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Posts Tagged ‘2014 Presented Fringe’

Artist Kim Reid on WetLand

Posted September 12th, 2014

kim reidKim Reid is an artist, professor, and curator at the Sweatshop Gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. From August 22 to September 6, she has been an artist-in-residence on WetLand, Mary Mattingly’s floating barge, which currently serves as a living space, performance area, greenhouse, and symbol of environmental disaster. Below, she discusses the importance of community spaces and how place influences her creative process.

How did you hear about WetLand? What inspired you to want to take up residence?
Mary and I met when she came to Omaha to create and install her Flock Houses at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art. I felt an immediate connection with her and the art. I was very fascinated and wanted to understand her working process. The bundles and images she uses in her work were familiar to me. One important moment in my interaction with Mary was that we had both traveled in the Philippines. This shared but separate experience was apparent in her process and imagery. The mass migration from country to city had people living on every inch of space, including dumps and wastewater. After working on the design/build portion of the Flock House project and spending time with Mary, she invited me to WetLand. Alternative, hand-built shelters and transient ways [of living] have always captivated me and I feel that WetLand will be an interesting transmission of these ideas.

As an artist, teacher, and curator, how do you balance the different parts of your professional life? How do they influence each other?
Balancing my life as an artist, teacher and curator is a bit like running back and forth on a seesaw. Teaching allows me to advocate and encourage people in their strengths, curating helps engage the community, and making art give my voice a place. They create a holistic dialogue for my work.

How does living in Nebraska relate to your work? How do you think space and location inspire you? What about living on WetLand do you think will be the most familiar? The most challenging?

I think being landlocked in Omaha has significantly impacted my work. The inability to get anywhere else easily makes it particularly insular. The Nebraska landscape is long and wide. The plains serve as a barrier, a desert to cross. Because of this, the need to make my own world, or fun, has fueled my drive to create.

Because of my advocacy work through the Sweatshop Gallery, the prospect of working with other artists and participants is especially exciting. As far as challenges, I was a bit nervous about feeling seasick.

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Yoga at WetLand

Posted September 11th, 2014

On Fridays during the 2014 Fringe Festival, the WetLand barge will become home to more than just artists, gardens, and chickens. This eccentric menagerie has been joined by a rotating cast of yoga teachers from Dhyana Yoga, who will be leading a variety of classes on the pier. One of those teachers is Malik Wilson, a Philly-based Vinyasa yoga teacher and personal trainer. He brought his philosophical advice and expertise to WetLand on August 29 as a way to help others more deliberately connect with the natural world.

For Wilson, being in nature is an integral part of the practice of yoga, bridging the gap between people and the five elements that he sees as comprising each one of us – earth, fire, water, metal, and wood. “Nature, and being in tune with it, is is the ultimate foundation and groundwork that I use,” he said. During every class, Wilson asks his students to stand like trees, extending their roots into the earth, to feel the ground through their heels while reaching their crown towards “the life-giving source.” He encourages his students to “feel free to wobble,” to sway like trees, embodying a gentle strength. In addition to using natural principles in his teaching, Wilson prefers to lead classes outside. Doing so, he feels, erases some of the exclusivity that might seem to surround yoga. “Outside,” Wilson said, “the mystique is gone and everyone is just here to practice.”

However, he admits, staying focused outdoors can be a challenge, especially in light of yoga’s emphasis on stilling the mind. He describes someone sitting down in a field on a beautiful day, closing one’s eyes, and then being jolted out of peace by a buzzing fly and thinking, “This is a dumb-ass idea, why did you want to come out here?” Wilson’s advice: “You just need to chill out, like the flowers. Everything else is chilling out,” he said, gesturing to the earth, wind, and sky.

Wilson cares about environmental issues with the eloquence of a close-to-the-earth yogi. He sees our current global warming predicament in terms of animals caught in a bind, unable to tap into nature’s gift of adaptation. While most creatures have the instincts to change with their circumstances, humans are a different story, “with these big-ass brains that we don’t use,” he said. Wilson is excited to be involved with WetLand, a project that sees adaptation as a deliberate–and necessary–choice, but one that requires radical action rather than automatic adjustment. Dhyana Yoga encourages its teachers to give back through community service in addition to their classes, and Wilson sees his collaboration with FringeArts and the WetLand project as an opportunity to involve himself more deeply with two efforts he cares about: conservation and bringing art to as many people as possible.

When Wilson moved back to Philadelphia four years ago, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. One day, he was walking up Walnut Street when a sign for free yoga in Rittenhouse Square caught his eye–and then he remembered. “The one common ground that I know is going to be in my life is yoga,” he said. “It’s like freedom.” Wilson first discovered yoga in 1996, when he used it to warm up before practicing martial arts. “I couldn’t keep those long martial arts practices, but the yoga stuck,” he said. The free yoga class eventually led to a job, which led to a career, and Wilson’s path began to take shape.

