with even more focus: modern, post-modern, ballet, Cuban folk, belly dancing, character dancing, jazz, Flamenco, percussion, Butoh-like, comic…and more. From the audience, the group felt like an orchestra: you could pick out one dancer, or take in the whole group. Everyone became more themselves in the rain. With a frenzied concentration, it was wild, wonderful, glorious and transformative. The wind whipped up; the skies became even more ominous. The Walker Security bellowed over their loudspeakers, “You must clear the field now!!!” When I heard something about a tornado, I cut the piece short…not wanting to wipe out a large part of the dance community in one fell swoop. The performers bowed. After a speedy group photo, we all ran for the Walker lobby.

Members of the first and second groups dance together, including Jael O'Hare, Robert Borman, Meriam Colvin, Sherry Saterstrom, Jennifer Arave, Stacy Sabin, Morgan Thorson, Heather Klopchin, and Edna Stevens waiting to go on

Members of the first and second groups dance together, including Jael O’Hare, Robert Borman, Meriam Colvin, Sherry Saterstrom, Jennifer Arave, Stacy Sabin, Morgan Thorson, Heather Klopchin, and Edna Stevens waiting to go on

The audience huddles as the rain increases

The audience huddles as the rain increases

Pam Plagge performs a set of dances from the Orisha tradition, including a rain dance, while her teacher Rene Thompson looks on; Billy Mullaney reaches new heights on his ladder

Pam Plagge performs a set of dances from the Orisha tradition, including a rain dance, while her teacher Rene Thompson looks on

Dancers in the pouring rain, including Kenna Cottman, Kaleena Miller, Sherry Saterstrom, Mary Easter, Charles Campbell, Jennifer Ilse, Penny Freeh, Maggie Bergeron, Jeff Wells and Tom Kanthak

Dancers in the pouring rain, including Kenna Cottman, Kaleena Miller, Sherry Saterstrom, Mary Easter, Charles Campbell, Jennifer Ilse, Penny Freeh, Maggie Bergeron, Jeff Wells and Tom Kanthak

Reflecting

At the beginning of the project, Laura Holway asked me what audience members could expect the piece to look and sound like. I responded: A mass of chaos and beauty, framed. It will sound like Conlon Nancarrow, John Cage, Britney Spears, birds calling and children yelling. It might remind people of a flash mob, but an anti flash mob- no one will be dancing the same way- they will be doing their own singular work at the same time as everyone else, in the same very 40×40 foot grid.

This was all very accurate, but with torrential rain and more joy!

The audience joins in for the annual dance community photo

The audience joins in for the annual dance community photo

To all the participants: Thank you so much for coming out and taking a chance on being involved in the piece. You were fantastic! It was a joy to watch you collectively and individually. It was obvious that we have a hunger to convene; let’s find more ways to do it.

To the Walker: Open Field is an outstanding project, and it was great to be involved. I cannot say enough about how encouraging and helpful you were! Thank you especially to Sarah Schultz, the Education and Community Programs staff, Walker interns, and Laura Holway.

4×4 = 100 Choreographers Dancing Outside included the choreography of

Berit Ahlgren, Arlys Alford, Gabriel Anderson, Nika Antuanette, Jennifer Arave, Courtney Baga, Emma Barber, Maggie Bergeron, Bonnie Berquam, Olive Bieringa, Blake Bolan, Young-Tse Bolon, Robert Borman, Emma Buechs, Tim Cameron, Charles Campbell, Tom Carlson, Mike Cohn, Miriam Colvin, Beverly Cottman, Kenna Cottman, Angharad Davies, Ryan Dean, Baraka de Soleil, Mary Easter, Torre Edahl, Rachael Freeburg, Penney Freeh, Dylan Fresco, Emily Gastineau, Lazer Goese, Izzi Gorowsky, Susanne Grochett, Robert Haarman, Marilyn Habermas-Scher, Annika Hansen, Erika Hansen, Lara Hanson, Deborah Heltzer, Galen Higgins, Chris Holman, Judith Howard, Alison Hoyer, Colette Ilarde, Jennifer Ilse, Kalila Indiver, Margaret E. Johnson, Justin Jones, Tom Kanthak, Ellen Keane, Robert Keo, Missa Kes, Tara King, Heather Klopchin, Amy Lamphere, Nick LeMere, Jim Lieberthal, Erin Liebhard, Jennifer Mack, Theresa Madaus, Megan Mayer, Dustin Maxwell, Kaleena Miller, Julia Moser-Hardy, Kara Motta, Motion Arts, Billy Mullaney, Blake Nellis, Leah Nelson, Jael O’Hare, Akiko Ostlund, Jane Peck, Sharon Picasso, Pam Plagge, Otto Ramstad, Matthew Regan, Sally Rousse, Stacy Sabin, Sherry Saterstrom, Chris Schlichting, April Sellers, Anat Shiner, Sean Smuda, Darius Strong, Paul Stucker, Deborah Jinza Thayer, Jennifer Theodore, Monica Thomas, Morgan Thorson, Svitlana Shtilman, Michael Sommers, Edna Stevens, Kristin Van Loon, Pramila Vasudevan, Vanessa Voskuil, Jeff Wells, Arwen Wilder, Josie Winship, Christopher Yaeger, and Nan Zosel.


Benjamin Patterson, a key figure in the Fluxus network of artists, visits the Walker on October 9 as part of the exhibitRadical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art.  Art Expanded, 1958-1978, which explore the expanded arts of the 1960’s and 70’s, is on view through March of 2015, and includes the work of Alison Knowles and George Macunias, among other notable Fluxus figures.

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