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I will be there when you die?: John Fleischer on Alessandro Sciarroni

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, John Fleischer shares his perspective on last weekend’s performance of UNTITLED_ […]

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Edoardo Demontis in UNTITLED_I will be there when you die. Photo: Andrea Pizzalis

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, John Fleischer shares his perspective on last weekend’s performance of UNTITLED_ I will be there when you die by Alessandro SciarroniAgree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

Friday evening. The house lights in the McGuire Theater dim, gently signaling the imminent beginning of Alessandro Sciarroni’s UNTITLED_ I will be there when you die, and the room falls silent. After a few moments, five male performers walk quietly onto the bare white stage. Four of the performers arrive carrying sets of juggling clubs, and after each deposits all but one of his clubs to one side of the stage or the other, he moves to one of four staggered positions on the expanse of marley. Each stands motionless, eyes closed, facing the audience. The fifth performer, dressed in black, arrives empty-handed and moves to a station of electronic devices off in the shadows.

I watch the performer closest to me for a while — Lorenzo Crivellari. Pastel green trousers. Eyes closed. Breathing. The performer in the back — Pietro Selva Bonino. Head tilted. White high-tops. Eyes closed. To his left and slightly forward — Victor Garmendia Torija. Curly hair. Eyes closed. Broad shoulders. Left and slightly forward again — Edoardo Demontis. White T-shirt and jeans. Thin beard. Eyes closed. I revel in moments like this, the focused pause before the act, the viewer present and participating. Sometimes it can get a bit sticky, of course. Extended? Indulgent? Almost theatrical? But this feels natural — the time it takes to fully arrive. Eventually Demontis opens his eyes. I try to imagine the harsh intensity of his visual experience as he looks slowly around the house, at each of his fellow performers, and then up, directly into the lights. I feel him shift his attention to the object in his hand. And finally, still looking upward, he tosses the club into the air above his head.

Empathy?

I arrived this evening still processing my experience of yesterday’s performance in the Walker’s Cargill lounge, where Sciarroni presented CHROMA_don’t be frightened of turning the page. Waiting there in the lounge for the performance to begin, I overheard someone say the words work-in-progress. I think I heard someone else say meditation on spinning. When the artist finally arrived, he began by walking. He paced back and forth along a diagonal, the distance between his counterclockwise turns contracting until he was spinning. Yes, slowly at first, but increasing in speed and intensity over time, arms rising, hands folding and unfolding overhead like a double helix, gradually down the forehead to the mouth like a baby, spinning like summer afternoon in the grass, spinning because it’s just so incredibly wonderful to spin, but also intentional and precise. Heroic? I’m thinking about practice. I’m thinking about endurance. I’m thinking about skill. All this to a slowly shifting pulse of electronic sound particles, punctuated at first by every twelfth beat, and then dissolving into increasingly complex waves and washes. Sciarroni spins for … fifteen minutes? Twenty? Still spinning, arms extended, he moves outward toward the viewers circled around him. He spins a counterclockwise lap at the edge of the crowd, increasing the risk of falling into the the group, and then moves back to the center, gradually coming to rest. Yes.

Alessandro Sciarroni performing CHROMA_don't be frightened of turning the page at the Walker Art Center,

Alessandro Sciarroni performing CHROMA_don’t be frightened of turning the page at the Walker, September 22, 2016. Photo: Gene Pittman

Dimensions of time?

Still looking upward into the lights, Demontis catches the club with the opposite hand. Although I know he has done this thousands of times, I feel in my chest the real possibility of a miss. All of us focusing now on this isolated catch. He pauses for a moment, and returns the club to the air. Another catch. Another toss. The slap of the club in his palm gradually becomes a rhythm. Another performer opens his eyes, looks around, upward, and tosses his club in the air. Soon there are a pair of rhythms, then a trio, and finally a quartet. The rhythms phase in and out of sync with each other. They synchronize again, and the performers simultaneously catch and release the body of the club instead of handle, shifting the timbre of the percussive beat. The fifth performer — Pablo Esbert Lilienfeld — introduces a sparse mix of recorded clicks and slaps from somewhere in his stack of electronics, and the piece is spinning.

Obsessions, fears, and fragilities?

Occasionally, one of the performers walks over to the side of the stage and grabs another club. Are the cues for this shift in the music? The lights? Or do the performers decide when to shift? I sense a negotiation taking place, but I’m not sure. Sometimes one, sometimes another? Gradually, more and more clubs are flying through the air. Two clubs per juggler. Then three. Four. I find myself wondering where I placed those bean-filled juggling bags I picked up a few years ago. The bags came with an instruction manual, and I still remember practicing the first lesson — the drop. Throw all three bags into the air and let them hit the ground. It was a bit on the nose, but I recall appreciating the intentional space it created for failure, the miss, the mistake. UNTITLED cultivates a space like this, and occasionally one of the performers misses a catch. He watches the pin as it rolls along the mat, and after it slows to a rest, he calmly retrieves it. Usually he looks around at his fellow performers for a moment. Sometimes he smiles. And then he begins juggling again.

