Empire Drive-In is a full-scale, twelve-night, outdoor cinema and social spectacle. Hosted by the New York Hall of Science, and brilliantly programmed and designed by artists Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark, this project is an ambitious statement on upcycling and participatory culture seen through the defunct theater of suburban drive-in entertainment.
On the surface, Empire Drive-In has plenty of nostalgic charm, but it doesnâ€™t take long to see how the project redirects retro sentimentality into much more nuanced conditions of creative re-use. Made entirely from re-animated waste, including cast-off lumber and 60 wrecked cars salvaged from a Brooklyn scrapyard, the projectâ€™s junk aesthetic offers up a critical interrogation of our cultureâ€™s throw-away mentality, and the tremendous value that can be recaptured with artistic reconsideration and a little bit of elbow grease.Â Chandler and Stark offered their impressions this conceptual overtone:
â€œOne of the things that weâ€™re saying, or that weâ€™re trying to get at, is that this kind of place â€“ a place that is built by hands and is brought alive by living artists and performers â€“ offers a type of critical alternative to the safety of theme park nostalgia. [â€¦] People love nostalgia. A lot of us have an almost emotional attachment to the romantic idea of a drive-in theater. So we use that as kind of a set-up. People come to Empire with that romantic idea, and what they experience is on some level quite different: Itâ€™s a bunch of dirty old cars in a parking lot. Weâ€™re not trying to trick people, but we are deliberately looking for a little nuance â€“ a little questioning.â€
The creation of public and private space is another big picture idea that plays into the experience of Empire Drive-In. Sitting an early aughts BMW on the evening of my visit, I found traces of the previous owners scattered around the car, purposefully left behind by the artists. A wallet-size studio portrait of two young children and an ATM receipt with a balance for little more than $9.00 created a humanizing and intimate fantasy of these earlier occupants. The private narrative unfolding in the car was met on the other end with the larger, public narrative taking place outside, as people moved around, socialized, bought popcorn from the snack bar, and lounged on the hoods and roofs of cars. This division between public and private has always been part of the haphazard choreography of the drive-in theater, though here these narratives feel more direct and curated for personal discovery.
In addition to the social concepts it tackles, letâ€™s not forget that Empire is essentially a series of film screenings; a program that is thematic, collaborative, and diverse â€“Â including a Bollywood Bash, Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991), and silent films. I attended the Teenage Wasteland double feature, with screenings of Over the Edge (1979) and Suburbia (1983), both about the uprising of white youth in the face of oppressive and alienating suburban communities; a rebellious delight. The films were preceded by a presentation of Stephen Mallonâ€™s impressive documentary photographs of scrapped subway cars in the process of becoming artificial underwater reefs, tying into the spaceâ€™s larger theme of industrial re-use â€“ though hanging somewhat awkwardly in relation to the rest of the eveningâ€™s programming. RVIVR, an energetic punk foursome from Olympia, WA played a set during intermission, giving the crowd another opportunity to gather before heading back to our cars.
While participation plays heavily into the artistsâ€™ thinking about this work â€“Â as it also does with Starkâ€™s otherÂ â€œunauthorizedâ€ eventsÂ in which complicity is an unambiguous, horizontal requirement â€“ true, active participation at Empire feels optional. Interaction is certainly encouraged here, but some may simply go for a controlled, car-bound experience. â€œThereâ€™s been a lot of talk about the tyranny of participation, and yet itâ€™s true that Claire Bishop and a lot of ideas about social practice have influenced some of our thoughts about Empire Drive-In,â€ remarked Chandler and Stark.
â€œWhat weâ€™re after is a space that compels participation in the face of spectacle â€“ one that allows for both at the same time. Weâ€™re hoping for an almost a civic impulse. But at the same time, we would never force people to join in a Bollywood dance lesson, or demand someone to climb up on top of a car. We talk a lot about the distinction between public and private space at Empire, and about how the drive-in is an American institution that allows for both. We often celebrate the public aspect, and work on encouraging it, but private space is important too.â€
There are several big, concurrent messages at Empire Drive-In. Perhaps this is an effect of it being a multivalent product of many collaborators, or perhaps it’s a resistance of reductive categorization. One thing is for sure: if all art-going experiences were this inclusive, a wider public might start to recognize themselves in the visual culture that represents them. Museums take note.
