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2015: The Year According to Daniel Fish

Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, artist Adam Pendleton to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire […]

2015-header
Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow

Daniel Fish. Photo: Tei Blow

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from graphic designer Na Kim to filmmaker Tala Hadid, artist Adam Pendleton to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 ..

Daniel Fish is a New York–based director who makes work across the boundaries of theater, video, and opera. Drawing on a broad range of forms and subject matter including plays, film scripts, contemporary fiction, essays, and found audio, he’s been called “an auteur force in the American theater.” Fish’s work has been performed at theaters and festivals throughout the US and Europe including: VooruitFestival TransAmériquesBAM Next Wave Festival, Noorderzon Festival, the Juilliard School, and the Royal Shakespeare Company. He has taught at  Juilliard, the Yale School of Drama, Bard College, and Princeton University. In January, he’ll present A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again After David Foster Wallace and screen Eternal as part of the Walker’s Out There series.

Here, he reflects on the loss (of great artists) and discovery (of new images and ideas) that the past 365 days have held.

2015-01

photo: http://www.contemporaryartdaily.com/

Best use of party streamers and mannequins

Called Schauspieler (German for “actor”), Isa Genzken’s show at David Zwirner Gallery kept taking me by surprise, especially when it reversed the viewing experience and was suddenly, quietly looking at me.

 

2015-02

photo: Kenneth Saunders via http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/oct/08/chantal-akerman

Greatest loss of a filmmaker

Chantal Akerman’s final film, which premiered in New York City the day after her death, is a slow, challenging, and deeply human work about her mother. Her work is fearless, and she kept searching.

 

2015-03

photo: http://www.davidzwirner.com/exhibition/gordon-matta-clark-2/

Best use of arrows

Gordon Matta-Clark’s drawings: I could look at these all day long.

2015-04

photo: imago / DRAMA-Berlin.de

Photo courtesy DRAMA-Berlin.de

Greatest loss of a theater artist

Bert Neumann, the great stage and costume designer, graphic artist, and wild mind of Berlin’s Volksbühne. A  huge influence and inspiration to so many people working in theater, many of whom are unaware he’s influenced them. A hero is gone, and an era ends.

 

2015-05

Photo: Paula Court

Photo: Paula Court

Most haunted performance

The Vine of the Dead, Jim Findlay’s gorgeous, long work about ghosts and his family, splayed out across the boiler room dungeon of New York’s Westbeth apartment building.

 

2015-06

photo: http://www.iaap.org/news-2/obituaries-2/1270-lee-roloff.html

Photo: IAAP

Greatest loss of a gifted teacher

Age 88, professor emeritus of Performance Studies at Northwestern University and Jungian analyst, Dr. Leland Roloff taught me that “language is psychic breath.”

 

2015-07

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Best book I somehow missed reading until this year

James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Read it if you have not.

 

2015-08

Most challenging film

Nearly 13 hrs of seductive, wearying, funny 1970’s  French guerrilla filmmaking, the re-release of Jaques Rivette’s OUT no. 1 manages to call up associations of both Molière and the October Paris attacks.

 

2015-09latest

Most effective object of the year

The gun.

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Most ineffective object of the year

The gun.

2015: The Year According to Sibyl Kempson

Sibyl Kempson. Photo: Matt Murphy To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to choreographer Trajal Harrell, filmmaker Tala Hadid to artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series […]

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Sibyl Kempson. Photo: Matt Murphy

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from abstract painter Jack Whitten to choreographer Trajal Harrell, filmmaker Tala Hadid to artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“I really have barely been able to lift my head up from my own work table the entire year,” says playwright Sibyl Kempson, explaining why her year-end list is “so self-absorbed.” “I had no spare attention to give to current events, which are mostly evil—except for same-sex marriage. YAY!” Just a few of the things that consumed so much of her time this year: launching a theater company, publishing a book, premiering two plays and a dance theater work, visiting the ranch from TV’s Dallas, Bigfoot tracking in the wilderness…

A playwright based in New York City and the Pocono Mountains, Kempson’s plays have been presented all over the world, from New York to Omaha, Bonn, Germany to Skien, Norway—including Minneapolis: at the Walker with Elevator Repair Service (in the 2013 Walker-commissioned work Fondly, Collette Richland), at Red Eye Theater Company (Ich, Kürbisgeist and Potatoes of August), and in reading form at the Playwrights Center (The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S.). Below, her enthusiastic, month-by-month (almost) take on the past year.

2015-01

Half Straddle,

Half Straddle, Ancient Lives

January

APAP! The year started off with the many festivals, visitors to the Big Apple, and performance works to last us townies throughout the year. This year I took in the genius of Half Straddle (Ancient Lives), Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble (The Art of Luv), David Neumann and the Advanced Beginner Group (I Understand Everything Better—and I helped write the text!), Amanda Villalobos (Lightkeepers), and Erin Markey (A Ride on the Irish Cream). Then I joined a gym!

2015-02

Rehearsal for LUNPSS at Abrons Arts Center

Rehearsal for Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag at Abrons Arts Center

February

Creative Capital application! Workshop at Sarah Lawrence of my new play, Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag. Directed by David Neumann!

 

2015-03

The Care Ladies of David Neumann's I Understand Everything Better: Karen Kandel, Yours Truly, and Jennifer Nikki Kidwell. I forgot to say: Two Bessies for Best Production and Sound Design in Oct!

The Care Ladies of David Neumann’s I Understand Everything Better: Karen Kandel, yours truly, and Jennifer Nikki Kidwell. I forgot to say: Two Bessies for Best Production and Sound Design in October!

March

Rehearsals for Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag—and I Understand Everything Better premiers at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, Maryland. And guess who stands in for in-demand theater and dance world star Jennifer Nikki Kidwell? YOURS, TRULY!!!

 

2015-04

LUNPSS published by 53rd State Press. Great hot-tub reading.

Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag published in April by 53rd State Press. Great hot-tub reading.

April

I launch my very own theater company: 7 Daughters of Eve Thtr. & Perf. Co. at the Martin E. Segal Center at CUNY Grad Center! A momentous moment—like a wedding. Also: I launch my first Indiegogo campaign, for our first production: Let Us Now Praise Susan Sontag, which opens on the 28th at Abrons Arts Center!

2015-05

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June

I attend my first expedition with the Bigfoot Field Research Organization—amazing!—and a wilderness survival course at the Tom Brown, Jr’s Tracker School in New Jersey! Difficult and liberating.

 

2015-06

The doors to the DANCENOISE Wawa Hut at the Whitney!

The doors to the DANCENOISE Wawa Hut at the Whitney!

July

DANCENOISE exhibition and performances at the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District! I am blown away by my artistic elders, recognizing an influence under which I’ve been operating all along without ever encountering it directly. Another momentous moment.

 

2015-07

Writer/performer Oceana James and my dog, Rey, at the 7 Daughters Academic Re-Education Event at Dixon Place

Writer/performer Oceana James and my dog, Rey, at the 7 Daughters Academic Re-Education Event at Dixon Place

August

7 Daughters’ second action—an “Academic Re-Education Event” at Dixon Place, entitled Make No Mistake: These Youth Are Here To Restructure Your Mindfeaturing the work of emerging women’s voices in experimental performance writing and welcoming them to the community.

 

2015-08

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SUPER BLOOD MOON TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE! Photo: Homer Horowitz

September

After four years of work, Fondly, Collette Richland, my collaboration with Elevator Repair Service, opens at New York Theatre Workshop! It divides the NYTW audience! Half hate it, half love it, except during the SUPER BLOOD MOON TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE, when all hail broke loose, and no one could resist: subscribers headbanging in the aisles and clapping along to the “Krampus Devil Dance,” people converting to pagan feminism by the hordes, etc. Meanwhile, I continue to cherish many fond memories of our early previews at the Walker Art Center.

 

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The little door in the attic of the home where Henrik Ibsen grew up!

October

After 20+ years of dreaming about it, I finally flee to Norway! Robert M. Johanson (my former compadre from Nature Theater of OK) and I make a crazy translation/adaptation of the 4th act of An Enemy of the People entitled Public People’s Enemy for the Ibsen Awards and Conference in Ibsen’s hometown of Skien, Norway. I also visit the Rhineland’s Mittelrhein region for research.

2015-10

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Pilgrimage to Southfork

And beyond

Since then I’ve traveled to Dallas where I visited Southfork Ranch (of Dallas fame) and worked on a new cycle of rituals for the Whitney Museum starting in March 2016, worked on a new piece for 7 Daughters called The Securely Conferred, Vouchsafed Keepsakes of Maery S. at New Dramatists (which was also developed in the Twin Cities at the Playwrights Center!), and have continuted writing lots of grant applications.

2015: The Year According to Kristin Van Loon

Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to filmmaker Tala Hadid, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: […]

2015-header
Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda

Kristin Van Loon. Photo: Sean Smuda

To commemorate the year that was, we invited an array of artists, writers, designers, and curators—from artist-musician C. Spencer Yeh to filmmaker Tala Hadid, playwright Sibyl Kempson to the Black Futures project—to share a list of the most noteworthy ideas, events, and objects they encountered in 2015. See the entire series 2015: The Year According to                                 .

