Obsolescent Performance: Tercer Cuerpo/Timbre 4 at the MCA

September 27, 2013 · Print This Article

Tercer Cuerpo,the claustrophobic experimental play by Argentinian company Timbre 4 opening at the MCA next weekend, takes place, according to director Claudio Tolcachir, in “an office that doesn’t have any more reason for being, its services have no meaning.”  While remaining in the office set, characters as obsolete as the space in which they labor appear to act in other settings, other places. Tercer Cuerpo is partly about labor and identity, particularly the disappearance of sustainable, meaningful jobs for people. What happens to these characters, and us, when we must find meaning in our lives apart from a career or calling? The always-already obsolescence of the form of theater makes the piece of interest to representing labor in contemporary performance and medium specificity in dealing with contemporary collapses of space and time. But the company Timbre 4 is also a landmark for contemporary Argentinan art practices; their home base in the working-class Boedo neighborhood of Buenos Aires has become a hotbed and model for independent, experimental theater and performance.

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Tercer Cuerpo, courtesy of the MCA 

 

This Spring MCA’s Yolanda Cesta Cursach talked with Tolcachir about the approaching Chicago debut of Timbre 4. Her interview, translated by Cursach, appears below.

YC:  In Tercer Cuerpo, it seems the playing area is some undeniable womb for five very different biographies.

CT: Tercer Cuerpo is a fragmented telling of 5 simple stories crisscrossing the solitude of these individuals immensely incapable of dealing with what life deals them.

The decadence of the playing area reflects the characters’ personal disorientation. They want something from their lives. Simple things. Things that in general can be had. But they don’t, and this situation causes them enormous shame.

What I like in live theater is getting absorbed and at the same time taken by the story to an uncomfortable place. But this still depends on an intimate place, for my discomfort being the spectator can identify with the great and the small. With what is being known in my heart. In that divide between laughing at the same time that we could cry is where we identify with others.

YC: Timbre 4 has toured widely outside Latin America. What’s the audience’s response to your plays?

CT: It’s fascinating, sometimes foreigners are even more demonstrative that Argentine people. I don’t know if that’s because they find the plays odd. When you write a play, you think of the audience of your country. Furthermore, these plays are shown with subtitles, so I don’t know whether the translations are alright or not, I just trust the translators. I remember once, in Dublin, a man asked me, “Did you get inspiration from an Irish family?” In France, for instance, people asked, “Do all Argentine mothers sleep with their sons?” European people are amazed by the fact that we Argentine artists create plays with a very low budget. They can’t believe some actors rehearse for free and, even so, the plays are still amazing.

YC:  You seem to be interested in alternative family ties.

CT: I believe that everything revolves around the family—building a family is building a society too. Hamlet can be a political play or a family drama. I’d rather make the spectator feel involved with the story between the characters than anything else.

YC: Timbre 4 is an ensemble. What is your connection after 12 years since forming ?

CT: Our theater is about investigation, and we have modest beginnings keeping us aware of our city’s social situation and the multitude of other storefront theaters’ beginnings. From staying together all these years we manage to overcome the limitations of our neighborhood and of experimental theater, so that we can get the regenerating public which we so want to reach.

YC: What’s the difference in Argentina between mainstream plays and storefront plays?

CT: I’ve performed a lot in mainstream theatre, as an actor. The production scheme is different. When you are directing a mainstream play, you ask for a couch and the next day you have it in the set. In off-theatre plays, you have to get in your car, start your engine, go to a market and buy the couch yourself. But then, the feeling between the actors is the same. I’ve never directed a play I didn’t like. I couldn’t direct a play if there was a bad working environment.

YC: Why make theater at all? What is so irrepressible about treating your writing this way?

CT: In my case it’s completely selfish. Theater makes me happy, I feel alive, excited from it, and to be honest I’m not good for anything else. Investigation, risk, collaboration, unraveling and breaking routine each time never ceases to seduce me.




EDITION #12

July 1, 2013 · Print This Article

The scene on Milwaukee Avenue this weekend.

Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival Roundup

As if Logan Square wasn’t already the best neighborhood in Chicago (sorry haterz), this weekend’s Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival was the perfect combination of art, craft and deliciousness. The festival had everything: boneless rib sandwiches, hot dogs, cheese burgers, italian sausages, cheese fries, funnel cakes, Wisconsin cheddar curds, corn dogs, chicken strips, cheese sticks, cheese curds, nachos and potato skins. Here are a few of the highlights:

All of the things!

Lisa Lindvay somehow managed to make Doritos gorgeous at one of the SLAC storefront exhibitions

We loved Natalie Krick’s clever use of the dressing rooms in the abandoned clothing store where one of the SLAC exhibitions took place.

WTT? is a longtime GDBD fan, so we were of course delighted to see member Jamie Steele’s work, Lady (2013) at MAAF.

The extremely lovely and extraordinarily talented Nadine Nakanishi at her booth for Sonnenzimmer.

Photo courtesy of J. Herrington

Finding Sustenance at CAC’s Starving Artist

Starving Artist. It’s a charged phrase that elicits reaction from our guts – whether artist, admin or educator – so it was no mistake Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) chose it as the banner to hold over their annual artist+chef mash-up, raising funding and awareness for its mission to build a sustainable marketplace for artists and creative’s.

Photo courtesy of J. Herrington

Billed as “the experiential artist and culinary event of the year,” CAC pairs a handful of chefs from foodie institutions across the city with esteemed visual artists to inspire one another in creating edible “installations” to be enjoyed by the crowd and new works of art to be auctioned off the night of the event. 2013 saw collaborations between Jordan Martins and Abraham Conlon (Fat Rice), Sabina Ott and Bill Kim (bellyQ), Theaster Gates and Erick Williams (MK), Cody Hudson and Jared Wentworth (Longman & Eagle), and Marissa Lee Benedict with Benjamin Newby (Hennessy Black.) Additionally, Claire Ashley and Andrea Morris transformed CAC’s main gallery into an ethereal, celestial-like space, perfect for the obligatory after-hours dance party.

Photo courtesy of J. Herrington

Now in it’s third consecutive year, Starving Artist has proven to be a perfect concoction of collaboration. By partnering with taste makers (pun intended) throughout the food industry, which has its very own devout following for the artistry of the chefs they love, CAC has found a way to cross-pollinate audiences, capitalizing on shared aesthetics while aiming to develop new audiences for the arts. So far it’s a sweet – and savory – success.

Photo courtesy of J. Herrington

The Weatherman Report

Georges Seurat, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte — 1884, 1884-6 Oil on canvas (81 3/4 x 121 1/4 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection.

Totally #Trending

Getting your nails did: If you haven’t signed up for an mani appointment at Dzine’s Imperial Nail Salon (my parents’ living room) at the MCA we don’t even know you.

The always fashionable Etta Sandry‘s nail sensation.

Chelsea Culp’s manicure even has chains! I die.

Cardboard: From cats to art fairs, card board is totally trending.

Colin Dickson‘s formal yet functional Donald Judd-esque cardboard cat scratcher in the window of “The Whisker.” We can haz cats while waiting in line?!

Aron Gent’s cardboard palace for Document & Threewall‘s joint booth at the Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival.

Orange: No further proof needed than the ongoing and extreme popularity of the negroni slushies from Parson’s Chicken & Fish.

Mobile negroni slushie’s at MAAF this weekend. Photo via Parson’s Facebook.

You Spin Me Right Round

Rotating cermaic pot by Chealsea Culp & Ben Foch on view at Rainbo Club in Wicker Park. Is it weird that an art opening at a bar feels more like an art opening than most art openings?

SPOTTED!

LS Alderman, Rey Colón, checking out a photo by Garrett Baumer at one of the SLAC’s pop-up art exhibitions on Milkwaukee.

Robert Chase Heishman‘s work at the MAAF Document/Threewalls booth VS an Urban Outfitter’s backsplash. I think we all know who the winner of this battle is…

Come one, come all!




Chicago Art in Pictures: February 2013

March 18, 2013 · Print This Article

A graphic, editorial overview of art, artists, and visual art events, found in and around Chicago over the course of the preceding month. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.

Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists / ACRE Residency

Mothergirl @ Happy Collaborationists

Above: Mothergirl, a performance art duo featuring Sophia Hamilton, foreground, and Katy Albert, background, working within wooden boxes.

Anna Trier and Meredith Weber @ Happy Collaborationists

Above: The Happy Collaborationists, Meredith Weber, left, and Anna Trier, right, hosting Mothergirl’s “Two Women Do Three Things,” on February 9, 2013.

Mothergirl
“Two Women Do Three Things”
February 9, 2013
Happy Collaborationists, in partnership with ACRE Residency
1254 N. Noble
Chicago, IL 60642
http://happycollaborationists.com/

Martin Creed @ MCA Chicago

Martin Creed Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) @ MCA Chicago

Above: A 10 second exposure, hand-held, indicating the kinetic potential of Martin Creed’s popular piece “MOTHERS.”

Martin Creed Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS) @ MCA Chicago

Above: Visible in the museum lobby, background, are the geometric architectural paintings Work No. 798 (2007) and Work No. 1349 (2012).

Martin Creed
Work No. 1092, Work No. 1357 (MOTHERS)
Museum of Contemporary Art
MVDR Plaza – till May
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Chris Smith @ The Franklin

Visitation Rites @ The Franklin

Above: Chris Smith’s “Visitation Rites” art burn in progress on Februrary 9, 2013.

Christopher Smith @ The Franklin

Above: Chelsea Culp and Ben Foch view Chris Smith’s “The Visitor’s Hours” within The Franklin, opening night.

IMG_8249A

Above: A gallery patron embraced by a neighborhood resident during the opening reception.

Christopher Smith
“The Visitor’s Hours” and “Visitation Rites”
February 9 – 24, 2013
The Franklin
3522 W. Franklin Blvd
Chicago, IL
http://thefranklinoutdoor.tumblr.com/

Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Leslie Baum in Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Leslie Baum in Drawer’s Drawing @ PEREGRINEPROGRAM

Above: Leslie Baum’s “In the Forest,” 2012, full work and detail.

“Drawer’s Drawing”
February 3 – March 3, 2013
Julius Caesar and Peregrine Program
3311 W. Carroll Ave.
Chicago, IL 60624
Curated by Carrie Gundersdorf and Eric Lebofsky
Artwork by Leslie Baum, Avantika Bawa, Elijah Burgher, Lilli Carré, Chris Edwards, Anthony Elms, Richard Rezac, and Paul Schuette
http://lesliebaum.net/

Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Kayl Parker in Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Above: Kayl Parker’s 60″ x 75″ photographic print on vinyl

Alysia Alex in Peculiar Poetics @ Design Cloud

Above: “Peculiar Poetics” curator Alysia Alex, opening night.

Kayl Parker
“Peculiar Poetics”
February 1 – 23, 2013
Design Cloud
118 N. Peoria, Suite 2N
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Alysia Alex
Artwork by Kayl Parker, Brea Souders, Stephanie Gonot, Bridget Collins, Mate Moro, Aron Filkey, Marthe Elise Stramrud, Sasha Kurmaz, and Sol Hashemi
http://kaylparker.com/

Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Above: Front to back, artwork by Heidi Norton, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder.

Geoffrey Todd Smith in Plant Life @ Western Exhibitions

Above: “Plant Life” curator Geoffrey Todd Smith, opening night.

“Plant Life”
February 1 – March 9, 2013
Western Exhibitions
845 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
Curated by Geoffrey Todd Smith
Artwork by Chinatsu Ikeda, Eric Wert, Heidi Norton, Jonathan Gardener, Mindy Rose Schwartz, Scott Wolniak, and Tyson Reeder
http://www.westernexhibitions.com/

Shit is Real @ devening projects + editions

Cody Hudson @ devening projects + editions

Above: “You Can’t Win Them All” by Cody Hudson.

Aron Gent @ devening projects + editions

Above: Artwork by Aron Gent, as photographed during the opening reception at devening projects + editions, on February 3, 2013.

Aron Gent @ Document

Above: Aron Gent at his own gallery, Document, photographed on February 1, 2013.