Empire Drive-In at the New York Hall of Science closes on Sunday, October 20.
Work by Jeremy Bolen, Alan Cohen, Adam Ekberg, Myra Greene, Shane Huffman, Barbara Kasten, Jason Lazarus, Aspen Mays, John Opera, Jason Reblando, David Schalliol, Matthew Schlagbaum, and Adam Schreiber.
DePaul University Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.
Curated by Lucas Bucholtz with work by Carl Baratta, Zack Wirsum, Lauren Ball, Nathan Carder, Mariano Chavez, Karolina Gnatowski, Pedro Munoz, and Mindy Rose Schwartz.
SideCar is located at 411 Huehn St., Hammond, IN. Reception Saturday, 5-10pm.
Work by Paulien Oltheten, Odette England, Atget, Garry Winogrand, Sohei Nishino, Simryn Gill, and Vito Accondi.
Museum of Contemporary Photography is located at 600 S. Michigan Ave. Show opens Friday.
Work by Harvey Moon, Nick Briz, Yaloo Pop, Jason Soliday, William Robertson, Daniel Rourke, Incidental Music, shawne michaelain holloway, Kevin Carey aka Yung Pharaoh, and Chris McLaughlin.
TRITRIANGLE is located at 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave. Fl. 3. Reception Saturday, 7pm.
Work by Slang, Zore, Ish Muhammad, Hebru Brantley, Uneek, Statik, Brooks Golden, Chris Silva, Your Are Beautiful, Oscar Arriola, and more.
Chicago Cultural Center is located at 78 E. Washington St. Reception Friday, 5:30-7:30pm.
Guest Post by Jacob Wick.
So far, the things that have made the most sense in Los Angeles to me have been the things that make no sense at all. I’m writing about Juliana Paciulli‘s recent solo show at Greene Exhibitions, “Are you talking to me?” and Andrew Choate‘s poetry, like this one from Stingray Clapping:
more nipple than fig
more fig than nipple
dress up as fig
dress up as
nipple for birthd
Choate sings his poetry, or singsongs it, more of a sprechstimme than a musical. I’ve never seen him read the poem I have placed above, but there’s probably a tune it goes along with, and somebody always snickers at it, as I have seen them snicker in, now, several situations in Los Angeles. It’s the same kind of snicker, or nervous laugh or outright laugh, perhaps if one is confident, that happens at a total failure of communication, when there is some kind of sudden – perhaps sudden, perhaps dramatic, possibly completely banal, like being hungover or otherwise exhausted – breakdown in a conversation or scene.
A scene perhaps like that in the title video of Paciulli’s exhibition. A teenage girl, wearing a sagging black American flag as a cape, stands in typical suburban house – indeed a suburban house so typical it played Ferris Bueller’s house in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off -Â rehearsing De Niro’s famous scene fromÂ Taxi Driver.Â She raises her gun; the shot centers on it: it isÂ a yellow watergun (full disclosure: my yellow watergun; fuller discloser: John Paul Glover’s yellow watergun), apparently empty, or mostly empty. The shot returns to the girl’s face; she finishes the scene, pauses, says “oh, ok,” and looks down and away. A housecat jumps over the flag/cape, which has apparently fallen off.
More forceful, adjacent to the sags another black flag, printed on bamboo twill, with a banana-yellow QUACK printed across its lower third. The flag might signify something, maybe national pride or Jasper Johns or Black Flag, a band I very unfortunately saw recently – a bunch of pathetic, ridiculous old men prancing around the stage like a bunch of assholes, which they certainly appeared to be – but the QUACK arrests its signification in the act, leaving the viewer speechless, in the strange afterimage of a short-circuit of meaning.
