a question for the group: where are you your most inspired? what was your latest inspiration?
Archive for May, 2009
Having spent an unusual amount of time in various New York City flea markets as of late, the strange tension between death and rebirth keeps coming up for me. I’m always so drawn to the bizarre trinkets, discarded by their previous owners, waiting patiently to die in the mounds of junk or to be swept up and resurrected by the romantic inclinations of a passerby who sees the beauty in the death of the object’s previous occupation and/or the possibility of its rebirth and reincarnation.
Maybe this is coming up because it’s spring? Â TS Elliot wrote
“April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”Â
Considering global warming, I think April counts as May these days. It so clearly represents the nostalgia for what we’re leaving behind andthe hope for what is to come.Â
I love reusing and recycling objects and fabric. There is power in giving “life” again and it weaves the past, present and future together in such an intriguing way. I bought some used lace from the last flea market I went to and intend to add it to a shirt that needs extension. Pretty excited about it. Who knows who/how this lace was used before? What was its journey into my hands? What would they think of its new home now? My imagination can run wild…
(And I don’t mean Europe.)
Anyone who knows me knows I pride myself on being part artist, part sociologist. I am a firm believer in the idea that the arts can revolutionize the social fabric of an area. After a trip to back home to Cleveland, I am more motivated about idea this than ever.
A mentor of mine in college dissuaded me from going to New York because, as he put it, “No one in New York wants art. They’ve got plenty of it. Go to somewhere that needs it, that wants it, that will appreciate it.” The difficult part is actually living there. Artists need input for their output, and without enough artist in the environmentÂ to complete the input-outputÂ cycle, life (and work) will suffer. My old plan used to be to go to Belgium to create great art, but Cleveland is the new Belgium.
My family and I walked around the downtown area this past Saturday. A once thriving metropolis, Cleveland is a beautiful ghost town of statues, parks, large spaces, and former splendor. It rose to prominence on the backs of the steel, rubber, and auto industries at a time when suburbs were all the rage. Now, in a post-industrial world, Cleveland is filled with aging, cultured, wealthy people in suburbs who once supported the arts–the world’s greatest orchestra, finest hospital, one of the most important art museums–and no one is making art there any more. Sports teams are city’s saviors.
From this point on, I believe that art.party should begin looking outside of New York after a project is conceived. I know that CAM might feel the same way about Virginia, JSK might feel the same way about Worchester, and the list goes on. We’re making exciting, inspirational things and there are more resources, more audiences, more opportunities in cities that really need us. (Also, funding.)
I still love New York, but I’m no longer turning my back on everywhere else.
Lots of love,
Abandon every hope, who enter here.
L’Inferno, Canto III
Reading Dante on the beach today, I re-read this amazing command. Thinking about leaving hopes at the door got me to thinking about what entrance means. As theatre makers, we invite people to come to a place to see something, but what sort of things are we asking them to leave behind, abandon, as they enter? It’s like leaving your shoes at the door to keep the floor clean.
I was speaking with an actor last night about art.party’s upcoming projects, and she told me about Anne Washburn’s Apparition: An Uneasy Play of the Underknown. (Washburn wroteÂ The Communist Dracula Project, which premiered at the A.R.T. last fall. She also did some stuff through Chashama!)Â Apparition,Â produced in 2005, took place almost entirely in the dark, with some candles, a flashlight, a dim bulb, etc. lighting the stage from time to time. The production was apparently quite successful. Some relevant quotations from the Brooklyn Rail on the effects of darkness:Â “Watersâ€™ courageous choice to have much of the performance in blackout enhances the stillness of the oppressive darkness” and “The fact that itâ€™s performed in sheer darkness amplifies the violence” (http://www.brooklynrail.org/2005/12/theater/review-out-of-the-darkness). Â Seems to have achieved much what we are going for with Malfi.Â
The other thing we spoke about last night was accessibility to the audience. The actor said that she found some of Washburn’s work to border on inaccessible. It is important to remember that our art should shatter expectations while remaining accessible. With Malfi, we will literally be putting the power to access (i.e., flashlights) into the hands of the audience. Pretty cool…
It is now my turn to bravely wade into the art.party blogosphere.Â Howdy all!
I thought it best to start with something nice and light hearted.Â So here we go â€“ a few thoughts on the nature of the grotesque.
A couple days ago I spent an afternoon wandering the Chelsea art gallery district.Â During my outing I happened to stroll into the Andrea Rosen Gallery.Â Currently there on exhibit is the recent work of Nigel Cooke.Â His work was fascinating.Â The beings in his paintings are all at once visually unsettling, otherworldly, pitiful, decrepit, and yet at the same time charming and oddly inviting.Â The same is true of his collection of mini busts/statues.Â These drift even further into the world of the horrid and wretched with mummy like bandages, mangled teeth, and clown-like bulbous noses.Â Yet once again in those eye-less sockets you find an intense amount of whimsical humanity, a humanity which I was forced to confront in a much more immediate manner as I was in a state of complete imbalance still busy being repulsed by the forms.