Theatrical framework?

Witnessing a demonstration of the skills that emerge over hours upon hours upon hours of practice is a pleasure and an inspiration. So I must confess I am a bit disappointed when the music and lights interfere with my ability to see and hear the jugglers excel at what they do. When the music gets louder and more dense, I can no longer hear the rhythms of catching. I no longer hear the performer nearest me breathing. I suppose an argument could be made that — like the clubs — the sound samples are being juggled in real time. But there is also this slow, emotional progression of piano chords, and I feel manipulated.

Finally, after a patient, slowly shifting display of juggling tricks and patterns, the music stops, and Crivellari launches five clubs into the air. His breathing is more strained now, and his feet scuff sharp sounds from the mat as he positions and re-positions his body beneath the clubs hovering above him. I’m amazed at how they seem to hang there, spinning in midair. At times it even appears that the clubs are juggling the performer. Yes. Wonderful. Just this man repeatedly tossing objects in the air, keeping them afloat. I see the precise, mundane, sweaty reality of years of practice, and its relationship to a skillful performance.

When the music begins again, the overhead lights go down, and the jugglers are dimly lit from the floor. They cast tall multicolored shadows on the scrim behind them as they pair off and begin passing clubs as duets. I immediately recall another tidbit from my misplaced juggling manual — juggling is not about making great catches, it is about making great throws. The passing continues as the duets entwine, cycling around and between each other. I struggle to watch their exchanges, but the colored background takes over. Dozens and dozens of spinning colored shadows are difficult to ignore. I try again to focus on the jugglers, their amazing entangled performance, but I keep seeing sperm.

Traditional definitions of gender?

Tomorrow I will think about how much I enjoyed the way Bonino sometimes separated his tosses into three distinct heights, one club spinning quickly near his chest and face, another more slowly above his head, and the third almost languid toward the ceiling. I will wonder what this bit of writing would have looked like if I had chosen to excavate the layers of time in this single toss. I will try, repeatedly, to make sense of the line in the program about gender, and I will swap texts with a friend who will critique Sciarroni’s use of talent from other disciplines. I will wish I could witness yesterday’s spinning performance again. Maybe I will even spin a bit. I will also try to find those juggling bags.

A Basic Guide to All Things Scaffold Room

Ralph Lemon’s new work, Scaffold Room, is truly interdisciplinary. Blurring the line between performing arts and visual arts, it exists in the white cube of the gallery but also includes ticketed, seated performances. Scaffold Room challenges the ways we usually think about and talk about art, which is part of why it’s so exciting—but it can also be […]

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April Matthis during a residency at MANCC, February–March 2014. Photo: Chris Cameron

Ralph Lemon’s new work, Scaffold Room, is truly interdisciplinary. Blurring the line between performing arts and visual arts, it exists in the white cube of the gallery but also includes ticketed, seated performances. Scaffold Room challenges the ways we usually think about and talk about art, which is part of why it’s so exciting—but it can also be difficult to describe in just a few words.

With that in mind, I thought I’d outline the different forms Scaffold Room will take in the coming week, including set performances and Refraction performances, as well as talks, discussions, and open rehearsals. Attending a combination of these events will enrich and deepen your understanding of the work as a whole.

Scaffold Room Performances, September 26–28

Friday, 7 and 9:30 pm; Saturday, 8 pm; Sunday, 7 pm

Experience Scaffold Room as a 90-minute performance within the gallery, featuring artists Okwui Okpokwasili and April Matthis, along with DJ/composer Marina Rosenfeld. These four performances are seated, ticketed, and have a limited capacity. They will have a different feel and structure from the opening kickoff event, so it’s definitely worthwhile to plan to attend both a ticketed performance as well as Scaffold Room Refraction on Thursday night.

Scaffold Room Refraction, September 25, 5–9 pm

The free opening kickoff event, Scaffold Room Refraction, takes place during Target Free Thursday Night. Refraction is a series of performances that invite a deeper examination of the performance experience, including an unpredictable mix of live music and parallel performances layered across the evening. You’ll be free to roam around the gallery space, and come and go as you please. A cash bar in the adjacent lobby will serve as a place to gather, mingle, and discuss what you’re seeing.

Related Event: Opening Night SpeakEasy Discussion, 7–9 pm

The Scaffold Room SpeakEasy takes place in Cargill Lounge, and is your chance to talk about the work with other people, or just listen in. The SpeakEasy discussion will be led by local artists Jessica Fiala, Caroline Kent, and Marcus Young.