“Shit is Real”
February 3 – March 9, 2013
devening projects + editions
3039 W. Carroll,
Chicago, IL 60612
Artwork by Aron Gent, Carrie Gundersdorf, Cody Hudson, Sofia Leiby, Josh Reames and Cody Tumblin
http://deveningprojects.com/

Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist

Judith Geichman @ Carrie Secrist

Above: Gallery patrons view Judith Geichman’s installation during the opening reception.

Erik Wenzel

Above: Chicago writer and artist Erik Wenzel, bon vivant in the shadow of existential doubt, at Judith Geichman’s opening reception on February 9, 2013.

Judith Geichman
“New Paintings and Works on Paper”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Carrie Secrist Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.secristgallery.com/

Color Bind @ MCA

Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White

Above: Rudolf Stingel’s oil painting “Untitled (after Sam),” 2006.

Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White

Above: Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 1971, foreground; Glenn Lingon “White #11,” 1994, and Imi Knoebel, “Untitled (Black Painting),” 1990, background.

“Color Bind: The MCA Collection in Black and White,”
Organized by MCA Curator Naomi Beckwith
November 10, 2012 – April 28, 2013
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Mary Patten @ threewalls

Mary Patten's "Schizo-Culture" performance live in "PANEL" @ threewalls

Above: Mary Patten’s “Schizo-Culture” performance live, February 9, 2013

Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault live in Mary Patten's "PANEL" @ threewalls

Above: Dr. Darrell Moore as Michel Foucault in “Schizo-Culture” at threewalls.

Mary Patten: “PANEL”
January 11 – February 23, 2013
threewalls
119 N. Peoria #2c
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.three-walls.org/

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Above: Ceramic artist Sarah Hicks greeting a guest at her opening reception on Friday, February 22, 2013.

Sarah Hicks @ Thomas Robertello

Sarah Hicks
“Pop Garden!”
February 22 – April 6, 2013
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.thomasrobertello.com/

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Above: Goshka Macuga’s “The Nature of the Beast” booked for a meeting, social dimension evident, on February 12, 2013.

Goshka Macuga @ MCA Chicago

Above: “Of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not,” (panel 1).

“Goshka Macuga: Exhibit, A”
December 15, 2012 – April 7, 2013
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
220 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
http://www.mcachicago.org/

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Luc Dratwa @ Kasia Kay

Above: Exterior window, looking in gallery from sidewalk, at night.

Luc Dratwa
“NY Tales”
February 22 – March 30
Kasia Kay Projects
215 N. Aberdeen St.
Chicago, IL 60607
http://www.kasiakaygallery.com/

Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen / ACRE Projects

Tom Costa and Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen

Above: Christina McClelland, foreground, and Tom Costa, background.

Christina McClelland @ Roxaboxen Exhibitions

Above: Christina McClelland at the opening reception on February, 10, 2013.

Tom Costa & Christina McClelland
“After the After Party”
February 10, 2013
Roxaboxen Exhibitions in partnership with ACRE Projects
2130 W. 21st St.
Chicago, IL
http://christinamcclelland.com/

Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche

Gabriel Vormstein @ moniquemeloche

Gabriel Vormstein
“Tempus fungit – amor mannet”
February 1 – March 30, 2013
moniquemeloche gallery
2154 W Division St.
Chicago, IL 60622
http://moniquemeloche.com/

Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta

Johanna Billing @ Kavi Gupta

Johanna Billing
“I’m gonna live anyhow until I die”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Kavi Gupta Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.kavigupta.com/

Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz

Robert Burnier @ Andrew Rafacz

Above: Robert Burnier at his opening reception on February 9, 2013.

Robert Burnier
“The Horseless Carriage”
February 9 – March 30, 2013
Andrew Rafacz Gallery
835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.andrewrafacz.com/

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus @ ACRE Projects

Matt Nichols & Kristina Paabus
“The Jerks”
February 10 – 25, 2013
ACRE Projects
1913 W. 17th St.
Chicago, IL 60608
http://www.acreresidency.org/

Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio

Xavier Cha @ Aspect Ratio

Xavier Cha
“Hourglass”
February 9 – March 8, 2013
Aspect Ratio
119 N. Peoria St., Unit 3D
Chicago IL 60607
http://www.aspectratioprojects.com/


Paul Germanos: Born November 30, 1967, Cook County, Illinois. Immigrant grandparents, NYC. High school cross country numerals and track letter. Certified by the State of Illinois as a peace officer. Licensed by the City of Chicago as a taxi driver. Attended the School of the Art Institute 1987-1989. Studied the history of political philosophy with the students of Leo Strauss from 2000-2005. Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. Motorcyclist.