However, Wilson thinks, being lost can be the starting point for evaluating where you are. Figuring out one’s destination at this point is not important. “If we’re on the bus to New York and lost,” he said, “Nobody’s going to be talking about, ‘Where’s New York?’” Using these moments as catalysts for self-exploration is integral to Wilson’s philosophy. It’s important, also, to be in our own bodies, once we figure out where we are. “Your down dog isn’t going to look like mine,” Wilson tells his students. “Be where you’re at.”

Preventing us from being perfectly or fully, from self-realization and the peace that yoga promises, are restraints that Wilson is fully aware of. He paraphrases the Japanese philosopher, Suzuki, who divides beings into the self and becoming, “our inalienable right to be just as much as we can possibly be without being disturbed.” Being disturbed, Wilson believes, can be a result of racism or politics or stereotypes. Although we have the right to journey on the path to becoming, Wilson does not view his rights passively. “It’s something you still have to struggle to establish and maintain. You can’t take your rights for granted.”

Before we can become, too, we have to be. “There’s no radical transformation without first having radical acceptance,” Wilson said, referring specifically to situations that challenge us, the ones we may not want to inhabit. Another aphorism that Wilson has adopted is that of the tree, from which you cannot receive fruit until it’s grown. We cannot receive what we need until we cultivate a foundation and establish ourselves in a place and time. Wilson believes strongly in the importance of “owning your story, owning your shit, being able to sit in your shit and not be disturbed by it.”

Yoga on WetLand almost seems redundant. The practice and the place have a lot in common. They both emphasize the importance of breaking out of routine, becoming more self-sufficient and strong, balancing the individual and communal, aesthetic beauty and strength, wildness and urbanity. WetLand, as it floats, barely tethered to the pier, almost seems to be closing its eyes, trying to find its balance in an unstable world.

Yoga at WetLand runs twice more, on September 12 and 19, at 6:00 pm each night. Pay at the door, $20 per class.

–Abby Holtzman

We Are Told to Look at the Thing That Is Not There: Daniel Sack on “The Four Seasons Restaurant”

Posted September 11th, 2014

Daniel Sack is an assistant professor at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, where his research focuses on experimental performance and live art in the 20th and 21st centuries. For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts commissioned him to reflect on the U.S. premiere of The Four Seasons Restaurant. Here is his piece:

Mark Rothko’s extraordinary murals that he painted in 1959 for a commission with the Four Seasons restaurant depict a series of fields in dark red or maroon, nearly black, many inset with rectangles mimicking the canvas’s edge. Frames within frames, they recall, perhaps, the proscenium of a theater or the rich red of a curtain on a stage abstracted of all content. They are like afterimages on the eye, written in some dark blood-like coagulate of time. Occasional pillars that stand on the canvases act as figures briefly shadowing an empty stage. The theater appears to disappear.

The paintings never appeared at their intended site–Rothko refused to have them exhibited at a restaurant so dedicated to the excessive consumption of capital–and they never appear in Romeo Castellucci’s performance The Four Seasons Restaurant. Instead, we are told to look at the thing that is not there, to see the artistic act as an apocalyptic event where creation couples with decreation. It has been said that this interweaving of appearance and disappearance is a peculiar characteristic of living. We know our life through its passing. So, too, in the theater–that strangely antiquarian art still caught up in a fleeting live moment shared between spectator and event–here we are, in the words of the late Herbert Blau, watching someone die in front of our eyes, dying together as it were.

But what if the only thing to see is the masking of the object we so crave to see, to know, to love? What is gained in this loss? In The Minister’s Black Veil, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1836 story that serves as a common root for the cycle of works to which The Four Seasons Restaurant belongs, the eponymous minister one day inexplicably dons a black veil that he refuses to have removed even after his death. His decision to retain possession of his appearance produces all kinds of manic responses in the eyes of his beholders. They imagine all kinds of powers–divine and demonic–in his obscured visage, project onto that black curtain their own imagined vision of whatever expression might be hiding beneath. So here the act of disappearing becomes a profoundly creative gesture. We might call it “art,” an art that the spectator produces.

The performance The Four Seasons Restaurant begins with the story of a satellite at the far reaches of imagined distance, a recording that relays the sound of a black hole discovered in the Perseus galaxy some 250 million light years away. This is a record of the end of sight and matter, taking away the paintings and all else. Originally a document outside our range of hearing, the noise has been transposed into an audible register, its hazy rough cackles and deep throbs cast huge and terrifying. The sublime depths of the universe speak a glossolalia that contains whole worlds of diversity. Not the black of negation, but of creation.

The young women that come forward to the edge of the playing space and look out at the audience are another kind of satellite around the black hole’s open mouth. They are “actors” learning to translate this other abyss–the great open maw of the proscenium theater–into a form that might be communicated. Their action, a decision to cut short their voice in the most material of ways, is visceral and unbearable. The mad visionary theater-maker Antonin Artaud wrote with terror about the everyday act of speech not only because sound cannot stand still or it would cease to be, not only because it must always leave us, but also because the speaker does not possess the word “I” he or she temporarily claims from a common language. In order to appear in speech, one’s peculiar singularity must disappear behind the uniform word “I”. Artaud would be proud of these uniformly dressed disciples. They have willed their separation from speech, forestalling the incision between speaker and spoken word with a cut of their own devising. One might say that they have refused the fruit of knowledge, refused even to sit at the restaurant, and instead suspended themselves in a pre- (or post-) lingual state.