“To compile this list, I did the quickest scan of my memory banks and went with my gut,” writes Kristin Van Loon. “As a curator, and for choreographic research, frankly, I take in more culture than is pleasurable. It’s fun to hold pleasure as a standard here. Owning up to this list reveals that pleasure for KVL in 2015 is both extravagant and sinister and, per usual, gravitates towards the craptastic. I am also enjoying a particular flavor of boring.”

A dance artist based in Minneapolis, Van Loon is a choreographer who collaborates with Arwen Wilder as HIJACK. To mark HIJACK’s 20th anniversary, the Walker commissioned redundant, ready, reading, radish, Red Eye in 2013, and Contact Quarterly published Passing for Dance — A HIJACK READER. As a dancer, this season she performs in works by Morgan Thorson and Laurie Van Wieren and was most recently on the Walker stage in Steve Paxton’s Smiling. Van Loon is artistic director of Bryant Lake Bowl Theater, co-hosts Future Interstates, and co-instigates Minneapolis Tuning Club and fARt FesT video nights.

2015-01

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Photo: Jael O’Hare

Bruce Sprungsteen/Brattny Spurrs (a.k.a. Stephanie Stoumbelis)

A frequent contributor to Dykes Do Drag at Bryant Lake Bowl, everything this performer does is exquisite. In one show this fall, Stoumbelis was Queen Selena Gomez in the first act, an uncanny King Bieber in the second act, and then decimated Billy Joel with sloppyass hilarity. My favorites are the quieter pieces: unclassifiable, minimalist gems like a perfectly lined, beglittered lip.

 

2015-02

2015Van Loon teapot

Designed by James Hadley, manufactured by the Royal Worchester Porcelain Company, exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Kristin Van Loon

Teapot made in 1882

When at the Art Institute of Chicago, I usually jog through the decorative arts to get to the  contemporary galleries, but this teapot made in 1882 stopped me in my tracks and stole my heart. I have secretly inserted a reference to it—attempting to embody its fabulousness—in every dance performance I’ve done this year.

2015-03

2015VanLoon Holtzman

Installation view of Hammer Projects: Joseph Holtzman. Photo: Brian Forrest

Joseph Holtzman at the Hammer

So weird. Tylenol-shaped room! Thin scrawly paint on marble! Overstuffed farm-motif sofas! So many shades of green!

 

2015-04

van loon trio

Mike Kelley with Roth New York Bar @ Hauser & Wirth

I feared it redundant to go see more Mike Kelley after having recently seen the devastating, mammoth PS1 show in Queens a few years back. But his “Kandor” works at Hauser & Wirth: ooh-la-la, the deliciousness of the Jolly Rancher–hued glowers and the cheap jewel geode-esque cave. And then to sip free espresso prepared by this cute French guy in a bar with Dieter Roth’s gross rotting chocolate busts looking down on me. I looked down on the city turned upside down by the Pope’s visit. A little weepy from the beauty and cheap thrills.

2015-05

2015Van Loon July

Miranda July’s The First Bad Man

I am not a fan of fiction, especially novels, but life went on hold for two days of nightmarish non-stop reading. A virtuosic snuggling of lived and fantasy threads.

 

2015-06

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Michael Harding’s “The Paints, Past and Present: Details and Descriptions of Colours”

My morning mediation is to hand-write a color a day. I don’t paint. I hope to gain a more juicy and unapologistically technical vocabulary by the end of his section on “Earths and Antinomies.”

 

2015-07

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Paul McCarthy’s Black and White Tapes

I have long been obsessed with the little screening room at Walker. I have many objections to the new touchscreen open-access design of the Mediatheque but can’t complain about the badassery I have found on the playlist. I went back to watch McCarthy again yesterday to make sure I could get behind this one. Absolutely.

2015-08

2015Van Loon Carrera

Jaime Carrera’s neither at Public Functionary

Such a complex feeling: giddiness from excruciating boredom. Oh!, to survive the dampening of all the little blue towels and then have another stack of little blue towels show up. It’s no secret I’m a Carrera fan, and I also feel lucky to have seen his Anti Hero at the Made Here pop-up gallery and Eucharistia (with Michael Cimino) at Bryant Lake Bowl this year.

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Detail of Jack Whitten’s Black Monolith II: Homage to Ralph Ellison The Invisible Man, 1994. Photo: Kristin Van Loon

Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting

To see it all at once after never seeing any of it before was an intense pleasure attack. Each new room made me gasp anew. So delicious both up close and squinty from afar.

2015-10
2015Van Loon Adams2

The films of Trevor Adams

I had only enjoyed Adams’ short scratch films here and there over the years. But 2015 delivered two full-evenings of his absolute gorgeousness: “Trevor Island” at The Island last January and “Trevor Adams: Made from Scratch“as part of Cellular Cinema at Bryant Lake Bowl in October. These films are my favorite party drug.

OOIOO and Sumunar at the McGuire Theater

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, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on OOIOO last […]

OOIOO. Photo: Gene Pittman

OOIOO. Photo: Gene Pittman

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, artist, DJ, musician, and writer Danny Sigelman shares his perspective on OOIOO last night. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

The McGuire Theater hosted two amazing performances last night.

Quite different from visiting artists OOIOO, the Twin Cities-rooted Gamelan ensemble Sumunar kicked the evening off with a very traditional style under the direction of Javanese musician Joko Sutrisno.

Humbly introducing each piece, Sutrisno lead Sumunar through a handful of tunes. With his 7 person group scattered about the stage, festooned by Gamelan instruments including bells, xylophones, delicately hanging gongs, Sutrisno set the tone with a short vocal intro while playing his set of hand drums to establish a rhythm.

While the various mallets systematically danced about the bells they provided a depth of alternating, subtle melodies which became accented by stark rhythms, shifting in tone. Gradually Sutrisno picked up the tempo for a climax that ended in a sudden stop with each joyful work.

Introducing the last few pieces, Sutisno showed his gratitude, “We wish you a happy holidays and are happy to bring you together in harmony here tonight.”

With solid beats driving the final performance, the seemingly random nature of the music captured a hypnotic effect among the audience. Ultimately the musicians continued to find their stride with one another, trading off melodies and returned to a unifying theme to triumphantly finish their set.

Heavily influenced by the same style of Gamelan music, it was ironic to see the stage hands setting up for the headliners. Quickly removing the traditional instruments from the stage, Walker staff meticulously moved in the guitar amps and drums for the Japanese experimental rock group. Linking some guitar pedals together a sonic burble burst out from the bass cabinet, providing a small glimpse of what was to come from OOIOO.

Dressed in white robe-like outfits, the four women took to their instruments and immediate command of the stage. Without the rhythmic Gamelan instruments from their recordings, this was a more sparse and direct form of OOIOO that took more from No-Wave rock in their style and approach.

pa2015ooioo1203_ Performing Arts, Music, Performances. Japanese avant-tribal-noise-pop collective OOIOO (oh-oh-eye-oh-oh) perform in the McGuire Theater, December 3, 2015. Under the intrepid leadership of Yoshimi P-We (cofounder of Japanese band Boredoms and the inspiration behind the Flaming Lips’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), the group has subverted expectations and warped perceptions of what constitutes pop and experimental music since the mid-1990s.  The concert opens with a special set by Minnesota-based Javanese musician Joko Sutrisno and his Sumunar Gamelan Ensemble.

OOIOO performing at the Walker Art Center, December 3, 2015. Photo: Gene Pittman

 

To begin, vocalizing together, the four of them stretched out a harmony that conjured feedback trough the sound system. Coalescing to a fever pitch, drummer Ai introduced a rhythm that would remain constant virtually for the entire performance.

Building up toward accents, the tribal rhythms and a meandering groove from bassist Aya laid a foundation for Yoshimi and second guitarist Kayan to repetitiously play counterpoint melodies with one another. Meeting each other along the way they’d continue to stretch the sound of their strings, often ending with one another playing a twin leads.

Yoshimi’s vocals would blend with the melodies and would weave in and out, often treated with electronic effects. Her vocals sounded conversational at times leaving the audience to feel a story of sorts as the drums stopped and started often shifting into an altogether totally different rhythm.

Continuing to ride an 80’s new wave sound, more effects were applied to the bass guitar’s sound, providing a fat groove that matched the funky rhythms Ai so seemingly effortlessly and masterfully employed. Matching one another once again later with a dub like quality, Kayan and Yoshimi dove into obtuse guitar riffs, treating their own instruments percussively with tapping and more enhanced tones.

More marching drum type beats and echoing vocals took OOIOO and the audience into prog-rock territory with Yoshimi’s child-like vocal bursts above the cacophony and entrancing sound of the band.

Sludgy bass lines and Ai performing patterns of tones on an electronic drum, the guitars rejoined with added dissonance, allowing for more spoken vocals and Yoshimi’s patented scream/singing. Evolving into a disco pattern that morphed into Math-rock it was a delight to not necessarily know where OOIOO was going to take each piece. While improvisation is certainly a part of the band’s formula, ultimately there is a pure structure that shows how well the women perform together, which was illustrated in the efforts when they’d rejoin each other with solid melodies and capturing rhythms.

