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Archive for the ‘Visual Arts’ Category

2017 Festival Spotlight: Created by People of Color, Pt. 2

Posted September 12th, 2017

Disrupting the pervasive whiteness of Fringe, these artists are breathing fresh air in to the new works scene in Philadelphia with these exciting Festival offerings!

We Shall Not Be Moved @ Wilma Theater
Opera Philadelphia

What’s at stake here is America and its future. Who’s invited to participate?

On the run after a series of tragic incidents, five North Philly teens find refuge in an abandoned house in West Philadelphia at the exact location that served as headquarters of the MOVE organization, where a 1985 standoff with police infamously ended with a neighborhood destroyed and eleven people dead, including five children. This self-defined family is inspired by the ghosts who inhabit this home and begin to see their squatting as a matter of destiny and resistance. The group, named the Family Stand, is headed by self-appointed leader Un/Sung, and crosses paths with Glenda, a Philadelphia police officer, whose encounters with the family leads to a standoff that could threaten to repeat history. A co-presentation with Opera Philadelphia. More info and tickets here.

 

Andean Mountains (Montañas Andinas)
Carl(os) Roa, José Avilés, Elyas Harris

Andean Mountains is a digital journey through the mountains. Above all, it is a piece about personal geography: the way we relate to our place of origin versus where we’ve relocated. Featuring a performance by a juicy Colombian bear, the piece is both a Google Street View tour as well as an exploration of culture loss. More info and tickets here.

 

Urgent Care: A Social Experience @ The Colored Girls Museum
The Colored Girls Museum

The Colored Girls Museum takes community matters into her own hands converting the three-story Victorian memoir museum into a Social Care Experience. Her new exhibits redefine the concept and practice of “urgent care” from triage to aftercare. Curators, artists, and ordinaries construct Colored Girlhood as an imaginative and powerful space. More info and tickets here.

 

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A Guide to Megapolis Audio Festival, Pt. 2: Performing Sounds

Posted September 8th, 2017

From September 16-17 the fifth Megapolis Audio Festival will descend upon Philadelphia, drawing world class musicians, sound artists, radio producers, and all around audio adepts to join the artistic frenzy that is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Much like the 2017 Festival’s program, Megapolis’ schedule of events might appear a little daunting at first glance, so to help you navigate it we at the FringeArts Blog are going to break it all down for you into some easily digestible categories. Follow these links to Parts 1 (sound tours), 3 (workshops), and 4 (installations and digital works).

This time around we’re taking a look at a wide variety of performances happening all weekend. Though some of them have interactive elements, for the most part all they ask of you is that you soak in the sublime sonics.

 

Playing the Victim
Phoenix Lio(n)
Sept 16, 10:30am @ United by Blue, Old City
Sept 17, 3pm @ United by Blue, Old City
Two live demo performances of an installation available to the public all weekend, Playing the Victim centers on a mask that plays audio narratives about rape culture and queerness. Using augmented reality and physical computing, the mask can be used to trigger audio and visuals on various speakers and monitors. As a live demo performance, Phoenix invites audience to watch as they manipulate their memories themselves. By engaging their experiences and identity as tools for art they rework the heaviest, hardest parts of themself like pigments dragged across canvas.

 

Radio Atlas
Radio Atlas
Sept 16, 5pm @ WHYY
Radio Atlas is the English-language home for subtitled audio from around the world. For this event for Megapolis, the podcast presents a screening of some of the best foreign language radio works in the world. Among other sonic surprises, this event will premiere a Belgian radio story about a residential home for the senile where music is an important form of occupational therapy; patients who can’t remember their children can remember songs of their youth in perfect detail, a frivolous way of conjuring a merciless deterioration.
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

 

Blevin Blectum / Radio Wonderland
Blevin Blectum & Radio Wonderland
Sept 16, 8pm @ WHYY
An evening of performances from two esteemed artists with unparalleled creative visions.
Blevin Blectum is a Providence-based interdisciplinary artist who combines sound, imagery, and costume to create eccentric and mesmerizing performances that explore everything from science fiction to ornithology. She has been performing and touring extensively since 1998, and when she’s not working on her own music she’s creating sounds for Hasbro Toys.
Joshua Fried, aka Radio Wonderland, turns live radio into recombinant funk, with a boombox, Buick steering wheel and four old shoes. Robert Barry, a writer for the esteemed music publication The Wire, described his works as, “Rather like Negativland remixed for a house party…undeniably fun.”
Tickets for this performance are sold separate from Megapolis weekend and day passes.