It seems a linguistic and social suicide, irrevocable, but however gut-wrenchingly realistic, it is a theatrical game played in a place of training the body, a gymnasium. And so when they do the seemingly impossible and speak again, we can only be so surprised. The young women perform a version of The Death of Empedocles, the unfinished trauerspiel (mourning play) that the German poet Friedrich Hölderlin wrote between 1798 and 1799. Exiled from his city in Sicily because his influence threatened its politicians, the ancient philosopher Empedocles turned his back on society even as his people begged him to lead them. Like Rothko, like Hawthorne’s minister, he decided to retain possession of himself for himself rather than for a public. Seeking to join with infinite Nature, the philosopher threw himself into the depths of Mount Etna, his suicide born of a desire to transcend his human form. Supposedly, his bronzed sandal was spit back out, either mocking his ambitions or proving his apotheosis to his disciples. Something always remains from our departures, an echo across the distance, a shadow on a canvas, a small bit of flesh.

In Hölderlin’s play the philosopher is a poet who repeatedly mourns his distance from a natural world that once felt immediate. In this way, it belongs in conversation with the contemporaneous poetry of Wordsworth and the English Romantics. Yet Castellucci’s performance is not simply longing for untrammeled sublimity. The young women all wear Amish dresses; like anchorites of old, or Empedocles shunning the city for the mountains, they mark their separation from the contemporary world. But theirs is not a hermitage of isolated individuals so much as a mass joined together against the idea of the single subject. They perform the play as if it were a collective ritual handed down for generations. They all take turns rehearsing the parts, mimicking the gestures like understudies preparing for when they will be called up. At times, they switch roles, never entirely inside their part. And, as the play progresses, the women’s voices, too, become divorced from their particular bodies, seeming to issue the costume itself, as if the part spoke on their behalf. Such communal gatherings and ritual actions before the sublime may occasionally take place in theaters, in churches, and in political rallies–all sites that can turn sinister, where armbands and flags might be distributed, guns slung across shoulders, pistols brandished in honor of whatever transcendent divinity or demon. In other words, the theater is a dangerous place, perhaps most of all in those moments when it leaves us speechless, when it retains its potential to say or do many things at once.

It ends as it begins, with a kind of seething instrument for disappearance: not the sound of a black hole swallowing worlds whole, but the theater itself alighting on its potential to hide many worlds within its own black hole. Recall that “Apocalypse”–that word we use to describe the time between ending and beginning–derives from the Greek word for “unveiling”. This means that every time a curtain opens in a theater, our mundane world ends and another begins. Rothko’s paintings suspend such a curtain in the process of unveiling, in the transition to blackout where we can only just see an image taking leave of us. And in the final moments of The Four Seasons Restaurant we encounter a similarly suspended oscillation between appearance and disappearance, the theater performing a veiling and unveiling at once, without settling on a scene or sense.

What do we see in these churning folds of the curtain, these flashes of light? Worlds flicker past so fast that you may think yourself dreaming, hallucinating alone in your particular corner of perception. Castellucci has said that the theater of the future is the theater of the spectator, meaning that it concerns itself with what it means to be a spectator. Just as the villagers in Hawthorne’s story project all manner of spirits onto the veil of their minister, so the spectator in Castellucci’s theater sees herself or himself reflected in these constantly changing scenes. You see your potential to see, to create, to destroy, for better and for worse.

–Daniel Sack

The Four Seasons Restaurant
September 11-13, 8:00 pm
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
$39, tickets here

Artist Anna Ekros on WetLand

Posted September 10th, 2014

Fringe - WetLand Anna EkrosThe day that WetLand opened to the public (luckily, without a splash), Sweden-born artist Anna Ekros began her residency on the floating barge. Ekros’s handiwork is everywhere on WetLand, from the swirling greenery she painted in the greenhouse bathing room to the planters she designed and built.

Below, Ekros discusses how WetLand offers her a unique environment to thrive as a creator.

What about WetLand appeals to you as an artist?
I like the collaborative aspect [of the project] as well as the futuristic one, how we all come in with different knowledge and interests and are given the space to create this vision.

How do you think the unique living situation on WetLand will influence your art?
The space determines the mindset, WetLand becomes a frame as well as a platform that we expand off of together. Visual stimuli automatically changes the way the mind works: simple things like light and color as well as space, resources, and timeframe. I guess a small space, a limited amount of resources, and a tight timeframe will remind me that you don’t have to have much to create a lot.

What about living communally do you find meaningful and/or important?
Constantly having other people around is participating in an unconscious association chain.
It interrupts repetitive thought patterns and opens up space for new ones. For periods of time, it is important to work together in groups for that reason.