EDITION #5

March 18, 2013 · Print This Article

MCA programming edgier than a basement party in Pilsen

In her recent AFC review, Robin Deluzen wrote that the MCA is “on a roll” and What’s the T? couldn’t agree more.

This Tuesday will mark the opening of Jason Lazurus’ much anticipated and hotly discussed 12×12 BMO Harris Bank Chicago Works Exhibition. The exhibition appears to actually be three in one and has more programming than Michigan Avenue has drunk people on St. Patricks Day. The schedule includes (but is not limited to) signs for strolling, piano performances, a gif film screening (April 18th at Gene Siskel Film Center/ Conversations the Edge), and sign-making tutorials. The exhibition(s) and performances will be on view through June 18th.

Next Tuesday, March 26th, Chicago’s White/Light will be performing with [freaking] Kim Gordon. The only thing more exciting would be a Sonic Youth secret reunion show, but WTT? isn’t complaining. Tickets are free (!), but space is limited. Get our your camping gear out, this will be one for the ages.

As if all that and a bag of chips wasn’t enough, Oak Park natives, Tavi Gevinson and Jonah Ansell will be at the museum on April 23rd to discuss their work on the animated short, Cadaver. No offense Jonah Ansell, but OMG TAVI! The event includes a screening of the short and a discussion with Gevinson and Ansell moderated by Heidi Reitmaier, the MCA’s Beatrice C. Mayer Director of Education.

Oak Park Suburbanites, Gevinson and Ansell

Reading is Fundamental

Local band Fish proves e-cigs still trending. Image courtesy of The Foundation for Jiggles.

Local bands play music at bar

If you’ve ever walked by The Mutiny, you’ve probably noticed the “Bands Wanted” notice prominently displayed in their front window. If you’ve ever actually been inside the Fullerton Ave bar, you probably know why.

Regardless, a consortium of artists from The Hills to The West Pilsen Sculpture Garden have somehow managed to further expand their practices and are now “with the band, man.” The innocuously named “Chicago Music CDs showcase / CD release party” promises to be a glorious happening of music and stuff.

The show will feature “emerging new chicago music and experimental performance talent” such as FREE THE UNIVERSE (members of Fish, New Capital, Auditor), Fish (members of FREE THE UNIVERSE, Auditor), Ghosts (members of My Bad) and My Bad (members of Ghosts), amongst other bands no one has ever heard of because they probably didn’t exist until this show.

At least it’s free.

Thursday, March 28th at 8PM. The Mutiny 2428 N Western Ave, Chicago, Illinois 60647.

Michelle Obama has bangs!

Brandon Alvendia’s Sofa King What?

Show was worth the trek to Bridgeport. His practice invigorates others and that’s what’s important.

Header image is a detail shot of Heather Mekkelson‘s recent installation at +medicine cabinet in Bridgeport, near Sofa King.

‘The Alley’

SMALLTIME ARCHIPHILE:

The Fireside Bowl

‘Over the line’ and ‘Hey motherfucker, we’re that Spic band’ aren’t two expressions you might simultaneously hear unless you like The Big Lebowski and Los Crudos. But you may have heard it at some point in the 1990s while bowling your mediocre 104, eating a pizza and watching an iconic hardcore punk show at Fireside Bowl. Seldom do you get the productive slippage between national slacker pastime and radical teenage angst that would have been a mainstay at Fireside. This modern gem modularly clad in red-and-white metal tile façade, symmetrically planned with bowling on one end and horizontal circulation on the other, activating corner spaces where the action happened – stage left and bar right – looks more like a Firestone than a punk bowling alley.