Sheepishly taking bows toward the audience OOIOO left the stage and the audience, truly wanting more, gave them an elongated standing ovation. Eventually the house lights came up and as everyone was grabbing their coats and getting ready to leave, the four women returned to the stage causing everyone to laugh with joy as they stayed in their seats for a couple more tunes.

This was a really satisfying evening with OOIOO. For a group that has been around for 20 years, it’s remarkable this was the group’s Twin Cities debut. It’s been a sorrowful year for OOIOO since original founding member, Kyoko passed away in July. But as Yoshimi P-We and the band proved, the spirit of experimentation and organized chaos they so masterfully have carried on through the years continues to break new ground.

The Walker + Yoshimi: Degrees of Separation

Tonight, the Walker will play host to gamelan-infused experimental rock outfit OOIOO. The group is lead by the iconic Yoshimi P-We, who has accrued quite the resume since her career began in 1988. In anticipation of this evening’s performance, we’ve traced her career back to see how it intersects with Walker collaborators of seasons prior.

Tonight, the Walker will play host to gamelan-infused experimental rock outfit OOIOO. The group is lead by the iconic Yoshimi P-We, who has accrued quite the resume since her career began in 1988. In anticipation of this evening’s performance, we’ve traced her career back to see how it intersects with Walker collaborators of seasons prior.

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Conceptualizing Dance: Deneane Richburg on Choreographers’ Evening 2015

This past Saturday, I was fortunate to attend the 7pm performance of the Walker Art Center’s 2015 Choreographers’ Evening. Seated in a full house, and only being familiar with a couple of the choreographers/performers presenting work that evening, I was excited to experience the show and its relationship to Justin Jones’ curatorial agenda to examine […]

This past Saturday, I was fortunate to attend the 7pm performance of the Walker Art Center’s 2015 Choreographers’ Evening. Seated in a full house, and only being familiar with a couple of the choreographers/performers presenting work that evening, I was excited to experience the show and its relationship to Justin Jones’ curatorial agenda to examine the breadth of the Twin Cities dance community, to create a space that was accessible, and to seek out “work that spoke plainly and directly.”

Jeffrey Wells. Photo by Alice Gebura.

The evening opened with Jeffrey Wells, Monotone #3. This dance was comprised equally of Wells’ powerful exploration of the voice (featuring his ability to create different tones) and his physical movements. There was a definitive sound and movement narrative arc as we saw Wells’ body move from shape to shape while his voice emitted different tones. The fullness of his voice seemed to mimic how he positioned his body as it moved from a neutral stance to more powerful shapes–there were a couple of warrior one positions, creating very full and robust vocals. His body then moved to a more playful, almost cheeky, stance with his voice following, creating a tone that was bit thinner and higher pitched. The work resolved itself as Wells returned to his neutral position while his tone became softer and seemingly peaceful.

The second work was created and performed by Tom Lloyd and Craig VanTrees, entitled getting caught in a rainstorm of light. The work opened with a large square special, illuminating the majority of the stage. Throughout the piece, Lloyd and VanTrees deliberately move around and through the center of the square. Stripping down to nothing but jockstraps, Lloyd and VanTrees open the work by performing movements that are rigid, symmetrical, and—with the exception of a gesture of a fluttering hand—seemingly robotic. The feel of the work changes as the music shifts from a heavy and somber track to picks such as “The Finer Things” by Steve Winwood and “OK Pal” by M83. The movement accompanies this musical shift becoming lighter and moving close to a feeling of playful exuberance. A moment of stillness with Lloyd and VanTrees, spent, lying on top of one another signaled the beginning of another shift in overall feel. The work then closed by returning to the heavy and robotic movement.

A fun and complex piece, I found myself tempted to view these two male bodies in the same commodified lens that popular ideology often views the bodies of those that exist on the peripheries of mainstream consciousness: individuals of color, women, and those that simply do not share the same stories/histories that occupy standards/norms that dominate mainstream North American culture. Whether or not playing with this temptation was an intention of Lloyd and VanTrees seems secondary to the reality that this work—similar to their own observations on the role dancing plays amidst their relationship—“def[ies] description or labels.”

The next work was macarena.zip by Jes Nelson (jestural). This work examined a still and deconstructed version of the Macarena performed by a large group of movers. Each mover seemed to select a signature position from the dance, held that position for a few moments then exited the stage. This scene was followed by an abstracted version of the song, in which the rhythmic base was changed from a syncopated clave rhythm to a waltz rhythm, played over an empty stage. I was a bit confused by this work and wondered why Nelson chose to use a version of the song in a waltz rhythmic pattern. The Macarena’s clave rhythmic base is an important component of Afro-Cuban rhythmic traditions. This rhythmic pattern is rooted in Sub-Saharan African musical traditions and can be seen in Haitian vodou drumming, Afro-Brazilian music and Afro-Uruguayan music (“Part II: Understanding the Music.”) Stripping the song of the syncopated clave rhythm and thereby uprooting it from its diasporic beginnings by moving it to a European waltz felt a bit jarring for me. This, coupled with an empty stage, left me feeling excluded from the work and pondering why the song was stripped of this rich and essential heritage. In addition, it left me wanting additional clarity regarding the extremely pared down (dare I say minimalist) approach to a piece that was to examine groups “moving together in time.”

In the following piece, Tai Chi Bird, choreographer/performer Katherine Goodale began with the beautiful soundscape, “Piano Songs #2” by Meredith Monk. With Goodale sitting center stage, her back to the audience, the focus shifted to the meditative gestural movement of her arms and hands. This work also became a dance of the costume, as the light danced across the burgundy velvet of Goodale’s shirt which moved as much as the movement of her arms.

Ea Eckwall’s Something About Meow took place in silence with the exception of a single “meow” heard midway through the work. Max Wirsing performed primary movement while holding the self-assured cat, Buster Kitten, for the first third of the work. A box was placed center stage with a small piece of fabric covering it. Twice during the work, Wirsing tried to place the cat in the box and cover it over with the fabric, only to have the cat poke its head out, and, as only a cat can do, confidently attempt to exit upstage right, only to be picked up by Wirsing and returned to the box. In a successful second attempt, Buster Kitten exited diagonally upstage left, leaving Wirsing alone to continue dancing in a manner that seemingly mimics Buster’s smooth, deliberate, and graceful movements.

What seemed compelling about this work was the relationship between Buster and Wirsing as he attempted to both mimic and contain Buster. This relationship brought to light a truth that the audience’s chuckles confirmed—no matter how hard and creatively one tries, cats are their own beings with their own agendas, frequently leaving humans in service to them. Such a fun work to watch!

Fire Drill. Photo by Alice Gebura.

Fire Drill’s Novelty Shots: A Political Fantasy (Excerpt) is comprised of a group of artists competing for the audience’s attention by running, screaming, exposing themselves, flirting, cajoling, leaping, and engaging in any and every attention-getting behavior imaginable. These antics seemed to be a commentary on an increasing desire and need for constant stimulation. Making a very powerful statement, the fervor with which the artists on stage worked to get attention brought home the insanity of North America’s insatiable quest to always be either engaged in this stimulation or to be in the spotlight; both quests affecting how we process information, our critical analysis capabilities, as well as our ability to hold healthy self-perceptions not based on external validation.

Following Fire Drill, This Is Where I Stand by Cary Bittinger and Angelique Lele was a powerful duet that left me focusing on the expansive movement potential of both artists, in lieu of the limitations many may perceive accompany being in a wheelchair. The true joy of moving was very apparent in how the choreography was performed by both Bittinger and Lele. Their movement relationship seemed to be magnetic—many moments of being drawn into one another as well as moments of being repelled. The most provocative part of the work came midway, during a musical transition, accompanied by a moment of stillness and silence. Both Lele and Bittinger stopped and looked directly at the audience, fully present. This pause incited a sense of tension and anticipation.

Pedro Pablo Lander’s Marcón (Faggot) (Excerpt) took the audience on a journey of struggle, self-hate, and at times, despair. The struggle to reconcile faith and sexuality were powerfully displayed through Lander’s ability to wed emotional, mental, and spiritual trauma with physical performance in a sincere and focused manner. Reminiscent of spiritual traditions where practitioners become possessed, his narrative of lack of acceptance, affirmation, and condemnation was wholly embodied in a sincere, non-manufactured, performative, and inspiring manner.

Next in the lineup, Dolo McComb’s Tyrannysaurus Wench (part 1/3), was a trio rooted in a space of magical realism. It seemed to simultaneously take place in the past and the present. The phrasing, which consisted of deliberate pauses coupled with frenzied movement, created an air of anticipation and surrealism. The work featured exaggerated facial expressions and frenetic hair moments. The three artists were all costumed in velvet and moved to an eclectic mix of music ranging from jazz (Duke Ellington) to the sound bending musical styling of Frankie Lane (“3:10 to Yuma”). This work effectively created a feeling of other-worldliness.

vieboheme

Vie Boheme. Photo by Alice Gebura.