How do you anticipate balancing individual and collaborative work on WetLand?
WetLand can be seen as one big sculpture that we all build together, [so in that sense] there’s no real difference. It becomes a pause from the focus on individuality. But I also take time every day when I walk off to work on my own thing.

Having worked in multiple cities around the world, how do you think location and space influence your work?
Mostly the [primitivism] of the living situation affects me, [because] there’s less distraction. Also meeting a city in this way in combination with a large number of people opens you up. Workwise that results in a possibility to broaden.

What themes do you see emerging in your work? How do you see these interacting with the themes and values of WetLand?
The values become something internalized – you are a part of it just by the location you choose to spend your time in. I’m used to working with raw or recycled material but relying on it for floors and ceilings gives you a reality check. I think WetLand has deepened my understanding by experiencing the [interdependence] of imagination and creativity and manifesting these ideas into reality.

When did you know you were an artist?
I started resisting it when I was about 12, engaging in the process of the trade around 15, and accepting it when I was around 21.

Why are you an artist?
I haven’t found another way of being able to be curious.

WetLand
August 15th to September 21st, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (ongoing)
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)

–Abby Holtzman

Get to Know Romeo Castellucci

Posted September 10th, 2014

For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts is offering the U.S. premiere of one of Romeo Castellucci’s major theater works, The Four Seasons Restaurant. Last fall, he spoke with Carlos Basualdo of the PHiladelphia Museum of Art, at The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, which is also supporting this year’s performance. Full interview below, for those interested in some Castellucci insights before catching The Four Seasons Restaurant this week.


The Four Seasons Restaurant
September 11-13, 8:00 pm
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
$39, tickets here

TODAY at 1:00 pm: Learn About Urban Beekeeping at WetLand

Posted September 7th, 2014

Alison Gillespie‘s passion for urban ecology is quite clear–her writing career focuses on how to marry nature and the city. For FringeArts, she’s stopping by WetLand today to discuss urban beekeeping, and to read from her most excellent book, Hives in the City: Keeping Honey Bees Alive in an Urban World.

HivesInTheCityHow did you become interested in beekeeping?
I am not a beekeeper myself. I’m a gardener who is passionate about making American backyards more friendly and hospitable to all kinds of wild animals and insects. I also write about ecology for a living. Like everyone else, I was horrified by the news of Colony Collapse Disorder and reports of the bees disappearing from our landscape. I was also aware that the honey bees would only be appearing in my backyard if there was a beekeeper living near my house. I kept wondering who that person was, and where in my urban area they were keeping their bees. I felt a huge sense of gratitude to that person, and felt as if I was connected to them in this really powerful way. Every time I saw bees in my backyard my heart was filled with great joy.

At the same time, I also began to realize that a lot of people in my life were becoming beekeepers, including stay-at-home parents, lawyers, construction guys – even my dental hyginist! Some of them had hives in really surprising locations in the city. I wanted to know what was motivating them, and I began conducting some interviews. The more I talked to this interesting and diverse group the more I realized the story of what was happening to the bees was as much about humans and our relationship with food, nature and our local ecosystem as it was about the insects.

Why do you specialize in urban ecology specifically? Why is it important to cultivate nature in city settings? In your own life, how do you balance city life and a passion for wildlife and nature?

I am a person who really loves the diversity and vibrancy of urban places. I hated growing up in the suburbs. They were boring as hell, and culturally stifling. They also seemed to be full of people who were determined to spray huge amounts of chemicals all over their yards, and the more I learned about the importance of giving butterflies, birds and bees an organic habitat, the more I hated living in places where the grass was unnaturally lush and green while the flowers were empty. I seemed to find a happy medium in older, urbanized places – those that were maybe still a bit rough around the edges, and maybe a bit less prosperous. I realized that the city was a much better place to live when I could find a neighborhood full of trees and near a park.

I do not think this is uncommon among those who think of the environmental big picture. It is wonderful to have a short commute via public transportation, to renovate and recycle old buildings and make them new, and avoid being a part of suburban sprawl. If you can have a small environmental footprint and consume less but still live with access to green space, you really can have a more balanced lifestyle. City neighborhoods near parks are always the ones everyone covets.

I set out to show others how to add green spaces to their lives – either by planting some things in containers on their tiny patios or by improving their small city lots. You won’t necessarily save an endangered species by gardening that way. But I think that we as humans are predisposed to need time outdoors interacting with nature on a daily basis. So maybe if we make cities more livable, people won’t be as apt to think they need to move farther out just to get that daily dose of “green goodness.” This could reduce energy consumption, decrease pollution by cars, and maybe even reduce sprawl. Improving our access to green space is a really key component of “smart growth.”

Plus, there’s something really cool about finding some ways that nature ultimately prevails over the concrete and the grime. To find a butterfly on a window box downtown or see a bird land on the girder of a bridge can make one feel a real sense of universal connection in an otherwise impersonal and dead landscape. Wouldn’t it be great to give everyone that experience while giving wildlife a bit more room to thrive, too?