It has been important, certainly since the turn of the 20th century, to ask what things – not just art, everything – mean. What does this abstract painting mean? What does this realist short story mean? What does this rock mean? I learned at the Santa Monica police station, from an incredibly chatty technician who gently rolled my finger on the scanner, that the print on my left index finger is of the sort that less than 1% of people have. I asked, laughing, but not really, I felt pretty serious about it – it was my first thought – “what does it mean?” She said, “oh, probably nothing.” If I look it up online – I think it was a double loop or a Peacock’s eye or maybe a tented arch, I wish I remembered or wrote it down, but I didn’t – it might mean that I’m a perfectionist, that I’m indecisive or diplomatic, that I’m independent and inflexible, or that I am “fiery.”
The trouble with asking what things mean is that they often mean nothing, and those things that don’t mean nothing often could mean many things along a varying scale of possible validity. I once wrote a review, for a class in undergrad, of that Ann Hamilton piece that is a bunch of white shirts, seams opened and singed, on a table. I wrote that it “meant” something about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. You know: sewing machines, fire, melancholy, death, feminism. It’s certainly possible that the piece meant something, and that that meaning had something to do with about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, but it’s equally possible it meant something about self-image, about burning or singing the demand to appear a certain way, or even the privileging of appearance (it’s on a table after all). I point this out not to champion a wry, pseudo-“ironic” approach, an approach that I find vapid and profoundly irritating – and completely dissociated from the actual function of irony, but that’s another story – but rather to wonder if it is not more interesting, or exciting, or even relevant, to ask what things do, rather than what they mean. In the case of Choate and Paciulli, their work could mean a variety of things, doubtless some of which are fascinating, but what is most important – to me at least – is what they do: they short-circuit or gag the transmission of subjective information. In so doing, they resuscitate the possibility of gesture.
What is gesture? Giorgio Agamben, in his enigmatically unfinished “Notes on Gesture,” refers to the ancient Roman philosopher Varro:
The third stage of action is, they say, that in which they faciunt “make” something: in this, on account the likeness among agere “to act” and gerere “to carry or carry on,” a certain error is committed by those who think that it is only one thing. For a person can facere something and not agere it, as a poet facit “makes” a play and does not act it, and on the other hand an actor agit “acts” it and does not make it, and so a play fit “is made” by the poet, not acted, and agitur “is acted” by the actor, not made. On the other hand, the general [imperator], in that he is said to gerere “carry on” affairs, in this neither faciti “makes” nor agit “acts,” but gerit “carries on,” that is, supports, a meaning transferred from those who gerunt “carry” burdens, because they support them. (57)
The three categories of action are, then: to make or produce; to act or perform; to carry on or support. Agamben identifies gesture with support, with gerere, to carry or carry on. The error that apparently was being made in the first century BCE, that of confusing performing with supporting, is simply exacerbated in the twenty-first century CE, where that which is supporting simply disappears. We see the actor perform, and admire the poet who made, but we miss, or fail to focus on, the gesture that supports: the tone of voice, the rise and fall of an arm, a certain tenseness or relaxation. It is the gesture that finally closes the act of signification, and for Agamben, this carries tremendous weight. As that which supports or endures, the gesture “opens up the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of that which is human” (57). It is not – or should not be – the sphere of production, nor the sphere of praxis, that determines one’s humanity, but rather the manner in which one supports or endures, one’s gestures. It is in one’s gestures that one’s character appears.
“Notes on Gesture” tracks the disappearance or capture of gesture from the late 19th century to the present. Beginning with Gilles de la Tourette’s catalogue of irregular gestures, which became the basis for what is now called Tourette’s disease; to Tourette’s catalogue of normal gestures, which he describes with pre-cinematic relish. According to Agamben, after numerous cases being reported in the late 19th century, cases Tourette’s disease “practically cease to be reported” from the beginning of the twentieth century until Oliver Sacks reportedly noticed several apparent cases of Tourette’s while walking down a New York street in 1971. Agamben suggests, somewhat amusingly – a nervous laugh, a snicker – that this could perhaps “in the meantime ataxia, tics, and dystonia had become the norm and that at some point everybody had lost control of their gestures and was walking and gesticulating frantically” (51). The reemergence of Tourette’s in the 70s signals not a sudden gaining of control of gesture, but perhaps the moment when the obsession over gesture – as one obsesses over anything one has lost, as any lost thing becomes transfigured into “destiny” – reached some kind of mark.