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East Meets West, Old Meets New: The Dreamlike Beauty of Hua Hua Zhang’s Experimental Puppetry

Posted August 16th, 2017

Hua Hua Zhang with a puppet from White Nights

You enter a room and are surrounded by translucent white. There are strange, undulating formations, and a strange, ghostly light filters down from a hidden source. You feel as if you are on the surface of the moon. Welcome to White Nights, the newest production by Hua Hua Zhang of Visual Expressions. Hua Hua has been working in puppetry for more than thirty-five years, creating productions that are unique in their style and dazzling in their beauty. She aims to combine Eastern and Western art in her work, as well as old traditions with contemporary styles. Her work breaks the boundaries that have defined puppetry for generations, combining it with poetry, visual art, dance, theater, and music. White Nights is an experimental work, a series of dreamlike scenes that can be interpreted in a multitude of ways by the audience, all aiming for a path toward peace of mind. A half-an-hour preview of the show is being shown during the 2017 FringeArts Festival. The final show happens in November.

Images in White Nights make use of individual characters, some of them curious, others in love, others lonely. Produced in the large gallery space of the Asian Arts Initiative, the setting is a giant desert, based on the Chinese poem Night. The audience sits on the ground, around a small “pool of water,” surrounded by pods that serve as Chinese lanterns and shadowy silhouettes from Chinese ink paintings, as well as symbols of a moon and a sun. The puppeteers perform around the audience, who may interact with their movements. Musicians Bhob Rainy and Gamin Kang are also present, playing live music and interacting with the narratives. Four puppet performers, who have been trained in the style developed by Hua Hua, use the stylized movements of traditional Chinese performance, but use the puppets in an entirely different way, showing their entire bodies and moving with their objects. Interactions between the performers and the audience, and between the puppet performers and their puppets, cause constant questioning of their roles: the performer wonders, “Am I manipulating this puppet, or is the puppet manipulating me?” while the audience asks, “Am I watching the show, or am I a part of it?”

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Whispers from the Wall: The Silk Graffiti of Aubrie Costello

Posted August 4th, 2017

Walking down many streets in Philadelphia is like wandering an art gallery for graffiti. The tags of artists like SAGA, KAD, and LAZZ fill the walls with a calligraphy that has become a unique Philly handstyle. These, along with colorful street art projects, have made the city a vibrant center for the growth and evolution of graffiti, some even becoming three dimensional installations. You may spot some of these words made of flickering strands of fabric hanging from a wall, a fence, or a bridge. This is the work of “silk graffiti” artist Aubrie Costello, who uses long strips of Dupioni silk to write phrases around the city. Although the pieces are often large, they feel intimate, like their speaker is whispering to passersby. Some of her work is hung on the streets, while other pieces reside in nature, and others still have migrated into gallery spaces. This year, she is collaborating with dancers Jess Noel, Leslie Davidson, and Fatima Adamu in an interdisciplinary production, Show Me What You Want Me To See, or SWMYWMTS. The dance performance will take place inside a gallery with its walls covered in silk writing. An accompanying film by Lendl Tellington follows the trajectory of a romance between Jess and Leslie in the apartment of Victoria Prizzia, which is similarly filled in Aubrie’s silk calligraphy. This is interspersed with a separate story of love lost, performed by Fatima in a cemetery, as well as shots of more silk words and phrases fill a forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The work is also a collaboration with composer Josh Hey, who has created ghostly and powerful original score (with a few surprise musical guests!) This interdisciplinary performance is in an intimate gallery space, accompanied by a screening of the film. The curves in the silk are mimicked in the movements of the dancers, bringing through its ephemeral but powerful emotive voice.