Los Crudos show, 1999

Beginning with its 40 ft signage that is part pop-advertising, part surrealist call-to-bowl, Fireside’s modernism plays out in typical plan, allowing basic front-to-back bowling to occur next to stage dives, dog piles and circle pits in a circulatory space no wider than 15 ft – folding slow-paced sport and high-energy hardcore into the same form. Sporting seedy bar décor and MS-DOS-like scoring machines, Fireside’s ability to transport you to a time you never experienced is uncanny. Built in the 1940s, no doubt typified by modernist aesthetic leanings, Fireside is a monument to simplicity of a pre-digital era, where you could’ve killed two birds – bowling and slamdancing – with one roll.

Night shot of Fireside facade

Fireside still has shows, although not as iconic or plentiful as this show list from the mid 90s. Take a gander, go to Logan Square and be a shitty bowler, while this building still exists between eras, pastimes and subcultures, easily annihilating any validity to cosmic bowling.

The Fireside is located at 2646 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647.

Alvendia and Sofa King proprietor Christopher Smith speaking with a visotor at the opening.


Comfort Station regains will to comfort

The much-beloved Logan Square Comfort Station is much-missed during the winter months when the tiny art shelter is too cold to host their usually full schedule of exhibitions, screenings and musical performances. As a result of actual community effort, the 1915 structure is embarking on a much needed and environmentally friendly weatherproofing, funded in part by a Kickstarter and in-partnership with Logan Square business, Biofoam, a sustainable insulation company.

Limited Edition Print by Sonnenzimmer available through contribution to LSCS Kickstarter Campaign.

Not only will the Comfort Station get a physical makeover, their programming returns on Saturday, April 6th* with the exhibition “Sounds from the second floor: Isak Applin and Adam Ekberg”. What’s the T? has also heard rumors of a brand new website and more new programs for the Station’s 2013 Season.

Comfort Station Logan Square has impressively reached their Kickstarter goal with over a week to go, but if you donate now you still have a chance to get the most Logan of Squares tote bag possible and your name on a list alongside Chicago art luminaries and trendsetters (this reporter included).

* Which is, thankfully, not in conflict with the April 7th two-hour Mad Men Season 6 premiere.




Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People – And lose the name of action

January 31, 2013 · Print This Article

Guest Post by Jane Jerardi

Miguel Gutierrez comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago this weekend with one of his newest works, And lose the name of action.  The evening-length piece features a striking cast of note-worthy performers – Michelle Boulé, Hilary Clark, Luke George, Miguel Gutierrez, K.J. Holmes, and Ishmael Houston-Jones. Inspired by Jørgen Leth’s film The Perfect Human, the elusive logic of dance improvisation, philosophical quandaries about the brain, and the 19th century spiritualist movement, the piece draws connections between the analytical and the unexplainable, grappling with the limits of language and the ever-present spectre of death. It features music by Neal Medlyn, lighting design by Lenore Doxsee, and film/text by Boru O’Brien O’Connell.

KJ Holmes in Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People's "And lose the name of action," Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

KJ Holmes in Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

Often cited as a provocative voice in the contemporary dance and performance scene, Gutierrez — like many in his generation — works across mediums.  His poems appear as published performance texts and he designs solo performance works as well as projects with collections of performers and collaborators under the moniker the ‘Powerful People.’   A Guggenheim Fellow, his work has appeared as such venues as the Festival D’Automne in Paris; the TBA Festival/PICA in Portland, OR; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN; UNAM in Mexico City, and ImPulsTanz in Vienna, among others. Equally admired as a teacher, he has built a following for his improvisation/choreography classes as well as his ‘DEEP Aerobics’ workouts. In mid-January, I met Miguel Gutierrez at the Abrons Arts Center amidst the first weekend of the American Realness Festival – an annual festival of contemporary dance and performance in New York. We chatted in a quiet spot near the dressing rooms about his upcoming engagement at the MCA – including the powerhouse cast performing, the ghost hunt they went on during a residency to build the work, and the limits of language when it comes to dance.  Here are some excerpts from our conversation…

Abrons Arts Center, New York, NY, January 13, 2013

Jane Jerardi: Maybe first we should start first with you just talking a bit about the genesis of the project you’ll be performing at the MCA, And lose the name of action?

Miguel Gutierrez: Sure.  I think I’m going to paint my nails as we do this [pulls out two shades of blue metallic nail polish] if that’s okay with you.