In any case, the desire to reclaim gesture or the nostalgia for gesture propels cinema. Extending Deleuze’s term “movement-image,” which implies that cinematic images are themselves in movement, Agamben writes:
Every image, in fact, is animated by an antimomic polarity: on the one hand, images are the reification and obliteration of a gesture (it is the imago as death mask or symbol); on the other hand, they preserve the dynamis intact (as in Muybridge’s snapshots or in any sports photograph). The former corresponds to the recollection seized by voluntary memory, while the latter corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of involuntary memory. And while the former lives in magical isolation, the latter always refers beyond itself to a whole of which is it a part. Even the Mona Lisa, even Las Meninas could be seen not as immovable and eternal forms, but as fragments of a gesture of as stills of a lost film wherein only they would regain their true meaning. And that is so because a certain kind of litigatio, a paralyzing power who spell we need to break, is continuously at work in every image…
Cinema seizes and redeploys gesture, and as such “belongs essentially to the realm of ethics and politics” (55). For cinema suggests or imposes character, characters, ethos. For if it is through cinema, as Agamben so eloquently writes, that we dream of gesture; the question then becomes how to “introduce into this dream the element of awakening” (56). How do we, how can we, pinch ourselves back into awareness of our own gestures?
For Agamben, the key is to forget, or to remember, or to forget to forget, to forget to remember. Gesture appears involuntarily, in moments when we lose our track, when we are gagged, “indicating first of all something that could be put in your mouth to hinder speech, as well as in the sense of the actor’s improvisation meant to compensate a loss of memory or an inability to speak” (59). Perhaps this is what Cage dreamed of when he asked for silence. When we are gagged, when we forget suddenly or witness a forgetting – for the gag is more than the actor forgetting, it is everyone in the theater witnessing that forgetting, participating in it – we witness gesture as pure means, dissociated from production or praxis.
And if cinema is the tool by which we dream of gesture, then Hollywood is the capital of dreams, of dreams suggested or imposed; and if we consider gesture to be the sphere of politics, as Agamben does, or if we consider gesture to be the support or character of ideology, as I do – or both, for that is perhaps two ways of saying the same thing – then Los Angeles becomes perhaps the ideal place to think about gesture, or to focus on work that brings forward the possibility of gesture, work that stops us from explaining what it means and forces to encounter what it does.
Jacob Wick is a conceptual artist based in Los Angeles. For more information, visitÂ jacobwick.info.
Proximity Magazine has a three day program coming up at the Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Oct 18 is the release party with drinks galor.
Oct 19 is a Pop Up eatery with The Rice Table
and Oct 20 is family programming action!
check outÂ http://proximitymagazine.com/
Please come to one of the events and please take a stack of magazines to hand to your friends and colleagues. We want to get them out to the people.. And please spread the word if you can. thanks.
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LETâ€™S DRINK, LETâ€™S EAT, LETâ€™S PLAY
A Proximity Art, Food and Radical Hospitality Mini FestÂ
October 18-20, 2013
@ Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219 S Morgan Street, Chicago, ILWe are hosting three special events to celebrate the release of the Food and Art Issue of Proximity. Our three course event takes place at the Co-Prosperity Sphere which is being turned into a series of installations and environments each day.Join us for the potluck edition of Proximity Magazine, wherein we investigate the intersections of art, food, politics and socially engaged practices. In this issue we followed our noses and inhaled the simmering pot of radical hospitality as a strategy for making art. Our investigation into how the boundaries of art and food have been blurred, smoothed out and ingested is revealed through the practices of many local artists, activists and chefs. Our menu offers a survey of projects that are presented as profiles and discussions about the role of food in our lives. A veritable feast was found within Chicagoâ€™s art ecology, now lets sit down and eat.LETSâ€™ DRINK
Friday, October 18, 2013, 8-11pm
Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL
Come to our magazine release party and get a hot-off-the-press copy of Proximity, meet some of the featured artists in the magazine and enjoy some bread, and alchemical craft beer creations of your own choosing.