Scaffold Room Refraction, September 27–28, afternoons

Refraction performances will continue over the weekend, with a similar format to Thursday night, but will include different parallel performances. These are free with gallery admission.

Related Event: Gallery Talk with Scaffold Room Creators, September 27, 1 pm

Local poet/performance artist Gabrielle Civil will moderate a discussion with Ralph Lemon, Okwui Okpokwasili, and April Matthis. Also free with gallery admission.

Open Rehearsals, September 19–24

Ralph Lemon and his team of artists will offer an ongoing, behind-the-scenes look at the work as it takes shape via a series of Open Rehearsals. Stop by during gallery hours any day before the opening kickoff to see the artists at work. The Open Rehearsals are free with gallery admission (note: certain times may need to be closed to the public, but feel free to call ahead to double check).

Meditation Film Installation, September 24–28

While you’re here, don’t forget to head over to the McGuire Theater to see Meditation, a 2010 film by Ralph Lemon and Jim Findlay that is now part of the Walker’s collection. Meditation screenings are ongoing, and free with gallery admission.

Bucky Fuller Night: A Quirky Guy with a Dymaxion Sphere of Influence

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of […]

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Filmmaker Sam Green and the Walker’s Ashley Duffalo chat with guests on Bucky Fuller Night. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Set against the backdrop of Fritz Haeg’s thought-provoking Domestic Integrities exhibition, Bucky Fuller Night was an evening of storytelling, discussion, and hands-on activities celebrating the life and work of R. Buckminster Fuller. From mathematicians intrigued by his concept of synergetic geometry to linguists who appreciate his neologisms like “tensegrity,” “dymaxion,” and “omni-interaccomodative,” all kinds of Bucky fans had the chance to share and discover reasons to love the inventor-designer-thinker-futurist. The October 10 event served as a prelude to Sam Green and Yo La Tengo’s “live documentary” performance of Green’s film The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller at the Walker tonight.

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Walker education intern Björn Sparrman created a dymaxion map to illustrate how far Bucky’s influence reaches. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

The night’s Bucky-centric discussion was casual and cozy, with speakers and guests settled on Fritz Haeg’s thirty-foot crocheted rug. Walker intern Will Gobeli kicked off the event by discussing  Fuller’s influence on Haeg’s life and works. Haeg lives in Los Angeles in a geodesic dome — one of Fuller’s most well-known architectural inventions — and his Foraging Circle in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is also housed in a geodesic dome.

Philosophically, Haeg and Bucky share an interest in the sustainable future of the planet, and one of Haeg’s biggest sources of inspiration from Bucky was his idea of being a “comprehensivist” (a term coined by Fuller himself), refusing to adhere to a single label like “architect” or “mathematician.” In an interview with Michael Pollan, Haeg described how he often begins lectures to students with a quote from Fuller’s Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1968): “Specialization is in fact only a fancy form of slavery wherein the ‘expert’ is fooled into accepting a slavery by making him feel that he in turn is a socially and culturally preferred — ergo, highly secure — lifelong position.” For confirmation of Haeg’s dedication to these principles, look no further than this illustration of his At Home in the City project: “Haeg’s practice spans a range of disciplines — architecture, performance, design, education, gardening, and ecology — and includes projects as varied as public dances, urban parades, temporary encampments, edible gardens, videos, and publications.”

Audience

The audience listens to stories about R. Buckminster Fuller. Photo: Gene Pittman

With these connections drawn, Ashley Duffalo, public programs manager in the Education Department, then took us back in time with some anecdotes she found in her archival research about Bucky in Minnesota. Did you know, for example, that Bucky sat on the advisory board for an experimental city in northern Minnesota? Or that he built a geodesic greenhouse on the rooftop of the former Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis, and spoke there about the importance of agricultural innovation?

Ashley opened up the discussion to the audience, and a former Minneapolis city planner chimed in. Inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s plans for a dome over Manhattan, he wrote to Fuller to ask how much it would cost to put a dome over Minneapolis, a city that could certainly benefit from a little more insulation in the winter. Fuller wrote back with an estimated sum of around $6 billion, and the city planner joked, “So then I had to think of an alternative, which was the Minneapolis skyway system.”

Ashley then passed the torch to Sam Green to talk about some of the reasons he loves Bucky. His film project began as a commission from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which was curating an exhibition about Fuller. Green delved into research at the Stanford archives, which, given Bucky’s propensity to document every day of his life from 1920 to 1983, had more than enough information about the man. Given an in-depth look into Fuller’s everyday life, Green discussed some of the man’s personal quirks—such as his 5-hour non-stop “thinking out loud” lectures that always started with an uncomfortably long pause, and his talent for thinking up quirky titles for his books, like Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Utopia or Oblivion. “He was a great self-marketer,” Green affirmed, bringing up Bucky’s oft-mentioned habit of wearing three watches while he was traveling to correspond to the time zones of his past, present, and future locations. But Bucky may have been hyperbolizing a bit in order to create a legendary character for himself — Green joked that in all his archival research, he did not find a single picture of Buckminster Fuller wearing three watches.