Vie Boheme’s A Study of Performance Boundaries (and much more) began with a long narrow diagonal light emanating from upstage right and cascading downstage left. Singing “Good Morning Heartache” a capella, Boheme slowly began moving within this narrow corridor of light. Upon reaching center stage, the corridor of light morphed into a circular special. Bathed in this center stage special, Boheme reached the refrain “here we go again.” She sang this line repeatedly as she appeared stuck at this point of the stage and song, as the circular special grew smaller and began closing in on her.

This moment in light, sound, and movement was a timely reference to the repetition of recent race-based violence, religious-based threats and attacks worldwide, and a general sense of unrest accompanied by a lack of progress that currently characterizes many cultures and spaces the world over. This work left me wondering: when will we as a civilization begin to learn from our history so as not to repeat the errors of our past? The work resolves by the long narrow corridor of light returning and Boheme regressing into it. She again returns center stage on the line “good morning heartache, sit down,” at which point, resigned, she slowly sits down on stage, contained in the bounds of the center stage special.

dancebums

DaNCEBUMS. Photo by Bill Cameron.

Closing the evening was DaNCEBUMSOne-Move-Dance. This work had a cast of 29 movers of all walks of life, age range, movement ability, and perspective. The movement and formations of the 29 artists completely filled the stage. Set to “Time Will Tell” by Blood Orange, this work had a lively and celebratory feel, it seemed to epitomize Justin Jones’ sentiments that “the infinite complexities of physical expression belong not just to the specially trained and professionally experienced… Every Body is welcome. [Whether it is] your first dance, or your 100th.”

The evening’s performances pushed the boundaries of popular conception, questioning who is a dancer and what exactly is dance—encouraging audiences to explore dance beyond bodies/entities moving in a space. I left reflecting: who and/or what else can dance?

Thomas J. Lax on Ralph Lemon: An Afterword

During New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance, a curatorial convening held at the Walker Art Center September 28–29, 2015, MoMA associate curator Thomas J. Lax presented an afterword to Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room: (Memory) Refraction #1, a reflection on the performance installation Scaffold Room performed one year prior. Here Lax shares a modified version his presentation. […]

During New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance, a curatorial convening held at the Walker Art Center September 28–29, 2015, MoMA associate curator Thomas J. Lax presented an afterword to Ralph Lemon’s Scaffold Room: (Memory) Refraction #1, a reflection on the performance installation Scaffold Room performed one year prior. Here Lax shares a modified version his presentation.

I’m Thomas J. Lax and I’m a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. Before that, I worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which is where I worked with Ralph Lemon on an exhibition called 1856 Cessna Road.

Here, writing this text, I’m playing a surrogate for Ralph. I’m here to let Ralph off the hook, to give him a new hook.

I agreed to do this. What did I agree to do? What is in an agreement?

An agreement is kind of like a memory—unreliable, existing only in the present, always subject to change. Ralph talks a lot about memory:

At the Walker, he performed a text from Scaffold Room, a musical-lecture-performance that happened just about a year ago. Those of you who were present then might remember Okwui Okpokwasili or April Mathis reciting some of the same lines Ralph read here tonight. His program one year later was billed as a “memory refraction” of Scaffold Room, and was organized as part of a conversation in which we’re asking: Can a performance be collected? Can an institution gather memories as a way of caring for performances once they have happened?

Those are interesting questions, but they’re illusions too. I think another interesting question—or at least Ralph’s question here tonight—is about the slipperiness of memory. What is invoked by a memory? What is the original experience one recalls? What is its origin before that?

I’m here to tell you about some other origins and some other memories, to add to Ralph’s origin story. One year after Scaffold Room premiered, he told you how it came about. Let’s go back to the attic again.

Here’s an image you saw tonight; you might recall it. It’s an installation shot from the exhibition (the efflorescence of) Walter that started here at the Walker and was re-installed at the Kitchen, in New York.

Ralph Lemon's the efflorescence of) Walter at the Kitchen. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon’s (the efflorescence of) Walter at the Kitchen, 2007. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

Here’s an image of the installation you didn’t see:

The Kitchen_the efflorescence of Walter_2

Ralph Lemon’s (the efflorescence of) Walter at the Kitchen, 2007. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

You’re inside the attic now, looking up at a hole in it. Inside the hole, which you can get to via a ladder, is a video that features Walter Carter, Ralph’s longtime collaborator who rolls around on the floor in a spacesuit. Here’s another image of the installation you didn’t see—another Easter Egg, to use Ralph’s word. It’s a video, edited by Mike Taylor, shown on a CRT monitor in the corner of the gallery. In the video, Ralph is dressed in a bunny suit and, as rabbits do, is running across a field. He limps. Will he make it to the other side? Do we trust him enough to follow?

Ralph Lemon's (the efflorescence of) Walter at the Kitchen, 2007. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon’s (the efflorescence of) Walter at the Kitchen, 2007. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

Here’s an image you did see. But there’s a part of the story Ralph didn’t have time or maybe didn’t want to tell you.

Ralph Lemon, Come home Charley Patton, 2005. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

Ralph Lemon, Come home Charley Patton, 2005. Courtesy Ralph Lemon

This is a performance shot from a work called Come home Charley Patton; it’s the culmination of a nine-year trilogy called Geography: an end but a beginning, too. In the culmination Djédjé Djédjé Gervais and Darrell Jones fall off of ladders and dodge wooden palettes. They are in an attic—complete with crawl spaces and lights. It is a stage within a stage, then videotaped and looped back live to the audience on a large monitor. Simultaneously, in front of the monitor, Okwui describes her memory of her first sexual encounter, which as it happens, also occurred in an attic.

We are in the world of erotics, and once we are here, we’ve found ourselves in another kind of origin narrative. Psychoanalysis calls this its “primal scene,” an originally moment of trauma that will play itself out in sexual neurosis after deferred neurosis. For Freud, the primal scene was a child seeing his parents fucking. Is the attic another kind of primal scene that would continue to haunt Ralph until he made the structure we saw here?

Modernism—what Ralph called something with no oppositional identity—has staged many beginnings through the language of erotics.

he Origin of the World 1866 Oil on canvas H. 46; W. 55 cm © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Gustav Courbet, The Origin of the World, 1866. © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Courbet painted thisOrigin of the World—in 1866, a painting that would come to be owned by Jacques Lacan and then eventually be given to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. In the painting, Courbet depicts at least three kinds of origins—of course the origin of human animal life and an origin of his desire. But he also mimes the cues of porn and refuses them at the same time, like Ralph. He heralds a new sense of time: the beginning of Modernism. Modernity is announced both by what is seen as well as what is not seen. In refusing to picture the subject’s face—an off-scene, an obscene—the painter renders visible things we thought we’d already looked at.

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Here’s a more recent version of an origin picture, a photograph made by the German artist Wolfgang Tillmans, which in a recent issue of the New York Times was compared to the Courbet. In its erotic implications, it’s another kind of passageway and a beginning of another expansion of temporality, perhaps best evidenced by this Instagram frame for the work at David Zwirner gallery in New York.

Here’s a third erotic beginning, perhaps closest to us tonight. It’s a quote from the science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany’s 1988 memoir, The Motion of Light in Water. Ralph quoted Delany at several reprises during tonight’s lecture-performance. Consider the following description of the piers along the West Side Highway.

At times to step between the waist-high tires…was to invade a space at a libidinal saturation impossible to describe to someone who has not known it…[such an encounter] with thirty-five, fifty, a hundred all-but-strangers is hugely ordered, highly social, attentive, silent and grounded in a certain care, if not community. At those times…cock passed from mouth to mouth to hand to ass to mouth without ever breaking contact with other flesh for more than seconds; mouth, hand, ass passed over whatever you held out to them sans interstice; when one cock left, finding a replacement—mouth, rectum, another cock—required moving only the head, the hip, the hand no more than an inch, three inches. (1988, 226)

Does the sound of black dick in mouth, ass, hand do something different for you than the images we previously saw? What happens in the hold between people—what Delany here calls a hugely ordered, highly social community—that is different than the images of individual body parts we saw before? Does it open up an old-new beginning?

The hole in Ralph and Okwui and Walter Carter’s attic is certainly at the start of tonight’s story. But where does it lead?

In her essay, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” the psychoanalytic theorist Hortense J. Spillers describes the origin of black genders in the New World. Describing slavery in the United States as “one of the richest displays of the psychoanalytic dimensions of culture before the science of European psychoanalysis takes hold,” she argues that captivity precludes sexual differentiation. Slaves were “ungendered” as external acts of torture and prostration were inflicted upon women just as they were upon men, and neither mothers nor fathers were given the right to establish formal kinship relations with their children.