Features installations by PREP,Edra Soto,Â Hardcore Craft Beer presents Alechemy, Bread & Beer and the return of the Hornswagglers!
Complementary beverages by Stone Brewing Company. Other beverages provided by Founderâ€™s Brewing Company & special guest brewers. The Hornswagglers bar will be coming out of retirement for the evening serving their signature cocktails.
Saturday, October 19, 2013, 7-10pm
Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL
Admission: $45 by RSVP Only ( Limited Seating)
Join us at our pop up eatery in the Co-Prosperity Sphere for a special Prix fixe dinner with Chef Chris Reed from The Rice Table.
When the Dutch expanded their empire to Indonesia, they were enchanted by the native cuisine it discovered. Excited by this new world of creative cooking, their appetites increased, and so to the number of dishes at the elaborate table. Thus began the birth of the Rijsttafel, which highlights the various delicacies. The Rijsttafel was brought to The Netherlands, and now this fascinatingÂ culinary event in all itâ€™s glory, can be enjoyed by you â€” right here in Chicago.
The Rijsttafel consists of a treasure trove of Old World delicacies, brought to life and executed to perfection. For this special occasion we have compiled a 12 dish dinner comprised of classical offerings from the West Java province of Indonesia. This evening is a ticketed event at $45.00 a seat and includes 2 complimentary drinks provided by Mariaâ€™s Community Bar, additional drinks
RSVP and purchase tickets here:Â http://proximity-ricetable.eventbrite.com/
PhotographyÂ by Ben Syverson
Beverages curated by Mariaâ€™s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
Audio selections from: Dj Joe Bryl
Presented by The Rice Table & Mariaâ€™s Packaged Goods & Community Bar
Sunday October 20, 10:30am â€“ 2pm
Co-Prosperity Sphere, 3219-21 S Morgan St, Chicago, IL
Admission: (Suggested admission $10 per family)
Our LETâ€™S PLAY program is for kids and adults.
At this family-savvy happening, you will find the Kite Collectiveâ€™s Shadow Forest installation, make visual poetry windchimes with the Kite Collective to take home, boogie to the beats of a Future Hits electric set, cross paths with SHoPâ€™s portatable Froebelian learning center, learn more about Be the Change Charter School and play with Cultural ReProducers. Eric May, a featured artist from Proximityâ€™s new issue, will be serving his signature E-Dogz to attendees. This event is part of Co-Prosperity Sphereâ€™s â€œUrban Operating System.â€
Â Guest post by Hannah Verrill
Michal Samama is a performance artist and choreographer from Israel.Â She recently came to Chicago by way of New York to begin her MFA in studio art at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago. She is now focusing on the research and creation of movement based solo performances and multidisciplinary collaborations. A couple of weeks ago I spent time in the studio with Michal as she prepared for an upcoming performance at Northwestern University.Â The following dialogue ensued:
Hannah Verrill: Iâ€™m thinking about a solo performance practice, and if it is distinct in the sense that you as the maker can never fully step outside of the work in order to witness it.Â I am curious about how you come to â€˜knowâ€™ the work that you are making as you are making it.Â Do you use video as a reflective surface to see what you are making?
Michal Samama:Â Now I find myself using video, but it didnâ€™t start that way. Â I became so interested in the images, in creating images and then of course changing the images, transforming them into other images.Â So in a way I feel that I have to see it. I guess I started to use video at some point, but before video I was using the mirror. Â Over the past few years Iâ€™ve also started to take photos of my body and my movement in the studio.Â I have tried to direct my body to a specific image but at the same time to be in the movement, or the position, or the expression while taking the photo.Â Those moments that Iâ€™ve captured have helped me to develop the visual aspect of the performance.
So it starts from a visual image that I have, that I imagine, and then I start to explore it, to transform it, to do this whole research in the studio. Â Video can tell me if the image or sometimes also the timing is right.Â My question is what is that â€˜rightâ€™?Â What is the right image?Â What is the right timing?