Silk graffiti by Aubrie Costello in Gravy Gallery and Studio

Aubrie grew up in the quiet Pine Barrens, and went to a public school where the arts were nurtured. Without much to do in their area, the kids in this town chose to make art. “There were a lot of graffiti artists, and skate kids, and musicians that are in Philadelphia now in bands. So I guess we all had that deep itch to make stuff, and now we’re in a city that is more nurturing for that.” Aubrie’s father was a woodworker, who did everything with his hands. “He would even hand draw all of his estimates and specs and documents. He didn’t do anything on a computer.” Aubrie herself absorbed the love for “do-it-yourself” aspect of a project—if given the choice, she also prefers a more analogue approach to her work. She went to the Moore College of Art and Design in 2003, where she began studying fashion design before transitioning to a major in Drawing and Painting. While she loved drawing and making her own clothes, she couldn’t enjoy the business aspect of fashion. She threw herself instead into creating art installations, and began investigating new ways of using silk. One such installation involved a huge pile of high heeled shoes, bound, or “mummified,” in silk. She would cover the gallery wall with drawings that would mirror the installation. While she was at Moore, professors would often wander into students’ studio spaces to check out their work and give them advice. One such offering was from a professor who taught fiber arts, which she had never even taken. “She came into my studio one day, and I was using silk very differently. I was stretching it on canvas stretcher bars. She said she liked it, but she said ‘You’re not letting the fabric speak for itself.’ And that was one of the things that stuck with me, I actually think about that to this day. Sometimes I want to do more to the fabric, but then I think back to what she said. The fabric alone can have its own emotive quality.”

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A Timeline of Congolese History

Posted September 16th, 2016
Above: From Macbeth (photo by Nicky Newman)

Next week FringeArts will proudly present two performances that engage the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo through radically different perspectives and means of storytelling.

Le Cargo, Chorégraphie et interprétation : Faustin Linyekula Studios Kabako - création 2011 - Centre national de la danse

Faustin Linyekula in Le Cargo (photo by Agathe Poupeney)

Le Cargo is renowned Congolese choreographer Faustin Linyekula’s first and only solo dance piece, created in celebration of the tenth anniversary of his Kinshasa based performance company Studios Kabako. The piece finds Linyekula adopting the roles of storyteller and dancer in tandem as he leads his audience on an arresting and deeply personal journey to his homeland, a country marked by decades of violence and unrest, in search of a dance from his childhood that has since been erased.

Macbeth is South African company Third World Bunfight‘s reimagining of Verdi’s titular opera. Set in the DRC and centered on brutal warlord General Macbeth and his ambitious wife, the opera brings the classic tale of greed, tyranny, and corruption to postcolonial Africa with the help of its astonishingly talented cast and stunning set designs that make the show just as much a work of visual art as it is of theater. Be sure to check out the many ancillary events related to the show as well.

In anticipation of these exciting performances, dramaturg Meghan Winch has provided FringeArts with a timeline of  Congolese history—from the 13th century to present day—sourced from Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja’s book The Congo from Leopold to Kabila.


1400 – 1885
The Kongo kingdom of Central Africa is a prosperous, major force in the region based in agriculture and trade. 1482 brings the Kongo’s first contact with European explorers. Over the course of the next 400 years, the kingdom breaks up into autonomous chiefdoms.

leopold_ii_garter_knight

King Leopold II

1885 – 1908
King Leopold II of Belgium claims the Congo as his own private territory. The Congo is a major source of rubber and other valuable minerals, and the Congolese people are subject to a number of atrocities in order to harvest and export these resources. Beginning in 1891, several local uprisings are fought and repressed, including the Shi kingdom’s resistance (1900-1916) and the Luba-Katanga kingdom’s rebellion (1907-1917).

1908 – 1960
King Leopold cedes his claim to the Congo to Belgium, making it a colony. The effort to assimilate educated Africans into European culture includes the establishment of the “social merit card” and the “matriculation system,” which amounted to making a tiny Congolese elite into honorary Europeans. Established in 1950 to promote Kongo language and culture, Abako (the Alliance of Bakongo) eventually becomes a political force supporting Congolese independence. Workers’ strikes and anti-colonial protests culminate in a 1959 Kinshasa uprising for independence, leading to more rebellions and war throughout the Belgian-controlled region. Belgium agrees to complete independence for the Congo as of Jun 30, 1960.