How does this primal scene precede what might be called “drag” and even a “trans” political? Fred Moten, a student of Spillers and of also of his mother B. Jenkins, writes about the space between the sound of a wail and a photograph, between people and things. He calls this “interanimation” which sounds like Hal Foster’s “zombie time,” a generalized critique of dance in museums in his in his recent writing, “In Praise of Dead Art.” But Fred’s interanimation reaches back further, is more capable of coming back. How do categories of “male” and “female” internanimate one other in a symbolic order that begins on the slave plantation? What does it mean for those living in the aftermath of slavery, for us? In other words, how does Spillers’ mama’s baby, papa’s maybe shape the stakes of genealogies—creative, and otherwise—across the gender and color line that black artists might claim?

Consider the following examples:

WILLIAM VILLALONGO The Thirsty Laborer, 2012 Acrylic, velvet flocking and paper/wood panel 96 x 137 5/16 x 2 in. (WV0051) Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

William Villalongo, The Thirsty Laborer, 2012. Courtesy Susan Inglett Gallery, NYC

In William Villalongo’s The Thirsty Worker from 2012, the artist psychologically projects the image of himself dealing with the burden of the history of abstraction onto a black female painter who at once invents another proxy-surrogate of herself as she takes a saw to a fake rendering of a Brice Marden abstraction.

Rodney McMillian "Untitled (for B. Traylor)", 2008 Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects” and the photo credit should go to Robert Wedemeyer.

Rodney McMillian, Untitled (for B. Traylor), 2008. Courtesy  the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

Rodney McMillian’s Untitled (for B. Traylor) from 2008 is a painting rendered on a bedsheet, eighty-four by forty-eight inches wide. In a way, it makes an homage to the Alabama draftsman Bill Traylor, for whom it is named, by rendering one of his subjects falling into the inner thighs and genitals of a black female figure. Traylor, an iconic, self-taught artist born into slavery, started making work on the streets of Montgomery at age 82, leaving his family behind and making works on cardboard near a blacksmith’s shop. He wasn’t known to make overtly sexual images but McMillian took some creative leaps, painting the image of Traylor’s black figures over and over, abstracting his subjects and referencing them through their feeling rather than their look. Ultimately, Rodney made a painting that I read as a picture of himself falling into the open legs of Traylor, his mentor.

In Lorna Simpson’s She (1992), the artist crops her figures’ distinguishing features out of the composition, linking the medical and legal classification “female” to four incommensurable poses each coding their own distinct gender comportments.

In her three-channel video Chess from 2013, she pairs images of herself dressed as a mid-century man with images of herself dressed as a mid-century woman in the same studio in which Marcel Duchamp made his five-way mirror self-portrait of himself playing chess in 1917. On a third screen, the jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran plays an original composition in the same studio. Simpson not only inserts herself and her collaborator into the genealogy of Duchamp’s game through her various costumes, but multiplies the image of the artist from a solo to a duet—to collective action.

In Adrian Piper’s The Mythic Being, we see the artist’s self-transformation into what she described as her “seeming opposite: a third-world, working-class, overtly hostile male.” Yet rather than acquiescing to the codes of this masculinity, she repeats the following mantra, associated perhaps as cliche with being a young woman: “No matter how much I ask my mother to stop buying me crackers, cookies, and things, she does so anyway and says it’s for her, even if I always eat it. So I’ve decided to fast.”

I particularly like Mythic Being because Piper is mad. It’s her anger that allows her action to be readable. Black rage is its own kind of creative force.

These are all stories of artistic surrogacy, what Paul B. Preciado might call gender hijacking. I guess there’s a reason that we often talk about artists as fathers or mothers or brothers or sisters or even spores of one another when they imitate or are affected by one another. Authorship, like sex and kinship, involves taking on somebody else’s voice to have your own. It is about getting inside of someone else, which is always sexual, even if no one has sex, as it involves the temporary violation of bodily integrity. But being inside someone else certainly does not mean they are yours; in fact, it might likely mean you are theirs, even if only for twenty minutes.

Scaffold Room rehearsal, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman

Scaffold Room rehearsal, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman

But let’s return to our Scaffold Room. What’s in an attic? Located at the most remote part of a home, an attic is a space whose identity lies at the limits of belonging, identification, place. The home, of course, has been a longtime cipher of debates around the possibilities of feminist spaces, and a site of contest between white and Third World feminists. Alternately a refuge, a site of bondage, a place of work, a location for reproduction, a zone of exclusion, and an irrelevant sphere of everyday life. For Okwui, who we see bouncing on her bed here, in pain perhaps, on top of her room, the home is a space that is at once intimate, yet public, protective and transparent.

Within the history of the black Atlantic world, the attic has been a site of both captivity and flight.

Currier & Ives John Brown-the martyr, c.1870 Lithograph Credit Line: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-USZ62-1284]

Currier & Ives, John Brown-the martyr, c.1870. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-1284]

In the 1861 antebellum slave narrative Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, as Written by Herself, Harriet A. Jacobs narrates the seven years she spent hidden in a small attic in Edenton, North Carolina before she escaped to freedom. In her narrative, Jacobs describes how she bored three holes through the wall with a gimlet to both survey her master—the father of her child—while also watching over her children, all of whom believed her to be already in New York. At once captive and hidden, she could look freely despite the tightness of the physical space that allowed what she called her loophole of retreat. She writes:

I bored three rows of holes, one above another; then I bored out the interstices between. I thus succeeded in making one hole about an inch long and an inch broad. I sat by it till late into the night, to enjoy the little whiff of air that floated in. In the morning I watched for my children. The first person I saw in the street was Dr. Flint. I had a shuddering, superstitious feeling that it was a bad omen. Several familiar faces passed by. At last I heard the merry laugh of children, and presently two sweet little faces were looking up at me, as though they knew I was there, and were conscious of the joy they imparted. How I longed to tell them I was there!

Jacobs published the story under the pseudonym Linda Brent and, as was customary in the mid-nineteenth century, geared the genre of her story to the sentimental sensibilities of her readership of mostly white, Northern women. The image you see here bears the same bind of deploying a preexisting genre of feeling to express one’s true experience.

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Scaffold Room work-in-progress, EMPAC residency, June 2014. Photo: Ryan Jenkins

As Ralph was finishing the process of making Scaffold Room, made possible only through the inimitable support of his two-decade-long supporter, enabler, contextualizer, and friend, Philip Bither, Ralph received the following e-mail from his collaborator, Randy deCelle, who, with R. Eric Stone, had helped him build this structure.

As I was plundering about the web grabbing publicized things (reviews/press releases/etc.) regarding the piece, I came across something interesting.

Now Ralph, I know you play your cards close to the chest for many of your ideas, but if this is one of your inspirations, you hid it well. As I never experienced the full piece, there may be something that hints to it that I never saw.

While googling about, I came across this image:

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It is the interior of the “scaffold room” at Newgate Prison.

I never made the association that “scaffold” is another term for “gallows”.

In looking at this image, it has a distinct semblance to our unit, especially the verticals with the pulleys/ropes.

And the leap is quickly made to similarities between the gallows’ form and our unit, except we have no center point.

So, if this was not part of the inspiration, it’s an interesting coincidence, at least visually. Any-who, hopefully this doesn’t start your day off a bit off kilter, just something I thought I’d share. Hope all is well, all the best.

Randy

Can the scaffold, like the attic, or the gallows be at once a space of death and a location for regeneration, for continuing a genealogy, for making a family?

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Deana Lawson, Mohawk Correctional Facility: Jasmine & Family, 2013. Courtesy the Deana Lawsom and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago

Take a look at this photo series titled Mohawk Correctional Facility: Jasmine & Family from 2013, made by the artist Deana Lawson. You see approximately thirty Polaroid images, which Lawson borrowed and scanned from her cousin, Jasmine. Shot over the several years that Jasmine’s partner and the father of her child was incarcerated at the Mohawk correctional facility in upstate New York, the images show what is a terrible contradiction: against the penitentiary’s black and gold painted background and potted plant, and the surveilling eye of a Polaroid camera, you see the construction of a family unit—mother, father and daughter—over time.

Remember the image of Okwui we were never supposed to see? Or of April singing Beyonce’s “Drunk in Love” captured inside her bespoke metal home:

Feeling like an animal with these cameras all in my grill
Flashing lights, flashing lights
You got me faded, faded, faded
Baby, I want you, na na
Can’t keep your eyes off my fatty
Daddy, I want you, na na

Ralph Lemon at a rehearsal for Scaffold Room, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center

Ralph Lemon at a rehearsal for Scaffold Room, 2014. Photo: Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center

Camera, truss. Ralph and Okwui. Surrogate after surrogate, we look, unable to avoid surveillance but nevertheless making a place for ourselves.

Meet the Artists of Choreographers’ Evening 2015

On Saturday, November 28th the 43rd Annual Choreographers’ Evening will take place at the Walker Art Center. Choreographers’ Evening celebrates the vibrant, experimental, and intelligent performance creators that inhabit the Twin Cities. This years’ curator is Justin Jones—who sought to develop an evening that represented the diversity of the Twin Cities dance community while highlighting his own convictions […]

On Saturday, November 28th the 43rd Annual Choreographers’ Evening will take place at the Walker Art Center. Choreographers’ Evening celebrates the vibrant, experimental, and intelligent performance creators that inhabit the Twin Cities. This years’ curator is Justin Jones—who sought to develop an evening that represented the diversity of the Twin Cities dance community while highlighting his own convictions about the accessibility of dance.