HV: For me, time is something where video and live donâ€™t match up.Â I can be watching a video of performance and something feels distinctly too long, but if I were with that body in space I could be having a completely different temporal experience of that same action occurring.Â
MS:Â Itâ€™s interesting because when I look at the video, and again, itâ€™s a tool, it always seems for me that I donâ€™t take enough time.Â That in live I push myself too fast, that it actually needs to be slower.
HV:Â Right, and video helps you see that or know that.
MS:Â Yes, even though it can be very boring to watch this stillness, but the way I sense the timing of my body through video is usually that I need to slow down and take more time.Â Itâ€™s something Iâ€™m trying to work on right now, but it can be very scary for me not to just move on and go to the next image.
So when it comes to performing in front of an audience there is this internal thing going on.Â Â This other layer, the negotiation between the way I build or shape the external image with whatâ€™s going on inside, and there is the encounter with the audience.
I remember the moment when I started look out.Â I think thereâ€™s a difference between this external artificial gaze into the audience versus really looking.Â Of course itâ€™s a solo, like I am the performer and you are looking at me, but then Iâ€™m looking back at you and maybe you feel awkward or embarrassed, but maybe you are thinking about your next doctorâ€™s appointment or your surgery.
HV: Would you say that thereâ€™s a kind of feedback loop in place? A set of information that you receive from your audience by way of their presence, in a specific sense, that comes to influence how you are performing?
MS:Â Yes, or you could think of it as a dialogue. Itâ€™s about questioning this idea of me as the performer being the authority.Â Or itâ€™s also about questioning what is your (the audienceâ€™s) role here.Â I started to think more of this idea of performance as a collective event or social event. This is what is unique for performance.Â It puts into a laboratory this idea of the social event.
I do remember one work from a few years ago when this question came up of if I wanted to take my gaze out into the audience or still be in this internal dance-y gaze, and at that point I chose not to. Â I was too afraid or I didnâ€™t know what to do with it.Â But now itâ€™s different, and Iâ€™ve started to make it more and more what I do.Â Iâ€™m interested in this kind of transformation of images happening during the performance.Â Part of the transformation of course is the homework that I worked on in the studioâ€”the choreographyâ€”but of course part of it is like what youâ€™re saying, the feedback.Â So in the end there are many more transformations than what I initially thought of because of the presence of the audience.
HV:Â I wonder if you could talk about the process youâ€™re engaged in currently with this upcoming performance.Â
MS:Â In some ways this is the most difficult process to speak of because it is happening right now.Â Iâ€™m working on this piece for a conference and the name of the piece is What Am I Paying You For? With the last few pieces I was more and more into this negotiation between the abstract of the body and the concrete of the body, and the idea of looking closely at body parts, zooming in on body parts.Â But of course in performance you canâ€™t really do it.Â I mean thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m trying to do, but there is always the body as a whole.
HV: Right, and the space that the body is in.
MS:Â The space, and the sound, and everything.Â But the space and the sound are there in video, but in video we try to ignore it.
HV: But with video, with an actual zoom or various editing functions we can actually direct or focus attention.Â I mean, with performance we can too, but itâ€™s very different.Â
MS:Â Yes, you can zoom in with a camera and show just this part, but how do I do it when my whole body is there, when the audience is there?Â So I went into the studio taking this bag with me, with all of my materials in it. The rule that I set up for myself recently is that I donâ€™t do this theatrical thing of having a set stage, and then I perform, and then someone cleans it up.Â I do it all myself as part of the performance, I guess to kind of blur this line between performance, life, when does it begin when does it end.Â So I said OK, Iâ€™ll just go to the space with the materials in my bag, but then I thought well this is not interesting enough. And then I decided to put the bag on my head. Â Iâ€™m naked also.Â So now I think that seventy percent of the performance is with the bag balanced on my head.
HV:Â So you came to the studio with your bag of materials.Â How is it that you decided to put the bag on your head? Is that an impulse or is that an example of an imagined image?Â How did that happen?
