The Scuola Internazionale di Comics has recently expanded to include a 10th location in Chicago’s West Town and we are looking for a Comics Program Assistant to help us coordinate and schedule our workshops, update our website, and promote our programs. The ideal applicant will have excellent administrative and organizational skills as well as experience in the American Comics market–have you worked at a Comics store, written Comics reviews, or drawn your own comic? We want to hear from you. A strong background in the visual arts is highly desired. Graphic and web design experience is a plus. Knowledge of Spanish or Italian would be highly helpful. Read more about SIdC and how to apply here.
The best thing about living in San Francisco is that I can step out of my apartment and, without any planned route, find an art exhibition that I had no idea was happening. At the beginning of every month, I like to walk my rent check to my property manager’s office by the Civic Center. The Civic Center is a cultural crown of jewels in this city with a symphony, ballet, opera, library, and museum surrounding City Hall. SF is so cool that the city closes the Civic Center for massive events like a concert by Deadmau5 or the 2013 X Games Dew Tour complete with a skate park and dirt bike course.
On this particular rent-check-walk, I decided to check out the main branch of the SF Public Library at the Civic Center. If you’ve seen the 1998 movie City of Angels starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan, then you’ll understand this: it’s the same library that all the angels in black coats visit to read books and stand around looking creepy! Little did I know that there would not only be one exhibition, but five! Stumbling across these exhibitions in a space like a public library brought me back to undergrad and learning about the idea of curating. It’s an interesting position to be curating a show at a library – a local history and audience are engaged primarily with something else in the space (the books) but are somehow casually distracted, entertained, and educated by the exhibition.
The first exhibition I accidentally saw was called Three Artists Witness the Occupy Movement: A Plein Air Story. If it weren’t for the table jutting out in the middle of the walkway, I would have kept on going about my tour of the library, but I paused to see what the enclosed case had to offer. It was lovely paintings by three different Oakland artists who documented the Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco events. The placard said, “Exhibition continues in café wall display case, lower level,” so I decided to see what else was in this show.
The painting show was a lot of fun. It’s unclear who curated the show based on the text provided, but a little googling on the Internet leads me to believe that the show was originally presented as Occupy: The Plein Air Story and curated by Eric Murphy at Oakland’s Joyce Gordon Gallery last November. This exhibition cleverly puts three different artists side-by-side for a comparison of the same subject depicted in varying styles. John Paul Marcelo’s The Port Shutdown is an eerie march of shadowy dark figures, Anthony Holdsworth’s Occupy the Port of Oakland (2011) is a bright pastel palette of folks walking towards the sunlight, and Jessica Jirsa’s Closing of the Ports (2011) is a colorful cartoon-like gathering of characters.
After looking at the painting show, I turned around to discover the Mr. and Mrs. George F. Jewett, Jr. Exhibit Gallery and an exhibit titled A Little Piece of Mexico: The Postcards of Guillermo Kahlo and His Contemporaries. In a place like a library, the contributing parties to making the show possible are a paragraph in itself. Here’s who is billed as presenting the show: The San Francisco Public Library, the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco, the Department of Latina/Latino Studies in the College of Ethnic Studies and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs of San Francisco State University, and City Lights Foundationg. Wow!
The exhibition makes a fantastic case that the cultural identity of Mexico was shaped by the popularity of the photo postcard at the turn of the 20th century. With images from international photographers like Guillermo Kahlo, Abel Briquet, F. Leon, and CB Waite, the exhibition honors the iconic images that undoubtedly shaped the current contemporary branding of Mexico’s visual identity. The significance of this show to the local Mexican and Mexican-American population is palpable, while also revealing the country’s heavy influence on San Francisco’s own architecture and landscape design.
As I walked upstairs to check out a show about tennis, I noticed another show with fabulous architectural renderings. An exhibition titled UNBUILT: San Francisco spans five venues throughout the city and presents proposals for various buildings and urban spaces within the city that were never realized. My dad is an architect, so genetically so am I, and so this show was really interesting to me. Architects also have the best handwriting in the world, so there’s something about architecture and text that is always aesthetically amazing. As a resident and avid walker of SF for almost five years, I genuinely appreciated seeing these renderings and sketches for spaces that I’ve come to call home – it’s like walking into an artist’s studio or flipping through your old sketch book and seeing thoughts and ideas for past work that just never made it off the page.
Finally, and coincidentally enough for me as a blogger for a blog called Bad at Sports, there were two exhibitions highlighting sports – They Were First: African Americans in Sports and Breaking the Barriers: The ATA and Black Tennis Pioneers. Both exhibitions provide a more historical context (rather than visual) of the obstacles and triumphs of a marginalized group of athletes. Simple timelines line the walls of the library with photos and text reminiscent of a history museum show or even the waiting lobby to the “Soarin’ Over California” ride at Disneyland.