What is the greatest obstacle to urban beekeeping right now? What are your suggestions to combat it?

In many cities, beekeeping became illegal in the 1980s, when fears about so-called “killer bees” were fueled by fictional and sensationalized movie plots. Here in the Mid-Atlantic overly aggressive strains of bee are not an issue and really never have been.

For more than three and half centuries – since colonists brought bees with them from Europe – cities like Philadelphia and New York have had thriving apiaries. In the beginning, honey bees were raised to provide a less expensive alternative to sugar and access to wax for candles. As humans’ knowledge of pollination increased, they were also valued for helping to increase the harvest in backyard gardens. This remained true even until World War II, when patriotic Americans turned their lawns into food plots. Then, after the war as the suburbs flourished and air pollution increased in the city, both gardens and bees began to disappear in our cities. In a lot of locations, people began to think of bees as pests instead of beneficial helpers. Legislation was sometimes put into place without anyone even knowing it had been done.

Now, as cities seek to end so-called “food deserts” – those places where people lack access to fresh fruits and vegetables – policy makers are encouraging the growing of food crops in urban locations. Anti-beekeeping laws are making it hard for beekeepers to set up hives where they might be most beneficial to gardeners.

Pesticide use is also a big issue for beekeepers everywhere, especially because the new class of systemic chemicals known as neonicotinoids (or “neonics”) which can have very long lasting impacts.

Combatting those problems is something everyone can help with by speaking out in favor of bees and avoiding pesticides. Avoiding plants –- even flowers — that have been treated with chemicals is also very important. It is also really helpful to purchase of organic produce whenever possible, despite its sometimes higher cost.

How do you think your book Hives in the City ties into the goals and values of WetLand?

I think the rising water levels associated with climate change will force us to reconcile lots of issues we currently ignore as a society. Where will we grow our food in urban areas that have become overwhelmed with constant flooding? If we decide to go vertical, as many urban planners have suggested we should, how will we provide pollination for those urban farm sky scrapers? It may come to pass that those who currently keep bees in locations such as on top of hotels and other high buildings in our downtown areas will have a lot of advice to impart. But also, it seems to me that WetLand is asking us to rethink our cities, and so are many urban beekeepers.

What do you hope to impart to the audience at your book reading on WetLand?

I hope to impart a sense of hope and a need for urgent action. Even those who live in cities are able to save bees and make space for all kinds of pollinators. Those pollinators play a huge role in the well-being of our ecosystem. The crisis of the bees is not happening in some distant farm field far away from here. It is happening on your plate, right in front of your face, and out the window of your urban apartment. It is unfurling in city parks and along the trees that line shopping centers malls and grocery stores. We need to all stand up for bees, NOW, and help those who are working to give them a chance to thrive. The struggle of the bees is a message for us. If we don’t heed that message we humans will soon struggle, too. We can no longer take the most basic aspects of our planet for granted. We need to pay attention and get our act together.

Alison Gillespie reads from her book at 1:00 pm at WetLand, Independence Seaport Museum Pier, 211 S. Columbus Blvd. Free!

Museum of Broken Relationships

Posted September 4th, 2014

I learned about this through Adrienne Mackey‘s Facebook. Adrienne recently ran off to Edinburgh and Zagreb, and found the Museum of Broken Relationships. Wish I could see it, because somehow this has been a year of stresses upon and dissolutions of long-term relationships among my friends. Instead, I’ll probably go see the Pig Iron/Kirk Lynn/Dayna Hanson collab 99 Breakups, taking place over 75 minutes at PAFA, because I’m a glutton for punishment.

99 Breakups
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
118 N. Broad Street
$15 to $29
Dates and times vary. Click here for tickets.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Whit MacLaughlin on NPL, “The Adults,” and Eric Fischl

Posted August 20th, 2014

Fischl1FringeArts has been a big fan of New Paradise Laboratories‘ work for years. Katy Otto, who’s worked with NPL, writes in with a Q&A with NPL artistic director Whit MacLaughlin. Whit talks about a visit to the studio of artist Eric Fischl, whose paintings have influenced NPL and its upcoming FringeArts presentation, The Adults.

When did you first become acquainted with Eric Fischl’s work, and what was that like for you?

I’ve been looking at Eric’s paintings for around 20 years – so maybe 1994. I think I first found a book of his work at the Strand Book Store in NYC, and snatched it up. I was very interested, first and foremost, in any contemporary artist who kept the figure at the core of his/her practice – it was unusual at the time – and Eric painted bodies in an un-ironic way. He was sincerely concerned with the place of the figure as a locus of consciousness and narrative. I also liked how his canvasses forced me to acknowledge my own voyeuristic tendencies. The subjects of his paintings were the people on view, not some idea about the people, which made sense to me in a particularly theatrical way. He was also painting a world I knew something about. Middle class, vaguely suburban life with a fair amount of alcohol and ambiguity. And there was sex, pretty much right out in the open. Right up my alley.