“For the original announcement I wrote, ‘I believe that the infinite complexities of physical expression belong not just to the specially trained and professionally experienced. In my work with young people, I have seen incredible dances made and performed by 7 year olds… everyone is welcome, Every Body is welcome. If it’s your first dance, or your 100th, please come and share it, I can’t wait to see it.’ I didn’t know when I wrote that if I’d be able to fulfill my pet desire to see this range of work/experience represented on stage. I’m thrilled that the night features choreographers ages 10 to mid-eighties, there’s even a preschooler dancing in one of the works.

Approaching the actual curation, I was looking for work that spoke plainly and directly. In my own work and recent dancing with BodyCartography Project, I’ve been investigating simplicity – what is dance’s clearest communication, or how can you make direct impact so that feeling is the audiences first response. That was certainly on my mind when considering the work, and all the works I selected gave me feelings…”

Over 80 choreographic works auditioned, and Jones had the difficult task of selecting just 11 to be presented this year. These artists represent a dynamic group of new and experienced dance makers. I sent them some questions about their work and lives – below are their responses.

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DaNCEBUMS

Kara Motta, Maggie Zepp, Eben Kowler, Karen McMenamy, & Margaret Johnson

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DaNCEBUMS is a group of five collaborators creating and performing dance works. Their partnership is based on mutual love and respect for each other, systems of support, and togetherness. Their performances reflect their deep technical training in concert dance, interest in experimental performance practice, and popular forms such as music videos and musical theater.

How did you five come to collaborate?

We danced in each other’s pieces for dance composition classes at The University of Minnesota. Karen bought a large three story house with a one car garage where we made several performances in collaboration with musicians. We then rented a studio where we played, improvised, breathed, talked, and eventually started to make our first batch of dances together. The opportunities kept presenting themselves and we kept making dances.

If you could make a dance for one person, who would it be and what would the dance look like?

Our moms. Our moms put us through dance classes and loved to “ooo” and “aahh” over our pointed feet. They didn’t realize their support would give us the confidence to keep dancing FOREVER. It would most likely include grande allegro, triple pirouettes, half up half down pony tails, flowy lyrical costumes, and smiles that make your heart melt.

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Kendra ‘Vie Boheme’ Dennard

PhotoCredit Farrington Llewellyn 1 (2)

Photo Credit: Farrington Llewellyn

Vie Boheme is a Detroit native and Pittsburgh blossomed renaissance artist. In addition to being a choreographer, she is a former dance artist with TU Dance in St. Paul, Minnesota, was a founding member of The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble, and is a soul, funk, jazz vocalist.

Congratulations on your album release for “Exit.” What parallels do you find between making music and making dances, if any?

Thank you for the “congrats” on my single ‘Exit’! The work I’m creating now is focused on smashing those two experiences together instantaneously without diminishing either one. I’ve been dancing since I was 6 and singing since I can remember. They have both always been with me, side by side. Now, I cannot sing without dancing anymore and I cannot dance without singing anymore so my work is geared toward the marriage of the two for a unique and potent performance experience.

You’ve also been curating a monthly series called “Hit The Step!” – can you tell us more about that?

‘Hit The Step!’ is a quarterly happening that facilitates space, time, and fertile ground for cross genre artistic exploration of the professional dance community of the Twin Cities. It functions as an experimental space for dance artists to test out new ideas without the pressure of being perfect. We all know that the dancers in the Twin Cities work hard to put on superb quality dance performances but this event is a space for us to get comfortable making mistakes while finding our voices. For me, it is where I comfortably experiment with singing and dancing at the same time.

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Ea Eckwall

Ea, in collaboration with her house full of artists, has made two shows in her garage. She has been performing in the Barebones Halloween show for 9 1/2 years and dances with the Young Dance Company. This dance came out of a joke that dancer Max Wirsing would commission Ea to make his McKnight solo.

Both of your parents are artists—do you ever ask them for feedback? Is your work inspired by their work?

Sometimes I ask my mother, Arwen Wilder, for feedback but I don’t usually take her suggestions. By watching [Wilder’s and Heidi Eckwall’s] work, I have seen new ways of dancing but I don’t feel like their work necessarily is what I base my work on. My work comes straight from my imagination.

What about making dances is exciting for you? Do you think you’ll make more?

I like when I get to watch the dancer work on it and try it and I like when the dancer finally does it how I imagined it. If I say something like “dance like a volcano,” I like seeing what the dancer thinks that would be. I will probably make more dances.

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Fire Drill

Fire Drill THaJ Web 2

Photo Credit: Liz Josheff

Minneapolis-based Fire Drill  is comprised of artists Emily Gastineau and Billy Mullaney. Together, they create performance works that challenge contemporary modes of spectatorship, exploring how internet culture and the attention economy affect the way we watch live performance.

Your trainings are in theater and dance – how do those trainings compliment or inhibit one another as you are creating?

When we started working together, we immediately decided that our research need not result in the making of “theater” or “dance.” At the same time, we find that examining the conventions of both disciplines is hugely generative. Both forms come with ingrained practices and deeply rooted assumptions, and we try to be really specific when we’re working with or against those.

What are the prevailing questions that come up for you when you’re making performances?

The biggest question that has spanned many of our projects is: how do audiences watch live performance? What cultural histories, spatial formats, and power dynamics condition our expectations for viewing performance? How has the internet shifted the way we pay attention, and our experience of digesting information over time? What other qualities of attention or modes of engagement exist beyond an entertainment paradigm? What is capitalism doing to the body, and via what tactics can we intervene?

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Kathie Goodale

Kathie Goodale and her late husband, Robert Goodale, have been instrumental figures in the Twin Cities dance community for years as philanthropists and advocates of the form. In addition, Kathie has an extensive career as a ballet instructor and was a founder of Ballet Arts Minnesota.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with dance?

I have an AA in Dance and a BA in French and Spanish.  I have studied at Jacob’s Pillow and Connecticut College in summers and did summer stock as a student.  I have taught at MDT and Ballet Arts (which I founded with Bonnie Mathis, Marcia Chapman, and Julia Sutter in 1989) for 40 years.  I have taught two improvisation sessions in Ibaragi, Japan with Mako Okatake, and have taught and performed with Link Vostok in Yaroslavl, Russia for 6 summers.

Can you share with us what the inspiration is for the piece you will be presenting at Choreographers Evening?

My piece is based on Tai Chi.  I do plan to do more based on Tai Chi, hopefully with dance students. Being a part of Choreographers’ Evening is a special community involvement.

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Jes Nelson

jesnelson1

Photo Credit: Asha Efia

Jes Nelson studied at the New York Studio Program in Brooklyn, NY and received her BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2010. She has exhibited work throughout Minneapolis.

What is your background in choreography and performance?

I trained and performed as a competitive studio dancer from 4-18 years old (a watered down version of the Lifetime show Dance Moms is probably the best way to describe it). I was good at turning and won a lot of trophies. Regarding choreography: I’m an only child so I naturally took to bossing my friends and family around at a young age, instructing them to sing/act/dance in some way. In middle school I began choreographing lyrical and jazz dances for competitions.

After high school, I went to art school. My experiences and exploration in school made me realize that dance was a pretty weird medium that people tended to either avoid or put on a pedestal. Both scenarios bummed me out and gave me reason to stop interpreting music via dance and instead start interpreting dance on its’ own terms.

This past year I established jestural to continue this research and document the ways in which we move together in time. It’s my version of owning my own “dance studio” and aims to identify and re-contextualize existing choreography.

You also presented work in Choreographers’ Evening 2013 – is your piece this year related to that one, in content or in inspiration?

Definitely. Both pieces were conceived around the same time and rearrange choreography that already exists. Sugar Babies played with duration, this years’ piece does as well. Sugar Babies asks young dancers to perform, this years’ piece asks their parents to. In both instances there’s a curiosity to see how their movement changes in content and in value within a high theory environment like the Walker Art Center.

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Pedro Pablo Lander

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Pedro Pablo Lander was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Feeling constricted in a conservative environment, Pedro moved to Minnesota to attend Winona State University where he got involved with dance. He has worked with Time Track Productions, is currently apprenticing with Eclectic Edge Ensemble, and is an advisor for a non-profit organization that focuses on college success for marginalized students.

What was your first interaction with dance?

Growing up, the only physical activity options for men at my all-male, private, catholic school were sports teams. Due to my fear of being outed in my social circles and family, I did not bring up my desire to dance or do anything related to the arts. Sadly, this meant that I did not get exposed to any kind of performance art in my own country. My first encounter with dance happened at college—after viewing the dancers, I felt an amazing urge to do what they were doing. I have since performed and presented my work at various American College Dance Association festivals and attended the American Dance Festival which was one of the most transformative experiences in my life.

What is the inspiration for your piece in Choreographers’ Evening this year?