The best part of this entire SF Public Library multi-exhibition day was seeing artwork from the winners of an art contest for kids coinciding with Breaking the Barriers. Northern California kids aged 7 to 18 were asked to portray how they have broken barriers. As cynical as I’ve become now that I’m 30, there will always be a special place in my life in memory of the art opportunities I got when I was a kid. Growing up, my suburban New Jersey town offered plenty of art opportunities for kids that I completely devoured – art classes at school, annual art exhibitions at the mall, and contests for different purposes like a banner at an elementary school or the yearbook cover or the town’s New Year’s Eve celebration logo. How many high school students enroll in AP Art or go through the lengthy submission process for a college art application? It’s awesome that the library exhibition included this artistic component for the local kids, and its something I believe will be a special introduction for every participant, especially the winners. Watch out Hugo Boss Prize 2035!
Conclusion? Who knew a day at the library could be so fun and artsy!
“Tumblr is a great way for people who don’t create content to share content thus lending their life some kind of creative import.” This is the somewhat omniscient Jayson Musson’s tweet from a couple of weeks ago. The more I think about it – and I have been thinking about it way too much – the more I realize that he’s probably right. There are a lot of people on Tumblr and I am one of them. And I cannot get enough. But you know what, I don’t care if these people haven’t created the content they’re posting, at least they’re posting content – which, in of itself, is a creative act. And it’s visual, and I personally am constantly learning from it. It’s a visual literacy of the highest import.
My own Tumblr, Installator, is a curated (for lack of a better term) blog of other people’s content. Installator (wrapit-tapeit-walkit-placeit) is essentially a compendium of art in a state of movement – being installed, de-installed, moved, crated, knocked down, hung, lifted, cleaned, screwed together, and on and on. It’s about art as an object, but decidedly not the object that most people understand it to be. Not precious, or in some cases priceless, well-lit aesthetic nuggets that just seems to appear on walls, or pedestals, in fields, on buildings and above couches. These are images of artworks that are not static.
Sometimes I wonder if people who go to museums or galleries think these things just kind of magically appear overnight – like some sort of aesthetic fairy flitting down to delicately place a painting on a wall with their sparkly fairy-dusted level. Well they don’t, and there is a magical coterie of individuals who do make it happen: art handlers/preparators/riggers/etcetera. I am not an art handler, though I have done my fair share of handling art (I’m also married to a former preparator). It is with the utmost respect for these folks that I showcase them in the photos that make up Installator. Other people are impressed too. Of the many comments I do get on one photo or another – a common one is some form or another of: “I want to do this for living!”
Looking for images can be a pain in the ass, but when I find a good one I get really excited. I have a loose set of criteria that I stick to when finding them; ideally it’s a large jpeg; includes an image of a person(s); is of an artwork or artist that I admire; is visually representative of the act of installing or de-installing and has to be stimulating to look at. Funny pictures help, as do process-oriented sets of images. I mostly start with a Google image search including an artist’s name (or sometimes an artwork) and the word “installing”. Another route I take is plundering the Facebook photo albums of museums. I find that European museums do the best job of documenting their behind-the-scenes, but there are a few museums with their own oft-updated Tumblrs, blogs and websites (the Dallas Museum of Art, Contemporary Museum of Art, Houston and the Walker Art Center are tops.)
At this point it seems as though a lot of Museums are catching onto this peeking-behind-the-curtain-thrill. Many of them are sharing much of the work that goes into setting up an exhibition, not only by posting more and more images for the public, but also using it as a form of education about the lives of artworks. This can only be healthy. It humanizes the pricelessness that these objects are assumed to have once they enter the institution. It also showcases the care for these objects from a preservation standpoint. I thought this quote from the Chrysler Museum of Art was interesting, even though the images they did post were some of the most beautiful I’ve come across: “We generally do not discuss anything related to the movement of art. There are lots of reasons for this, ranging from the obvious (security) to the obscure (proper protocols and handling). …. We rarely if ever actually photograph art being moved. This is [a] field where mistakes are not an option, and a great work of art being damaged because somebody tripped over a photographer just can’t happen.”