Fischl2How has visual art impacted the work of NPL?
We have started with visual art as a departure point for most of our pieces. Let’s see: Goya, Miro, Piero della Francesco, Breugel, Cy Twombly, Marcel Duchamp and more. We almost consider our work as moving visual art. We paint with bodies in motion. And we like stillness that vibrates. Visual art gives you an almost immediate immersion into a visceral world, which is very useful when you are making work from scratch – which means that our work isn’t really from scratch, is it? I consider painters and sculptors to be playwrights, really, usually without words. And I like the way that visual art – the stuff that we remember, really – has always relied on the presence of an edge, an avant-garde, to advance. That separates it from theatre, as a whole, which is pretty content to keep its work in the realm of the traditional – its strength is in the ways that it recycles convention, making incremental evolutionary advances over time.

Fischl3What is the connection between The Adults and the work of Eric Fischl?
Beaches, moody interiors, family problems, sex, suspicion, self-absorption. Hidden cruelty. Probably a lot more.

How do you create work that remains open to the current moment?

I don’t know what the current moment is. Our brains are never located in the present. It’s the past that constitutes the present, and walking down the street for me is like walking through a space that is haunted with the presence of things now absent, sometimes for a long time. I suppose the main thing that’s current now is how similar it is to things past – except for maybe two things: the internet and climate change. So we are incorporating both of these phenomena into this piece. We have a “surround” around the piece that is working to clarify the sorts of things we all experience as we try to achieve this mythical, perhaps non-existent status of adult. It exists in the internet. And the piece has some, I think, interesting ideas about the relationship of childishness, the fluids in the body, and the rising sea level. Does that sound topical?

Tell us about the development of The Adults.

We’ve been working on it, off and on, for 16 months, which seems like a long time. Some of the material in the piece was first glimpsed at a residence we undertook in North Carolina in March of 2013. We started making proposals, improvising – yes, for the first time we undertook several four hour improvs that had no theme. A very challenging thing for actors. And we made proposal after proposal of stories that seemed to emanate from Fischl’s paintings. Things organize themselves over time into a series of scenarios. A narrative emerges. We spend a long time writing and staging. When that process is near to finished, then we rehearse and attempt to perfect. The Adults will be created, from stem to stern, in about 16 weeks of rehearsal.

Fischl4You recently took the ensemble to Sag Harbor to visit Fischl’s studio. What was that like?

A lot of fun and very interesting. I contacted Eric about a year and a half ago, when we were just getting started and told him what we were up to. He said to keep in contact. I laid low for a long time. Finally, a meeting seemed appropriate so we approached Eric through an intermediary–Harry Philbirck who is the Director of the PAFA exhibition program, who we are working with as a sort of visual art dramaturg–and Eric agreed to hang with us.

We showed up, a big gang of 8, at his beautiful house in Sag Harbor. He had lunch waiting. We sat and talked, then roamed his house and talked, then hung out in his studio, looked at his new canvasses and talked. A most edifying day. We all agreed that cross-disciplinary conversation should happen more.

What steps do you take as a theater artist to ensure that the work is able to remain vulnerable to interpretation?

A hard and interesting question. A most important question. I think that the best art has at least three valid interpretations. I don’t like things that seem to proscribe, to tell me how to live. All good work is clear at the core, but invites you to ponder with it.

How does one achieve this? There are as many strategies as there are artists. Most of them attempt to trick the mind of the artist away from easy interpretability into an ample field of inquiry. And for the viewer or audience, the trick is to give adequate toeholds into the work, but still leave room for the viewer’s developing mind.

What has it been like combining the older NPL ensemble with the newer in this piece?

A blast, really. Instant love. The older members provided a kind of anchor point for the younger, and the younger provide an invigorating dose of foolhardy bravery for the elder ones. Mostly it’s just fun and stimulating. Everybody learns from everyone else.

What role will sound play in The Adults?

Wow, Bhob Rainey is the real deal. His work is intuitive, well thought through, ravishing, crazy, and violent. Just what you want music to be. We’ve gone through an iteration of the score, now we’re starting over and doing it again. A good portion of the piece happens at the threshold of silence, generated by the actors. Other sections are good and loud.

The Adults runs September 3 through 7, and September 10 through 14. Times vary, $15 to $29. This show is supported by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.

Tonight! FREE Castellucci Screening and Discussion

Posted August 19th, 2014

castelluccifilmscreeningTonight, FringeArts wants you to come talk about Italian theater director Romeo Castellucci. We presented his On the concept of the face, regarding the Son of God as the centerpiece of last year’s festival. As part of the 2014 Presented Fringe, we’re offering The Four Seasons Restaurant.

If you saw one, or want to see the other, stop on by. We’re screening Castellucci excerpts, and Yale School of Drama professor Tom Sellar (who also edits the renowned performance journal Theater) will discuss things like: why does Castellucci use a NASA-recorded sound of a black hole? Are those police in that picture actually helping that guy? And why might women appear to cut of their tongues? I’m not sure if there will be free beer, but I’m guessing the evening should be mind-altering anyway.