For me, performance is a vessel to demonstrate our true humanity and our raw nature. In society there is a stigma to showing anger or sadness, and viewing distress as weakness; I believe that these emotions connect us to other people as much as happier emotions do. Dance truly saved my life; it took me from those horrible experiences and brought me into a creative space. Sharing my story and learning about others’ stories is what keeps me moving.

In March I created an evening-length show, Maricón (Faggot) in collaboration with dancers, music producer, graphic designer, etc. The work that I will be showing at Choreographers’ Evening is the ‘religious’ section of this particular work and is a reaction to my religious experiences through the lens of sexuality.

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Angelique Lele & Cary Bittinger

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Angelique Lele has been doing theater for most of her life, from school plays to co-founding Toxic Shock Stage—a women’s only theater company based in Los Angeles. Angelique trained in aerial arts on trapeze and silks and performed with Blue Phoenix Circus Troupe and the Kenny Kiser Show. In 2012 she was paralyzed while training on her trapeze. Introduced to the beautiful world of integrative dance with the help of Young Dance, Angelique is excited to be performing again and open to the challenge of exploring a new physicality on stage.

Cary received her master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy & Counseling from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 and has had the opportunity to share her love of dance and the power of movement with individuals from around the world. Currently, she works as a Dance Therapist at HeadStart in St. Paul and for Young Dance in Minneapolis.

When did the two of you start working together? What are your backgrounds with movement and how do your interests overlap?

AL: Cary and I met while working on the show “Wild Swans” with Young Dance and hit it off.  I became a fan and knew that working with her would really help me grow as a dancer. I have so enjoyed collaborating with Cary and I hope to create with her more in the future.

CB:  This summer, Gretchen Pick of Young Dance, asked us to perform for the 25th Anniversary of the signing of the ADA (American Disability Act) in front of City Hall. The piece we performed there served as the basis for our piece for the show at the Walker. Our belief that movement has no boundaries and our shared interest in dance and performing make our duo dynamic, exploratory, and innovative.

Congratulations Angelique on becoming Ms. Wheelchair MN 2015, can you describe your work as an advocate for people using wheelchairs?

AL: As Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota I have been trying to create more awareness and visibility for the disabled community.  I cofounded a group called Chicks on Wheels which is an informal social group for women.  We are a community that tends to be alienated so having a place to go and a group to talk to that really understands is important.  We also believe it’s vital for us to be out in public, taking up space and not hidden.

Cary, in what ways does your experience with Dance/Movement Therapy transfer over into creating performances?

CB: While I was pursuing my master’s degree in Dance/Movement Therapy, I began to approach my choreography with a different intent. Our bodies hold the stories to our past; the body never forgets. There is a psychological component that links to a deeper connection of who we are in relation to ourselves and others. The dance gets to tell these stories through the moments: slowly with a lot of weight, fast with bound muscles, etc. I believe that healing can be facilitated by modulating movement styles from one extreme to another.

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Tom Lloyd & Craig VanTrees

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Tom Lloyd & Craig VanTrees have created four original pieces together: mr. hijack’s devotion chopped and screwed in jockstraps, mr. hijack’s devotion, it asks for forgiveness please, and getting caught in a rainstorm of light.

How did both of you get involved with dance and what about dance gives you a common ground from which to create and choreograph?

In regards to getting involved in dance, the most honest answer for both of our entries into the dance world is through what Tom calls the “Dance Party” and what Craig calls the “Clurrrb.” Really they’re the same thing and where we both truly started dancing. For the two of us, dancing is an excuse for us to hang out when otherwise we might not do so at all. On the other hand, it’s a means for us to have conversations that we simply can’t have in words about a relationship that similarly continues to defy description or labels. Therefore, as Craig says, “it MUST exist on the dance plane.” Feel free to let your imagination go with that one.

Do you have plans to continue collaborating with each other?

Only God knows the answer to that. We promise we’ll listen. #danceplane #godflow #seeyouonthedanceplane #danceplanerealness #isanyonereadingthis?

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Dolo McComb

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Dolo McComb is an artist and healer originally from Colorado Springs, CO. She relocated to Minneapolis after earning a degree in dance from the Colorado College and has since worked and toured nationally with BodyCartography Project and Chris Schlicting. Currently, along with Kimberly Lesik and Scott Stafford, Dolo is creating as a collective called //cathedral\\.

In this work, you collaborate with Kimberly Lesik and Scott Stafford, both of whom were in your Works-In-Progress piece at the Red Eye last summer. Is the work you are showing in Choreographers Evening a continuation of the research you did last summer, or does it stem from a new idea?

The piece I have created for Choreographers’ Evening is not a formal continuation of or sequel to my WIP piece. But naturally, discoveries and disruptions were made during the WIP process that propelled me to where I am now. There are certainly some long-term thematic gardens of research that have carried over from that work and will undoubtedly be hanging on for a while.

What do you think is the weirdest thing about dance?

The weirdest thing about dance is that people don’t do it more often. We all have these bodies whose natural states are of motion. Dancing is a tool to lead us to power and healing and magic. And I don’t understand why a body wouldn’t want these things.

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Jeffrey Wells

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Jeffrey Wells is a performer and performance maker from Minneapolis. He works primarily with the performance ensemble SuperGroup but has also performed with Fire Drill, Karen Sherman, Chris Schlichting, Chantal Pavageaux and others around town.

I hear you have a background in musical theater, but switched your major to dance while in college. Why did you decide to switch to dance? Does your musical theater background influence your choreographic process?

Actually I started in musical theater and transferred to experimental theater, but honestly these days I’m not that interested in these terms and distinctions. Both my musical and experimental theater training had a lot of emphasis on dance and the body, though at different ends of the spectrum. Musical theater was really concerned with ballet, tap, and jazz. With specific technique, learning to execute specific “moves” or “steps,” and with really “selling it.” My experimental training was much more concerned with discovering movement and systems specific to my body, improvisation, etc. It was there where I really was introduced to BMC and the fluid systems, developmental movement, contact improvisation, Mary Overlie’s Viewpoints, etc. Certainly all these modalities and experiences help shape my process today. I would say my musical theater training primed me to be interested in singing and dancing simultaneously, which certainly is happening in my Choreographers’ Evening solo, as well as my work with SuperGroup, albeit very different from Rodgers and Hammerstein.

In this work for Choreographers Evening, you experiment with your voice. What was your inspiration for pursuing that exploration?

I’m really dealing with monotone. I was feeling overwhelmed with the variables available in using my voice. I would sit and sing and I kept having this impulse to sing one long sustained note. So I did. I suppose in some ways I’m interested in stripping away melodic and lyric variation (which are very tempting in music) in order to uncover other qualitative variations. I also had a colleague once who referred to the vocal apparatus as a mini body within the larger body—in terms of complexity of parts, range of articulation, and I like thinking about that. I mean I don’t like thinking about that in the way that it creates this false separation of the vocal apparatus as being other than the rest of the body, but I do like thinking about it in terms of how the vocal apparatus is responsible for and able to make (with the support of the rest of the body) this incredibly diverse range of sound (perhaps like the range of movement the body is capable of). I also like thinking about and feeling the intense micro movements that happen internally as vocal sound is made. It’s like a small hidden dance.

 

Choreographers’ Evening 2015 will be presented on Saturday, November 28, 2015 at 7 pm & 9:30 pm.

All The Things: Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson

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, Minneapolis-based experimental playwright and performance-maker Rachel Jendrzejewski shares her perspective on […]

Photo: Max Gordon

Photo: Max Gordon

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, Minneapolis-based experimental playwright and performance-maker Rachel Jendrzejewski shares her perspective on The Object Lesson by Geoff Sobelle. Agree or disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

I arrived at the Walker just minutes before Wednesday night’s performance of The Object Lesson was meant to begin. Normally, running this close to late for a show in the McGuire Theater would mean quietly slipping into a seat toward the back as the lights go down. Rolling into the theater that evening, however, I quickly realized I was in for a different experience.

The theater was empty when I arrived. No people at all. The stage curtain was closed. Large cardboard boxes were scattered everywhere, piled up in the seats. Where to go? What to do? I caught a glimpse of an usher’s elbow in a doorway way down near the edge of the stage, so I crossed over to meet her. She directed me around the corner, onto the stage itself.

By now, you likely have seen remarkable photos, like the one above, floating around online. The stage was no longer recognizably a stage, but a cavernous room designed by Steven Dufala, warmly lit and filled to the brim with stuff—thousands of cardboard boxes, an array of mismatched furniture, and countless miscellaneous objects. Everything seemed to come from another time: toys from the 1980s, old school library card catalogs, lamps and music-playing devices from nearly every decade of the twentieth century.

“We’re encouraging people to move around and explore during the performance,” noted the usher. And indeed, the audience was moving comfortably through the space, reading aloud the handwritten labels on the boxes to each other (“Paris,” “Stuff that used to be important”) and unabashedly snooping through the clutter. I ran into to a friend who had just found a bunch of tax returns. “They seem real,” she said. “He made $16,000 in 2004.” To enter this space alone might have been eerie or overwhelming—I had flashes of the recent NYT feature about people who die alone—but with dozens of people milling around and chatting, many drinking wine from the bar, it actually felt like walking into a rather pleasant house party. People hanging out before dinner. The vibe was warm, convivial, and full of anticipation. What’s in this box? What’s in that one? What is going to happen tonight?