There is also what I cannot find. I have a mental list of artists whose work I would very much like to see installed. There are also museums that simply aren’t interested in showing how work travels from the bowels of their storage to the walls of their galleries. Outside of Instagram, commercial galleries very rarely show images of their artists work being installed (though Salon94 has a great blog that features this). Along the same lines, it’s often difficult to find images of art fairs being loaded in. Artists who have their own websites also rarely show images of their work from this viewpoint (Sterling Ruby and Martin Eder (?) are a couple of exceptions). Holy Grail images would include almost anything pre-1980, better yet pre-1950. The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (watermarks excluded) is by far one of the best resources I’ve found. As far as mediums go, who knew it was so hard to find images of drawings and photographs being installed?
A short wish list, in case anyone was inclined to do some of their own digging and submit: Morris Louis (a good one, though this one is pretty good), Allan McCollum, Eve Hesse, Cady Noland and On Kawara.
What’s next? I thought an old fashion artbook might be a good way to harness a lot of what’s happening on the Installator tumblr. There is more to mine here: from the relational aesthetics of it all to the art historical precedents of installing art. However, after looking into it and making a couple of inquiries, I realized that it would never happen. I don’t own these images and I certainly wouldn’t want to deal with the red tape (from artist to gallery to museum) about ownership and rights. Nonetheless, I do worry that with the fleeting nature of screen-scrolling, people aren’t really looking. Good old fashion page-turning sounds nice to me – maybe one of these days. For now, I’ll still be looking for content and posting it for my 137,507 “followers”.
Bio: Britton Bertran ran 40000 from 2005 to 2008. He currently is an Instructor at SAIC in the Arts Administration and Policy department and the Educational Programs Manager at Urban Gateways. An occasional guest-curator, he has organized exhibitions for the Hyde Park Art Center, the Loyola Museum of Art and several galleries. You can find him trying to be less cranky about the art world on twitter @br_tton. Stay tuned for a couple more guest posts where Britton will be waxing poetic on what’s wrong with the Chicago art world circa 2013, while thinking out loud about how to fix it and another post about looking forward to 2014 (and maybe a top 10 list of sorts too.)
- “KULTÚRA NAPJAINKBAN, dan perjovschi után szabadon” (via richardlivesus)
- “The Acrobatic Sculptures of the Rooftop Garden”. Alexander Calder’s “Man” being installed at SFMOMA
- MoMA staff dismantling Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937) for shipment to Spain. Photo taken on September 8, 1981 by Mali Olatunji. Image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York
- “Monumental wall sculpture by Ellsworth Kelly installed on Dartmouth campus. This major site-specific work, titled Dartmouth Panels, was commissioned by longtime arts patrons Leon Black ‘73 and his wife Debra, who contributed $48 million towards the creation of the center.” (artdaily.org)
- “This piece is made of ceramics, a medium which Robert Arneson helped bring to a full-fledged, independent art form. Typically, large-scale works such as this would be made out of bronze or marble. Luckily for our installation crew, this piece is hollow, meaning it only weighs between 500-700 lbs. Heave-ho!” (SFMOMA)
- “This incredible sculpture by Turner Prize-winning artist Anthony Gormley, consisting of 40,000 clay figures, has been put on display at an empty Tudor manor house…. It took five days to place the humanoid characters into position across the ground floor of Barrington Court, a National Trust Property near Ilminster in Somerset. The installation ‘Field for the British Isles’, was originally created in 1993 and has been loaned to the property by the Arts Council Collection through its Trust New Art Programme.”
- Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Placebo), 1991. Installation process. Image courtesy of the Williams College Museum of Art; photo by Roman Iwasiwk (curatedobject.us)
- Dominique de Ménil supervise l’acrochage d’une toile de Barnett Newman en 1991. | Dominique de Ménil oversees the hanging of a Barnett Newman’s painting in 1991. (Marc Riboud, circa 1991, 38 x 52 cm via Galerie Verdeau, via tongue depressors; via bruvu)
1. Assistant Professor – Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University
The Department of Art, Media, and Design at DePaul University seeks to hire a tenure-track Assistant Professor with an interdisciplinary focus in digital art and in print media beginning Fall Quarter 2014. Candidates should be prepared to teach 2-D studio, digital, and seminar art courses in the department’s core curriculum as well as art courses for majors and non-majors in the university’s Liberal Studies program. Additional experience in interdisciplinary artistic practice in a particular field, such as digital imaging within the Mac platform, book art, and/or traditional and non-traditional non-toxic printmaking, etc. is encouraged. Candidates must have the appropriate terminal degree, expertise in teaching, and an extensive record of exhibition and/or ongoing creative activity. The teaching load is two courses per quarter with three quarters per academic year, and there are service and research expectations. read more and apply here.