RSVP here.

Romeo Castellucci Film Screening and Discussion with Tom Sellar
Free
Tonight!
7:30 pm
FringeArts
140 N. Columbus Boulevard

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Oh My Goodness: Voguing Train

Posted August 19th, 2014

ICYMI: As featured on Huffington Post and Philadelphia Magazine, Kemar Jewel made the Broad Street line a bit more awesome recently:

(Did you know that we have shows involving voguing? Details here. And here.)

–Nicholas Gilewicz

WETLAND OPENS TONIGHT! Here’s Greg Lindquist on WetLand, Empathy, and Boat Cuisine

Posted August 15th, 2014
lindquist_01

Greg Lindquist rappelling to fasten and paint the roof of WetLand. Photo: Mary Mattingly.

Greg Lindquist – artist, professor, and WetLand collaborator – is fashioning a harness out of rope. He secures himself in, ties the other end to a naked beam, and leans back, held firm by the same rope that is lashed around the dozens of hollow, blue drums keeping WetLand’s garden barges afloat on the Delaware River.

These gardens surround a central structure, a post-apocalyptic vision of a house succumbing to rising water, its windows tilted in deference to nature’s torrid, turgid comeuppance. WetLand, which will open to the public on August 15th as part of the 2014 FringeArts Festival, is a floating structure comprised of this crooked domicile and a mess of plants thriving around it, including the series of buoyant barges which support everything from sunflowers to tomatoes. The doomed house is built upon a reconfigured houseboat, which will soon also be home to solar panels, a water filtration system, a chicken coop for egg-laying hens, and a beehive. With these resources, WetLand’s main creator, artist Mary Mattingly, will live on-site, accompanied by a rotating cast of collaborators and artists-in-residence who will stow away at night in WetLand’s angular attic, under a dramatic slope of upcycled plywood.

It is this slope that Lindquist now clings to, drilling neat lines of screws into its surface. His homemade harness is holding him securely to the boat, albeit a boat sculpted intentionally to appear on the cusp of complete instability.

Lindquist’s connection to WetLand starts with his relationship with Mattingly, whose early photographic work he came across while working on his thesis at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Lindquist has long been interested in how landscapes can represent social, economic, and political issues, and he was accordingly drawn to Mattingly’s work, which imagines how water usage and flooding might impact land formation. Since then, the two have collaborated on a variety of projects, from a two-person exhibition in North Carolina that Lindquist organized to Mattingly’s Flock House project, in which he made a painting installation. Like WetLand, Flock House involved creating an aesthetically interesting public habitat that makes us rethink the shape of our everydays.

Although Lindquist identifies as more artist than activist, his paintings are always enmeshed in issues and themes that he cares about, worlds of ideas much larger than could ever be expressed. “The one thing that I know about the work I make is that it’s not simply a pretty painting. It has a contextual basis, it has a network of other issues and meanings and enactments of things.” he said. “These series of translations are important because I’m taking a lot of imagery and collating and collapsing it into a two-dimensional work.” This process of rendering is messy but necessary.

“I’ve always been a painter who has been interested in ideas outside of painting,” Lindquist said. He cites a critical reading group that he and Mattingly founded together with some writer and curator friends as one example of his work as an artist extending off the canvas, as something that has “pushed against the idea of painting as being this static, singular, discrete object, a painting on the wall. It’s about everything around it, too,” he said. Lindquist sees his writing, teaching, painting, and collaborating as completely intertwined. “[They] are all the same project, they just happen to not fit within the same frame,” he said. “No pun intended.”

Greg Lindquist, Duke Energy's Dan River II, oil on canvas, 78 by 68 in, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Greg Lindquist, Duke Energy’s Dan River II, oil on canvas, 78 by 68 in, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

Some of Lindquist’s recent work has focused on an environmental disaster close to his childhood home in Wilmington, North Carolina – a coal ash spill in the northern part of the state that contaminated the Dan River and dredged up the governor’s affiliations with the perpetrator, Duke Energy. “My work dealt with [the question], ‘How do you visualize this in a pleasing, beautiful way that lured people into the issue and then allowed them to engage and be confronted by it in a way that works against the inherent beauty [of the piece]?” Lindquist said. One of his pieces, a 40-foot wide painting of “swirling vortices” of coal ash mixing with river water, embodies a particularly grotesque beauty which both attracts and repels.

Lindquist wants his work to elicit a complex aesthetic response, but also an empathic response. “I believe painting is very important to engaging people because it can put someone in the position where they imagine themselves not only as the viewer but as the person who made it,” he said. Painting can also allow an audience to see the work “as a living, breathing entity and object that can have a dialogue with you,” he said. This mutable ability for empathy can in fact be invoked by an aesthetic response. “I think beauty can increase sensitivity,” Lindquist said.