MS: So that maybe was not an image, I mean when I did it I felt that maybe it could be an interesting image.Â Putting the bag on my head immediately calls in a set of associations, connotations – I would like to play, at the same time, with the balance, the physical ‘risk’ or challenge but also with the associations, mine and those of the audience, sometimes they can also be risky especially when it comes to nudity… so I am on my knees, trying to balance the bag on my head, but I’m also a naked women on her knees.Â You have to decide what to look at or what draws your attention. But I guess initially that gesture came from my desire to put myself in an uncomfortable or risky situation.
HV:Â Itâ€™s also a precarious situation because the bag could fall.Â Does the bag fall?
MS:Â It can, and in that sense there is a really different quality to rehearsal and performance, because things happen in performance because of the anxiety or excitement.Â New things can happen.Â For example I was working in an earlier piece with rocks, holding seven rocks.Â During the first performance one of the rocks fell and it had never happened to me before, and it never happened after.Â Just that first performance.Â And yesterday my husband came to the studio to see this current piece for the first time, and Iâ€™m there standing with the bag on my head and I felt the weight of it on my neck and the tension in a way that I had never felt before in rehearsal.
HV:Â Going back to the internal experience of the performer, and then there is the external image that you are creating with your body and various materials.Â It occurs to me that the external image aside, you wouldnâ€™t know whatâ€™s risky or vulnerable without feeling it, that itâ€™s a felt thing.Â Itâ€™s not exactly conceptual, but rather it seems as though it would need to feel legitimately risky for you.Â
MS:Â There is something very clear about the images, but then the risk is in the movement.Â Otherwise it would be just like a photo.Â A static image.
HV:Â Does risk and vulnerability enter into the audienceâ€™s experience of your work?
MS: Â We spoke about the gaze and how at a certain point in my work my gaze started to be directed out into the audience, and that is something I am working on, going more and more towards the audience and really bringing them into the situation.
But the whole idea of audience participation is such a clichÃ© now.Â Itâ€™s a question of how to work with it. Â With my body I try to ask: what are the possibilities of the body, what can the body be and how do we read each image that can be created with the body, or with the movement?Â In working with audience, I want to give them a chance to respond in different ways, or to offer something that is a little disturbing maybe. I think no matter what you are always asking something from the audience, sometimes you are asking them to be very passive.Â In my performances I think in a subtle way I try to ask them to be active.Â What I donâ€™t want to do is to give instructions, this is not my way, I like that the way is more hidden.Â To give more space, to create the space for negotiations.
HV:Â And choice making as well, your audience can choose how and to what degree to participate.Â But youâ€™re not letting them off the hook either.Â
MS:Â Yes. Â This may be a solo, but donâ€™t be mistaken, you are here and you are apart of it.
For me, because I grew up on a kibbutz, I have these collective issues, and there is no solution for that, no answer.Â It is just apart of what I am thinking through, or working through; this idea of performance as a collective experience, and creating space for individual responses. Itâ€™s your choice, and itâ€™s a moment between us, and intimacy is a big word but I feel like there can be a kind of intimacy, something can happen there.
For example when I did the orange thing again at Judson Church, the first person was trying to take the orange from me, so it became this fight.Â And then almost with everyone else they were imitating this.Â So thereâ€™s this kind of peer pressure, or how we follow what our peer just did.
HV:Â It makes me think about what you were speaking to earlier, about how the presence or the feedback from the audience is a way to make the work improvisational to a degree.Â It occurs to me that you cannot rehearse this aspect of the work, the interaction between you and your viewer(s).Â So you are leaving space for your viewer to enter into the work, and also to determine the work, perhaps even make the work with you.Â
MS:Â Thatâ€™s the thing. Iâ€™m not so much into this idea of a closed production.Â Itâ€™s not just this thing where you come, and you see something, and you stay out of it.Â Itâ€™s more like a social experiment.Â Of course Iâ€™m leading it and bringing the materials, the proposal.Â Iâ€™m proposing something, and then it can change.Â Parts of the work are very choreographedâ€”there is a choreography in placeâ€”but still it is changing all the time.Â There is an ongoing influence between you and I.
Hannah Verrill is an artist living and making work in Chicago, Illinois.