2. Director of Communications at the Renaissance Society
The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago is seeking a Director of Communications to create, implement, and manage an integrated public relations and marketing strategy for all exhibitions, educational programs, events, community initiatives, and all other museum programming. Duties also include managing the department staff and budget, developing outreach efforts to expand the museum’s current visibility and attendance, and overseeing communication campaigns over multiple media channels. The candidate should have an in-depth knowledge of contemporary art complimented by a background in communications. Must be well informed on recent developments in contemporary art both locally and internationally. The ideal candidate will have experience of scholarly and/or critical writing on art. More info here.
3. Comics Program Assistant
4. Henry Moore Institute Critical Writing Prize: £200 Deadline: 30 October 2013
This year we launch a new Critical Writing Prize for an unpublished text of 1,000 words. The Prize is open to anyone. The brief is to develop a text on a single work from the Leeds sculpture collection or archive of sculptors’ papers, which are managed in a partnership between the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Museums and Galleries. The collection focuses on sculpture made in Britain, spanning 1850 to the present. It comprises sculptures, works on paper and archival materials, with sculptors represented including Auguste Rodin, Keith Arnatt, Phyllida Barlow, Helen Chadwick, Shelagh Cluett, Tony Cragg, Jacob Epstein, John Flaxman, Eric Gill, Daphne Hardy Henrion, Barbara Hepworth, Phillip King, Bruce McLean, Claes Oldenburg, Eva Rothschild, and Bill Woodrow. Essays should be submitted by email with a cover letter indicating which prize is being applied for and course of study, where appropriate, and sent to Kirstie Gregory (Research Programme Assistant): firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Frost Place Chapbook Competition Live, write here for a week, and get published. (Oh, there’s also a $250 prize, publication, and a fellowship.)
The Frost Place Chapbook Competition is accepting submissions through December 31, 2013. In addition to publication, the winner receives a $250 prize, a full paid fellowship to the Frost Place Poetry Seminar (valued at $1,500), and the opportunity to live and write for a week at the Frost Place Museum in Franconia, NH. This year’s judge is David Baker, author of ten books of poems and four books of prose about poetry. Among his awards are fellowships and prizes from the Theodore Roethke Memorial Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Mellon Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Poetry Society of America, Society of Midland Authors, and the Pushcart Foundation. Each submission must be accompanied by a submission fee of $25. Visit The Frost Place for details on the competition.
Last month, in the midst of the crazy Expo Chicago extravaganza, I had the pleasure of going on a tour with Gallery Weekend Chicago. GWC was founded by Chicago gallerist Monique Meloche in 2011 and offers annually a weekend of private gallery and museum tours. I went on the Sunday tour which took us down to the Washington Park and Hyde Park neighborhoods on the South Side and made stops at the Arts Incubator, the Smart Museum, the Renaissance Society, and the Logan Arts Center.
The Arts Incubator in Washington Park was the first stop of the day. This space, part of the University of Chicago’s Arts & Public Life Initiative, was conceptualized by Theaster Gates, who is now director of the project. The Incubator is home to an artist residency program, a community arts education program for teens, as well as an exhibition and performance space.
The Incubator currently hosts five resident artists. They have access to all of the facilities at the Logan Arts Center, where we headed later in the day, and have studio space at the Incubator. The Space Between, an exhibition of these artists’ work, was installed at both the Incubator and the Logan. The work addressed the social differences between these two spaces – one located in the University-centric Hyde Park, the other in the adjacent Washington Park neighborhood.
Despite the early hour of our arrival four of the five artists were kind enough to meet us at the Incubator to show us around their studios and the exhibtion: Avery Young, Cecil McDonald, Cauleen Smith, and Tomeka Reid. We were also joined by the curators Allison Glenn and Monika Szewczyk.
Cauleen Smith created two “space stations” for the exhibition – one in her studio at the Incubator and the other in the gallery at the Logan. The installation in her studio played off the aesthetic of a work space with filing cabinets, a work table and a temporary wall made from screens that she used to screenprint wallpaper for the other space station at the Logan. There were also shelves with plants and small artifacts that she made from materials found in the surrounding neighborhood: chunks of cement and fragments of a road sign.
Avery Young and Cecil McDonald have a shared studio space, the floor of which was laid out with Avery’s work for Groun(d), a solo show now up at the Incubator.
In the main exhibition space Avery Young, Tomeka Reid, and Cecil McDonald spoke to us about their work.
After going to the Smart Museum and the Renaissance Society (both of which have amazing shows up right now – Suicide Narcissus at the Renaissance Society blew me away.) we ended the day at the Logan where Monika Szewczyk showed us the other half of The Space Between, featuring Cauleen Smith’s other space station, photographs by Cecil McDonald, assemblage works by Avery Young, and sound pieces by LeRoy Bach.
