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Posts Tagged ‘2014 FringeArts’

Lovertits: Interview with Neighborhood Fringe artist Annie Wilson

Posted September 17th, 2014

Lovertits_Annie-Wilson-283x300“Multiple climaxes, drifting off, getting exciting again, plateau-ing out, calming down, another climax, some snuggling.”

In a performance she describes as a “burlesque-postmodern-dance-theater-bad-improv,” Annie Wilson explores our societal views on sex and the real, messy, embodied sex that humans actually have. Lovertits will run at the Ruba Club (416 Green St) from Sept 19 to Sept 21 in this year’s Fringe Festival.

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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

Behind the Carousel: Q and A with Josh McIlvain on “SLIDESHOW”

Posted September 11th, 2014

SLIDESHOWFollowing two successful nights at Chris the Brit’s house, because obviously that’s where you kick off your Fringe Festival productions, Josh McIlvain, late of editing our Festival Guide, takes his SLIDESHOW on the road, stopping at Headlong Studios, WetLand, and Moving Arts of Mount Airy before he’s done. We caught up with him to talk about the show.

Tell me about the show. Justify your existence.
I’ve winnowed down 1,500 slides to 80 per tray, for five carousels. The goal was to make the story through pictures, along with writing a narrative that I tried not to tie too directly to the pictures. I figured out a story with the pictures, and then married them into the script. Then I whittled each carousel down so they’re like chapters. Once I did that, I could see where each chapter could end.

Where did these slides come from?
These slides I bought off eBay.

When my grandmother passed away several years ago and she left an attic full of camera equipment. Old film, Polaroid cameras, slide carousels. All this stuff was really nice, sturdy, well-made. I thought I was only person in family who would be interested in this stuff, and it would be fun to incorporate it in a show in some way. I found a booklet of slides in one of her closets, random vacation house on a lake—maybe from the 1950s, maybe the 1970s. I had no idea where the lake was, or knew anybody in the pictures, and they were kind of boring so I didn’t take them.

What was interesting to me was the disconnection I had from them. So I thought that if I can track these slides down again, I could create a show that’s a fictional account of those slides. Then I thought maybe those slides weren’t good enough, so I started acquiring large caches of other family slides.

These were slides that were in lots of anywhere from 100 to 1000 slides of people’s vacations. I don’t know where the hell they came from, maybe estate sales or something. A couple of them I had to pay like $30! I thought I was going to have to pay $2 for them. I’m using material from each group, but there’s one main one that’s the subject of the piece. I trace this one family from the 1950s through the 1980s. I actually portray somebody in the slides, their child, to tell the story of their lives and my life at the same time.

I didn’t do this on purpose, but it ended up being about that same disconnect I felt with my grandmother’s slides.

Why perform solo this time, and why so many venues?
I’ve wanted to create a solo show for a while so I could tour it, so I could have something where if I’m vacationing or traveling somewhere, I could do a couple shows there. And I wanted to do something different, and this is very mobile. There’s me, a slide projector, and a standalone screen. So it could be done anywhere, and I thought it would be good to take advantage of the Neighborhood Fringe idea. I definitely wanted to do a show out here [in Mount Airy], doing a show at my friend’s house, Arts Parlor, WetLand.

I think I’ll learn a lot from doing it at the Fringe. I knew from the beginning it would be a slide show, and that the audience was there, but not in a theater—we’d be all in the same room together. I knew I was basically in the center of the audience talking over these slides. The one big decision I made was to become a person in the slide show itself. Originally I was thinking of a conceit reconstructing the lives of those in the slides through journals and “research.” But I liked the idea of putting myself into the slides. And it just so happens somebody in the slides kind of looks like me. I like the idea of immediately making the audience buy into the illusion of it, like collapsing time, for them to know that the person who’s giving the slide show is not just a lecturer—he’s got other motivations going on than just showing people something. He’s a little wayward.

The cool thing about the slides is that they look so good. They’re crisp, their color is really lush. And it’s really voyeuristic; it’s weird to look at somewhat intimate pictures of people that never had any intention for this kind of use. There’s something interesting about intimate or social pictures of people from fifty, forty years ago, because it brings an immediacy to them that’s cool.

There’s the sense that my character’s kind of living in the past, or that the past is very much in the present, they’re both very much there. A lot of the actual piece—it’s basically a drama. There’s funny stuff in it, but what it is not is my making fun of the people in the slides. My character makes fun of his parents, people in the slides. But it’s definitely not me riffing off these funny people from the past.

What’s unique about the slide show?

There’s a very interesting thing to me about the aspirational aspect to the slide show. You’re gathering your neighbors, friends, family to your house and basically putting on a show. That’s what struck me about doing a theater piece–everything is already there, it’s a type of show. There’s something interesting in this idea that you show your successes to people, almost like you’re in a movie: showing real slides of yourself in a presentation about your real life that you want to share with your friends and your family. Exploring your kingdom in your format that invites you into this screen, like a movie that puts you in the picture.

What’s really different about this from Facebook or Instagram is the live event in the home. It’s nothing like a concert in the home; I don’t really know of anything that’s really similar to that. I was talking to somebody last night, and I think this basically existed from the late 50s through the mid-80s. The computer image stuff wasn’t really a thing until the mid-1990s or late 1990s. What killed it was video–the video camera took over the slide show. Instead of taking images for slides, they filmed everything on video.

It was the thrill, you could make your own TV–video cameras were a way to see yourself on television, and that was crazy. The slide show was harder to do, and probably more expensive in some ways.

SLIDESHOW September 12 and 13, 7:00 pm
Headlong Studios (formerly Arts Parlor)
1170 S. Broad Street
$10

September 16, 8:00 pm
WetLand
Independence Seaport Museum Pier
Columbus Boulevard at Dock Street
Pay what you can

September 19 and 20, 8:00 pm
Moving Arts of Mount Airy
6819 Greene Street (at Carpenter Lane)

–Nicholas Gilewicz

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

Tonight! Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered” at the FringeArts Stage

Posted September 7th, 2014

You’ve probably gotten wind of how awesome our late night programming is, but in case you haven’t, check it out for yourself tonight at 9:00 pm. Cellist Maya Beiser covers iconic rock songs, from “Lithium” to “Kashmir.” Preview below:

Maya Beiser’s “Uncovered
Tonight, 9:00 pm
FringeArts Stage
140 N. Columbus Blvd.
Free!