With a pressing issue like environmental disaster, an audience moved to sensitivity and engagement may be one step closer to taking action. Lindquist believes that only art can generate that kind of charged attention. “The difference between using beauty in… art and in activism is that activism has a main goal in sight and it’s about getting to that goal. I think that in doing that it mechanizes and commodifies the process,” he said. “Painting is a very slow burn, it’s a very open-ended process, so it also allows you to see the nuances of a situation and be able to constantly amend and revise your position on something, so it’s more organic and open ended.”

For Lindquist, developing empathy about important issues through his art is also deeply tied to building community. “I have no disillusionment about art changing the world or changing these issues. I don’t think that’s going to take great strides, but I think it will give a platform for people to talk about [these issues], to come together and have conversations,” he said. These conversations, however, cannot happen until communities are aware of the issues in the first place. Lindquist recalls travelling across North Carolina with Mattingly and giving talks at universities where few people knew the basic facts about the coal ash disaster happening in their own state. “I think raising awareness is the first step, but it’s not the end goal,” he said. “The end goal is to really build a discourse and then have people make the decisions themselves, to see the issue, to decide how they want to be inspired by it or what action they want to take.”

With his art, Lindquist hopes to provide a way for people to come together and make these decisions collaboratively. “Empathy is the way to bring people in and give them a safe space to think about [these issues],” he says. He is inspired by a number of community-oriented artists, including Doug Ashford, whose artist collective Group Material put together community-engaged exhibitions in the East Village of New York City. One featured donated household items from around the neighborhood, accompanied by their stories.

Panel Cooker for Boat Banquet, built by Tamsin Doherty, August, 2014. Photo: Tamsin Doherty.

Panel Cooker for Boat Banquet, built by Tamsin Doherty, August, 2014. Photo: Tamsin Doherty.

Lindquist has also learned a lot about community from Mattingly. “Something I’ve really learned from Mary and her work is that it involves many partnerships and collaborations and mutual learning exchanges,” he said. Lindquist is excited about his own role on WetLand, which involves a focus on developing the gardens and planning the Boat Banquet, which will take place on Saturday, August 16th and Sunday, August 17th and celebrate WetLand’s opening with mainly boat-grown food.

“There’s something interesting about making the work site specific in its endemic location, from the gardens, in the proximity of which they were taken,” he said. Lindquist will be cooking with a combination of solar cookers and induction cooktops running on solar power. The solar cookers “look like futuristic instruments from some of Mary’s earlier photographs so I find it interesting that it’s within a speculation about what the future looks like if we didn’t have resources,” he said.

Boat banquet prep practice cooking, sauce from WetLand garden: carmelized minced garlic, diced pepper, chopped tomatoes, pepper flakes, sweet pepper, and spinach, on gluten-free penne, and lemon wedge. Minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil spinach, baby kale side salad. Photo: Greg Lindquist.

Boat banquet prep practice cooking, sauce from WetLand garden: carmelized minced garlic, diced pepper, chopped tomatoes, pepper flakes, sweet pepper, and spinach, on gluten-free penne, and lemon wedge. Minced garlic, lemon juice, olive oil spinach, baby kale side salad. Photo: Greg Lindquist.

The future may be murky but the table will be set on Friday with enough greenery to feed a horde of hammer-wielding artists. The food will be vegan and gluten-free. On the menu is everything from a lavender and orange salad with micro-greens to sorrel pesto to dinosaur kale, a vegetable whose moniker promises great things. “Eating is one of the few essential pleasures we have left,” Lindquist said. “Just like painting.”

– Abby Holtzman

WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
211 South Columbus Blvd (at Dock St)
Aug 15­–Sept 21, 10:00am–5:00pm (ongoing)
More information: http://www.wet-land.org/

Experiment on Me!

Posted August 12th, 2014

For the 2014 Presented Fringe, FringeArts is bringing the Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure to Old City for Experiment #39. In case you’re wondering, the experiment is kind of on you. No details on this one quite yet, but for a sense of what you can expect, check out this video from their 2013 Brooklyn experiment, Experiment #17:



Experiment #39
Old City Location TBA to ticket holders
September 6 and 7, 11:30 am to 4:30 pm
Starts every 15 minutes
(Tix selling fast, FYI).

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Other Voices: Culturebot on The Four Seasons Restaurant

Posted August 5th, 2014
Scene from The Four Seasons Restaurarnt with Moana Ball, Myriam Sokoloff, Silvia Costa, Marie Dissais, Laura Dondoli, Chiara Causa, Irene Petris. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Scene from The Four Seasons Restaurarnt with Moana Ball, Myriam Sokoloff, Silvia Costa, Marie Dissais, Laura Dondoli, Chiara Causa, Irene Petris. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage

“The thing with Castellucci is that he doesn’t direct your responses as most plays do. He makes work without explanation, without irony and without apology, and there you are as an audience member, in the presence of it. His pieces are ruthless and demand that you approach them in a state of wonder. You get out in direct proportion to what you put in.”

The Four Seasons Restaurant
Societas Raffaello Sanzio
$15 to $39
23rd Street Armory
22 S. 23rd Street
September 11, 8 pm
September 12, 8 pm
September 13, 8 pm