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A glitch in the festival: BIG CRUNCH Comes to Fringe

Posted August 8th, 2016
160521_TOLVA_0432

Congdon as TOLVA (photo by Monique Baron)

Sam Congdon’s new solo piece, BIG CRUNCH, envisions a future world where a ruthless government strictly enforces gender roles. In this dystopian fantasy, one cyborg with a queer glitch rebels against the state enforced gender binary. “I’m inspired by the radical power of science fiction,” says Congdon. “I think especially right now we need stories of queers fighting back against the system. Science fiction allows us to both examine what things might look like in the worst case scenario future, but also how we might be able to change the world for the better.”

Congdon is a Philly based curator and multimedia artist. His work combines live performance, experimental electronic music, video, and new media. Two years ago, Congdon created the alter-ego TOLVA, “a space princess who travels the universe in an orb of vibrating color in search of the weird, the queer, and the magical.” Since TOLVA’s inception, she has evolved from an alias for Congdon’s musical work to “her own character with a developing back story and very separate personality,” says Congdon. He explains that this development has happened through performance: “It’s a process of trying things out, understanding what works and doesn’t, and building on that. I don’t think her evolution will ever really be complete.”

In BIG CRUNCH,  TOLVA performs as cyborg BC108. The robotic protagonist packages products at a make-up factory, where it obeys strict rules of gender expression. That is until one day when a “queer glitch” occurs in its programming. For Congdon, the piece explores the power of queer possibility in the face of government control. “Instead of thinking of glitches as problems that occur in a computer,” says Congdon, “I like to think of them in the same way mutations contribute to evolution in living organisms: they change and develop an entity in new and exciting ways. The ‘big crunch’ refers to the moment this glitch occurs in our cyborg protagonist.”

Audience members can look forward to spacey electronic music and a glitter-filled post apocalyptic landscape. For a peek at Congdon’s earlier work, check out this music video “faavric” by TOLVA.

Besides his independent work, Congdon is a founding member of the curatorial collective SuperObject. The collective celebrates queer experimental theatre and performance art by emerging Philadelphia artists. Two SuperObject co-founders, dramaturg JD Stokely and costume designer Najee Haynes-Follins, are collaborators for BIG CRUNCH. Congdon is also joined by musician Stephen Piccarella, and cinematographer Max Gideon Basch.

BIG CRUNCH premieres in the 2016 Fringe Festival this September at the 319 Performance Space at Vox Populi. A limited number of zines featuring local artwork can be purchased to accompany the performance.

BIG CRUNCH
Vox Populi’s 319 Performance Space
N 11th and Wood Streets
Sept. 15 and 22 at 8pm
Sept. 16 and 23 at 9pm

—Hannah Salzer

It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia: Wawapalooza is Back for More Laughs

Posted July 27th, 2010

Why is it that the second installment in a series doesn’t live up to the first? I may be treading on dangerous territory by saying this, but Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was the most boring book in the series, ditto the movie version of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers—don’t even get me started on New Moon. Whatever your opinion, the sophomore effort—however great the series—can be disappointing, and Wawapalooza, IdRatherBeHere‘s hilarious series of videos and sketches that have lovingly examined Philly’s particular brand of crazy for the last three years at the Philly Fringe, wasn’t immune to this effect.

“At a show the second year a sketch just dived,” says Eric Balchunas, creator/writer/director of this year’s iteration of the Fringe show Wawapalooza 4: Damaged Goods. “There’s nothing like sitting backstage and hearing people not laughing when you expect laughs. It hurts.”

Eric has a pretty foolproof plan to prevent that from ever happening again. At his job as a financial analyst he takes raw data and makes something with meaning out of it. It may seem like there’s nothing funny about that, but creating a comedic show, as it turns out, isn’t so different from crunching numbers.

“People need to have at least one drink, they need to be sitting close together, and there needs to be air conditioning,” he says of the three essential factors for successful comedy. “That gives the material a head start.”

In terms of tracking audience response, IdRatherBeHere uses techniques a lot more sophisticated than the old laugh-o-meter. Eric sets up a focus group to screen the show a month before the festival, with a cross-demographical audience that watches and ranks the material so that he knows what, if anything, to cut. “We try to figure out what’s universally funny,” he says. They also sent out a survey this year to audience members of the last three paloozas asking for feedback on not just the shows, but venues, too.

There is, of course, the most essential factor—material—but it seems like Eric’s got that covered. Click more to read about it

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