Monika also gave us a tour of building and, by the way, the view from the 10th floor is pretty phenomenal.
Bailey Romaine is an artist and bibliophile based in Chicago.
Guest post by Hannah Verrill
Michal Samama is a performance artist and choreographer from Israel. 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. The following dialogue ensued:
Hannah Verrill: I’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. I am curious about how you come to ‘know’ the work that you are making as you are making it. Do you use video as a reflective surface to see what you are making?
Michal Samama: Now I find myself using video, but it didn’t start that way. I became so interested in the images, in creating images and then of course changing the images, transforming them into other images. 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. Over the past few years I’ve also started to take photos of my body and my movement in the studio. 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. Those moments that I’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. Video can tell me if the image or sometimes also the timing is right. My question is what is that ‘right’? What is the right image? What is the right timing?
HV: For me, time is something where video and live don’t match up. 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.
MS: It’s interesting because when I look at the video, and again, it’s a tool, it always seems for me that I don’t take enough time. That in live I push myself too fast, that it actually needs to be slower.
HV: Right, and video helps you see that or know that.
MS: 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. It’s something I’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. This other layer, the negotiation between the way I build or shape the external image with what’s going on inside, and there is the encounter with the audience.
I remember the moment when I started look out. I think there’s a difference between this external artificial gaze into the audience versus really looking. Of course it’s a solo, like I am the performer and you are looking at me, but then I’m looking back at you and maybe you feel awkward or embarrassed, but maybe you are thinking about your next doctor’s appointment or your surgery.
HV: Would you say that there’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: Yes, or you could think of it as a dialogue. It’s about questioning this idea of me as the performer being the authority. Or it’s also about questioning what is your (the audience’s) role here. I started to think more of this idea of performance as a collective event or social event. This is what is unique for performance. 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. I was too afraid or I didn’t know what to do with it. But now it’s different, and I’ve started to make it more and more what I do. I’m interested in this kind of transformation of images happening during the performance. Part of the transformation of course is the homework that I worked on in the studio—the choreography—but of course part of it is like what you’re saying, the feedback. So in the end there are many more transformations than what I initially thought of because of the presence of the audience.
HV: I wonder if you could talk about the process you’re engaged in currently with this upcoming performance.
MS: In some ways this is the most difficult process to speak of because it is happening right now. I’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. But of course in performance you can’t really do it. I mean that’s what I’m trying to do, but there is always the body as a whole.
HV: Right, and the space that the body is in.
MS: The space, and the sound, and everything. 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. I mean, with performance we can too, but it’s very different.
MS: 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? 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 don’t do this theatrical thing of having a set stage, and then I perform, and then someone cleans it up. 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. So I said OK, I’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. I’m naked also. So now I think that seventy percent of the performance is with the bag balanced on my head.
HV: So you came to the studio with your bag of materials. 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? 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. 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. 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: It’s also a precarious situation because the bag could fall. Does the bag fall?
MS: 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. New things can happen. For example I was working in an earlier piece with rocks, holding seven rocks. During the first performance one of the rocks fell and it had never happened to me before, and it never happened after. Just that first performance. And yesterday my husband came to the studio to see this current piece for the first time, and I’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: 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. It occurs to me that the external image aside, you wouldn’t know what’s risky or vulnerable without feeling it, that it’s a felt thing. It’s not exactly conceptual, but rather it seems as though it would need to feel legitimately risky for you.
MS: There is something very clear about the images, but then the risk is in the movement. Otherwise it would be just like a photo. A static image.
HV: Does risk and vulnerability enter into the audience’s experience of your work?
MS: 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 cliché now. It’s a question of how to work with it. 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? 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. In my performances I think in a subtle way I try to ask them to be active. What I don’t want to do is to give instructions, this is not my way, I like that the way is more hidden. To give more space, to create the space for negotiations.
HV: And choice making as well, your audience can choose how and to what degree to participate. But you’re not letting them off the hook either.
MS: Yes. This may be a solo, but don’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. 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. It’s your choice, and it’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. And then almost with everyone else they were imitating this. So there’s this kind of peer pressure, or how we follow what our peer just did.
HV: 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. It occurs to me that you cannot rehearse this aspect of the work, the interaction between you and your viewer(s). 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.
MS: That’s the thing. I’m not so much into this idea of a closed production. It’s not just this thing where you come, and you see something, and you stay out of it. It’s more like a social experiment. Of course I’m leading it and bringing the materials, the proposal. I’m proposing something, and then it can change. Parts of the work are very choreographed—there is a choreography in place—but still it is changing all the time. There is an ongoing influence between you and I.
Hannah Verrill is an artist living and making work in Chicago, Illinois.