Of course, Green found more in Bucky to appreciate than just his personality quirks. What he admires most about R. Buckminster Fuller is his idea that the world has enough resources for everyone to live a comfortable life — if we can find a way to use them effectively.

At the end of the formal discussion, more audience members shared stories of their recollections of Fuller. A few had been witness to his “thinking out loud lectures,” and came away laughing from his tendency for both awkward pauses and non-stop speaking but inspired by his ideas and his ways of thinking. One graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture told a story of Bucky and the Dean of the School of Architecture writing a prognosis for the year 2000 and burying it in a bell jar at a Minnesota construction site.

The evening ended with an opportunity to try out some of Bucky’s geometric design techniques using cardboard triangles, an activity led by artist Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Fuller revealed his geometric genius early in life, creating in his kindergarten class an octet truss made of toothpicks and dried peas — a design which he eventually patented in 1961 (minus the peas, of course).

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Making Bucky-inspired shapes with Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. Photo: Lydia Brosnahan

Buckminster Fuller — an inventor, visionary, architect, futurist, mathematician, author, designer, and environmental activist, to name a few — defied categorization. Bucky Fuller Night similarly highlighted the dynamic potentials of “comprehensivism,” connecting the world of Fritz Haeg’s intellectual, interactive art (itself quite uncategorizable) to another collaborative project: Green and Yo La Tengo’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster FullerDescribed by Green as “a cross between a film, a piece of performance art, and a really fancy lecture,” the “live documentary” reflects the Walker’s ongoing commitment to interdisciplinary, collaborative — perhaps even comprehensivist — work. We think Bucky would be proud.

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo present The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller on Friday, October 11 , 2013, at 7 and 9:30 pm in the McGuire Theater.

David Zambrano’s Soul Project Party

There are periods in every adult’s life when we are forced to return to a state of infancy. David Zambrano began his career as a dancer at 21 and threw himself so thickly into the fray that he sprained his middle arches and could not stand for six months. For his recuperation process, he rolled […]

There are periods in every adult’s life when we are forced to return to a state of infancy. David Zambrano began his career as a dancer at 21 and threw himself so thickly into the fray that he sprained his middle arches and could not stand for six months. For his recuperation process, he rolled on mats every day like an infant, or as he says on his website, “a reptile.” In Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body-Mind Centering philosophy, an infant’s period of rolling on the ground is crucial to their physical integration, their posture, their openness to the world, the development of their nervous system and confidence, and their comfortability with giving and receiving touch.

In the New York gym where Zambrano recovered and retrained everyday were, as he says, “a Brazilian jump roper and an old Kung Fu master.” He observed their exercise regimens and incorporated elements into his own exploration of nearness to the ground and the earth. By the time he returned to standing on his own two feet, Zambrano had developed a new movement practice technique: “Flying-Low.” In Flying-Low Dance Technique, “there is a focus on the skeletal structure that will help improve the dancers physical perception and alertness.” You can see that skeletal emphasis in the accentuated limb movement of the soloists featured in his Soul Project, which is being performed in the McGuire Theater Friday and Saturday night.

Zambrano’s dancers are graceful, but their movements don’t melt into the background like balletic organza.  Instead the piece is—for Zambrano—about “being continuously alive. On, like a candle.” When Zambrano’s dancers flop to the floor, torquing and convulsing, it is easy to forget we are all on a stage and not in a club or even outside, with clumps of dirt and grass about to fly in our face. Zambrano’s show shares a similarity with Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s performance two months ago because both pieces invite the audience to break through the proscenium and crash the class ritual of a nice night out at the theater (although you will definitely have that). Soul Project is also similarly joyous, and for a show comprised of only soloists, it’s actually about the power of dance to unite people. Couched in the seemingly atomized format is an intensely social experience.

The ebullience of the piece overflows even its own two night run, with the Zambrano dancers cavorting around the galleries this Thursday night around 6:30 and again at 7:30, perhaps even for a cameo during Colin Stetson’s Sound Horizon set in the Ernesto Neto room. In other words, Target Free Thursday Night has quite a bit to offer Performing Arts fans this week.

Lastly, Zambrano company dancers are offering workshops at Walker on the Flying-Low Technique tomorrow morning (Wednesday) from 9:30-11:30 am and Saturday morning from 11 am-1pm. Space is limited; registration is required by calling 612.375.7600.