Having just finished working on out.reachâ€™s first piece, Big Love (pictures of which can be found in Maryâ€™s prior post), a show in which we attempted to transpose our subject theatrically with the use of masks and the low-tech, blatant augmentation of our bodies, my mind has been doing a lot of thinking about the power of the grotesque.Â After our first performance an audience member stopped us and explained the piece really interested him as he didnâ€™t know how to react.Â He was â€śrepulsed, amused, entertained, and also saddened because [he] really felt for the fat guy.â€ťÂ Now we might have been able to achieve the same effect without all the theatrical trappings, but I would venture that our choice allowed us the opportunity to have much greater impact with our storytelling as we had already invited the audience into a different world, one which was unfamiliar and abnormal.
So the question Iâ€™ve been asking myself and I now pose to all those reading: How can we most greatly profit from the imbalance created by the grotesque?Â What new ways or styles can we discover to wield it?Â The danger we face in this journey is falling prey to the use of the grotesque merely for its â€śshock valueâ€ť.Â The challenge then is how we might use it not as an affront to our audience but rather as an invitation to come in and play with us.Â Hey folks, it may look a little â€śweirdâ€ť or â€śoddâ€ť but really itâ€™s a boat load of fun in here!!
I finish with a cheesy yet incredibly true adage.Â All journeys begin with imbalance.
Until next time,
Note to self:Â Pictures make blog entries so much more readable.Â Use them.
I just read an article in NY magazine about how our ADD culture/lifestyle is increasing productivity while decreasing focus (to be totally honest, I only got the gist of this article because I was listening to my ipod and half-watching the movie on the plane at the same time). It made me think of my comment to Jojo about how keeping blog posts simple and focused, something I - and we, as Americans- turns out its a cultural thing, who knew! - have a really hard time with lately. One need only step inside the MOMA, or a downtown theater — anyone see Architecting? - or inside the city’s numerous “fusion” restaurants with ridiculously sprawling menus to experience the confluence of ideas, tastes, influences and cultures Americans try to appease, cater to and acknowledge in our art.Its almost as if we are afraid to ‘leave stuff out’ - like an artistic fact-checker will cite us for our myopia.
Simplicty/singlemindedness can be golden. Sophie Calle ate/photographed one color of food per day of the week (http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_iSqR72nd6kw/R_xGTXlJl2I/AAAAAAAAADQ/aTzomfH7eic/s400/SophieCalle.jpg) - an very simple idea, but lovingly done- and because her idea was so clear, we are free to read into it all sorts of ways: is it about “synthetic” versus natural? About her mood/tastes changing everyday? About the food of the 1950’s? The simplicity of her idea leaves US free to dream.
Many ideas are important, but focused, simple ideas are the best.
ps: on the outside of the palais de tokyo (best. museum. ever.) : “The Palais de Tokyo is dedicated to the exploration of art which avoids all wistful attempts at a single interpretation.”
I would like to second Carolyn’s post about collaborative art and say: YAY for COLLABORATION!
Theater, by nature is (almost always) a collaborative process and it is why I like being involved with it so much. Most of the work I do in the rest of my creative life is, by nature, a solo job (photography, painting, sewing, etc.). I love having that time to myself to focus, to produce, to meditate and create, but there’s something so exciting about when you get together with one or more other people who are just waiting to pop (!) with ideas. There’s nothing more fun and motivating than egging each other on (creative peer pressure!)–the energy is contagious.
I have a grandiose vision of a DIY community that comes together to play, to exchange ideas and pump one-another up, all in my own backyard… Hmm, note to self: find a back yard…or a boat yard? Anyone, perchance have access to an empty one?
Fundraiser “collaboration art.party” in a __yard this summer?
Let’s DO IT!
As art.party enters the infant stage of identifying itself and its mission (”Who’s that baby in the mirror? Me?!”) I started doing some research about other companies to get a sense of how long it takes to get to a place where we will have “made it.”
Answer: A damn long time.
We are bound to toil in the darkness of obscurity for several years, slowly earning street cred with our peers until our breakout production. And though it feels like every production is our breakout production, logistics like funding and free time may force us to climb slowly and not meteorically.
While I see the value of having a vision (cf. Oprah’s The Secret) I think that what will continue to be my driving force as an artist–and art.party’s–will be to make art and have fun doing that. So far, we seem to be following that theme. That seems to be the only way to survive the slow, inevitable climb.
In September, we’ll take on another rung in the ladder as I’ll be the project leader for art.party’s residency with chashama (lower-case? what! what!). It will be hot off the heels of DUCHESS and art.party.outreach will be creating or polishing brave new work. (”O, brave new wor[k]!”) So, let’s have two big objectives: (1) make good art and (2) have fun. If we devote our energy to the creation, I feel it will come back to us. Even if ten years later.
Since I am not patient myself, I’m attaching a sketch I did yesterday for one night of the residency. Now I just need a performer or performers brave enough to do it. Any takers?
Lots of love,
Maryâ€™s post on Thursday ended with her thoughts on silence in theater.
It reminded me of an article I read recently about a woman who decided to take a vow of silence and see how it affected her daily routine. She tried it for a whole day, found she liked her new perspective on the world, and has been doing it twice a monthâ€”since 1992! While I do find the idea of going to work â€“and not saying a wordâ€”a bit ridiculous, I do like the challenge of being silent and choosing to express yourself in exactly what needs to be said, instead of idle chatter.
I would say more…but I choose to be silent.