I noticed a Discman with headphones resting atop a stack of boxes. Next to this setup was a CD case which, for some reason I can’t explain, I registered to be a classical piano album. I put on the headphones and hit play. Music played, but it definitely wasn’t classical piano. “Does it work?” a fellow audience member asked. “Yeah,” I replied, “But I don’t think that CD is what I’m hearing.”  “Really? Are you sure?” I looked more closely at the case and realized it did, in fact, belong to the album I was hearing: Jethro Tull live at Carnegie Hall. I must have looked confused. “Do you not know Jethro Tull?!” he asked. “No, I mean, I thought…” Suddenly he picked up the box, Discman and all, and shoved it into my arms. “You better take this with you.” Then he produced a Victrola seemingly out of nowhere and started arranging furniture to create a kind of makeshift parlor.

The man wasn’t a fellow audience member at all, of course, but Geoff Sobelle himself—and the performance was beginning.

Photo: Max Gordon

Photo: Max Gordon

From here, I’m realizing that I actually don’t want to say anything about what happened in the piece, because constant surprise and the palpable live-ness of people sharing the experience in real time were so fundamental to this work’s DNA. I keep typing out specific images and events, then deleting them; to name them feels diminishing. I’m thinking back on Miranda July’s request that nobody write about New Society for a year, so as not to spoil the newness of the experience for others. I remember appreciating that request—let the surprises be kept secrets for each audience, stay present with the work—and now, I’m craving a similar rule for The Object Lesson, even though Sobelle has made no such request, and despite the fact that many of the show’s magic moments already have been spilled online.

By the way, when I say “magic moments,” I mean actual magic. Sobelle and his director, David Neumann, worked with “Illusion Consultant” Steve Cuiffo to create countless wondrous instances of “How did he do that?!” How did he pull that very large thing from that very small box? How did that audience member he put on the spot know exactly what to say, in a way that worked perfectly with his own clearly scripted text? The tricks are intricate, seamless, and utterly captivating.

Here is something I will say. A good majority of the evening involved watching Sobelle interact with objects, and I could watch him do that for a very long time. In many instances, his tightly crafted material world felt like a charming portal into a deeper layer of inquiry, addressing more unwieldy things that, ironically (or appropriately), can’t ever be fully contained in tactile form: wandering, love, masculinity, aging, death. I thought about the winding trajectory of any life: how constantly we experience, how hard we try and love, how much we’ll never know. How, when we look out at the night sky—or get lost watching a stoplight change from red to green to yellow—we’re reminded that our lives are teeny tiny blips in time. Is that recognition comforting or scary? How do we spend our blip, and why? There we were, mostly strangers, spending some of our very limited time together, laughing, with all the things. I wondered about Sobelle’s relationship to uncertainty; he has the wistful eyes and sweet ready smile of a clown whose drive to entertain might be, in fact, a survival mechanism.

And when I say “clown,” I mean Sobelle is an actual (expert) clown. Some of the most compelling moments in the piece were those in which he let clown logic completely take over—innocently repurposing objects, inviting us to see their hilarious and sometimes poignant unexpected potential. As a colleague observed, most of us will walk into that installation and feel some sense of weight from all the clutter. We know that hoarding too much stuff isn’t good for the soul. We know that memories attached to certain objects can become overwhelmingly heavy. Yet Sobelle invited us to shake off those memories, let go of that baggage, drop all our assumptions about stuff, and instead experience each small offering anew.

That was the real object lesson, I reckon. What’s a telephone, anyway? Smell this jar of dirt! What can ice skates do? Over the course of the evening, our relationships to objects were not illuminated so much as transformed, reinvented. In turn, I left the theater and saw the world itself anew.

 

Object Permanence: An Interview with Geoff Sobelle

At five years old, Geoff Sobelle was “obsessed with becoming a magician” but devoted himself to theater upon adolescence. Fast forward a few years, however, and his work still contains magical elements; the artist now describes himself as a “dedicated absurdist […] chiefly interested in moments of ‘the sublime ridiculous.’” His most recent work, The Object Lesson, is an […]

Geoff Sobelle's The Object Lesson at Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles, in 2015, presented by Center Theatre Group. Photo: Craig Schwartz

Geoff Sobelle’s The Object Lesson at Kirk Douglas Theater, Los Angeles, in 2015, presented by Center Theatre Group. Photo: Craig Schwartz

At five years old, Geoff Sobelle was “obsessed with becoming a magician” but devoted himself to theater upon adolescence. Fast forward a few years, however, and his work still contains magical elements; the artist now describes himself as a “dedicated absurdist […] chiefly interested in moments of ‘the sublime ridiculous.'” His most recent work, The Object Lesson, is an enchanting and immersive experience about our relationship to clutter.

Before Sobelle’s performance in The Object Lesson begins, the audience is ensconced in a disorderly fortress of boxes, free to rummage through the piles. Sharpie scrawlings designate their contents, such as “acorn collection,” “red things,” or “tetanus.” In due time, Sobelle takes command of this journey, inviting participants to contemplate the surreal and charming qualities surrounding possessions, nostalgia, and—in the most literal sense—stuff.

In anticipation of a series of six performances in the Walker’s McGuire Theater this week, Mr. Sobelle was kind enough to provide some background on the creation, assembly, and interactive nature of the project.

What was the spark behind this project? What sort of research did you then do to fully construct the piece?

The development of The Object Lesson has been organic. I have long been fascinated by our need for “stuff,” and I knew I wanted to create a work that gives the audience an immersive experience.

The Object Lesson actually originated in a drastically different form. The original workshop exploration in 2012 existed on an enormous pile of dirt, from which objects emerged. I collaborated with Steven Dufala, an artist who specializes in sculpture and installation art. We had previously worked together on rainpan43’s Machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines, machines.

Following that workshop, I was commissioned to create a live theater work for LCT3 at Lincoln Center. I was still fascinated by the “object” concept, but LCT3 wouldn’t let me put an enormous pile of dirt onstage, so Steven and I started exploring other ways to create an immersive experience within a more conventional performance space. Additional collaborators joined the creative team: director David Neumann, sound designer Nick Kourtides, and lighting designer Chris Kuhl. After LCT3, the first installation version of The Object Lesson was performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Arts Festival in 2013.

You’ve sourced objects for this performance from Recycled Artist In Residency in Philadelphia. How did that relationship come about? 

We’ve been so lucky to get to pull materials for this show from Recycled Artist in Residency (RAIR). From the start, a core principle of The Object Lesson was to not have “new” objects in the space. Early on, almost all the objects came from my basement, then my parent’s basement, but as the project grew in scale, we needed more than just my stuff. RAIR was co-founded by Billy Blaise Dufala, Steven’s brother, and he offered to help us out—and be on the lookout for some of our most desired objects. RAIR is a really incredible organization, and they really helped us to create the scale of installation we wanted.

With so many boxes, have you ever been surprised by the objects brought out during a performance? Are there any particular objects you’re still waiting for someone to interact with?

I’m pretty aware of every object in the space. We have about 200 “curated” boxes that are labeled and contain a selection of objects based on a theme or idea. Since we’re inviting audiences to explore the space, items are constantly getting moved about as people take something they’ve discovered across the room to show their spouse or friend. And we’ve had more than a few objects go missing, only to have them turn up days later. I love seeing how people interact with the items in the space—and the ways they do are constantly surprising me.

Does having the audience onstage and in close proximity change anything for you as a performer? How have you constructed or changed the piece to accommodate that? What is exciting about that encounter for you?

I’ve been interested in the line between theater and performance art for a while. This work, which invites the audience to open boxes, pull out objects, and create their own seating (from cardboard boxes, naturally), brings a life, breath, and spontaneity that is harder to find in traditional theater work. Each and every performance of The Object Lesson will be different because it is changed by the audience in the room that night. For me, sometimes it becomes slightly harder to navigate the space, but I’m also drawing energy from having everyone so close. It makes the work more personal.

What do you think would be different about this piece if you had staged it at a different time in your life? Has the performance allowed you to reconsider the values of the objects in your own life?

As the installation was being created, I realized that because so many of the objects came from my life, my childhood, there was a specific experience that someone around my age would have (kinship with specific toys from a specific moment in the ’80s, for instance). But the installation was created to feel personal and relatable to everyone, and I’ve worked to pull items from different eras so it becomes a universal experience.

There are so many different moments in one’s life when they must deal with “stuff.” The accumulation of toys as a kid, the collecting of mementos, moving, moving again, returning to clean out your childhood home. Creating this work has definitely made me more aware of what I choose to keep, or give value to in my life. And who knows, when this is all done, maybe I will become a life-long minimalist!

Geoff Sobelle’s  The Object Lesson runs November 4–8 at the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater, as part of the Walker’s Immerse Yourself, an onstage performance installation series.

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