JJ: Sure.  Talk about mind and body…!

MG: It feels like the right question to paint your nails to…  Well, the piece really came out of a couple of things.  In some ways it was an extension of Last Meadow [Gutierrez’s previous piece], which is unusual for me, because usually when I finish a piece I want to change gears.  But, by the time we got around to finishing Last Meadow, I realized I was only beginning to understand what I was doing.  Towards the end of the project, I was introduced to this book The Meaning of the Body, by Mark Johnson, which calls for getting rid of the mind/body split, once and for all.  It’s beautifully stated, but reading it as a dancer, there was a moment where I thought, “This seems fairly obvious.”  For a person who has any kind of relationship to somatics, you of course recognize that the mind and body are connected; that perception is an embodied practice, and that all contexts are experienced through a sort of corporeal interaction. I thought to myself, This sounds like a contact improv class. And I thought, why is this new? I think it was that initial indignation that led to the piece. I felt like why isn’t this something that is known?  The second impulse for the work, was my dad.  My dad had a series of neurological problems in 2008.  He had a series of blood clots in his brain that were note properly diagnosed for several years. He had stroke-type things and then seizures, which then progressed during my research for And lose the name of action.

JJ: That sounds scary.

MG: Aside from the fact that it sucked, I think a couple of things came out of it. Here was a person I knew in a certain way, and suddenly he was changing. It sounds sort of basic, a basic experience of change. I say basic, but it was a quite radical. Suddenly, I was subjected to doctors telling me, This is what’s happening, This is what’s not happening – but no one knows what’s happening. Everyone is guessing.  You start to see that that the way we constitute a sense of self and reality are deeply subjective. And, out of your control. You’re in the hospital with your dad and there’s nothing you can do, aside from being present.  At the time I was thinking, “What is it that I can offer here? As a dancer? As a person with some naïve study of somatic practices?” I can be present.  I can be an emotional support. I can be resonate and present in a way that is specific to what I do. It felt clear, but I felt very conscious that I don’t share a language with these doctors.  I can’t assume they know of specific somatic practices or say, “Hey, have you heard of the Feldenkrais Method?” or “Do you know about Body Mind Centering?”

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

JJ: You realize how marginalized some of these movement practices are.

MG: Absolutely. I mean marginalized isn’t even the word.  They’re invisible. I started to see how when people talk about brain, they are talking about mind. Lots of words are being used interchangeably.  There’s a lot of lack clarity in definition between disciplines.  How is it that we have the same vocabulary but we aren’t using words in the same way?  I started to examine the value system around my teaching and practice.  What is valuable about an improvisational performance practice?  It is a kind of knowledge and a way of knowing, but quite different than other modes of knowing.  And I though about Why am I so invested in this ‘unknowing knowing’?  Why am I so mistrustful of alleged truths? That was all the stuff that led me into And lose the name of action. Then, I started thinking about ghosts and the paranormal. What about an immaterial body?  What about a discipline of study that doesn’t even presume that the body has to be tangible anymore? When we had our first residency we went on our first ghost hunt.

JJ: Tell me about that.

MG: We went on this ghost hunt with paranormal investigators–crazy ladies in Tallahassee, FL…  which sounds funny, but are these ‘paranormal investigators’ wrong?  For them, it is true.  If they see a ghost or hear a voice, if they’re having that experience, then that’s their embodied truth.  That’s what’s going on here in this conversation of perception and truth. If I experience my father as my father even if he’s in a coma, is he not my father? If I feel that this is blue [pointing to his nail polish] and this is a lighter blue than the other blue [pointing to another bottle of darker blue nail polish] and I have a certain feeling about it. Am I wrong? Because there’s actually no way for me to definitely know how blue this is.   It’s all these kinds of…

JJ: Big questions.  Really big questions.

MG: So, yeah [laughing] that’s what the show is about.  [Joking] It’s just about a couple small things…

JJ: So how did this all play out in your explorations in the studio?

MG: A lot of talking, a lot of improvisational exploration… In the piece, the bodies are the proof of themselves.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

Because of the way that the piece exists – even though the audience is onstage, even though people are really close to us – it feels like something is at a distance. I had originally thought it would be really great to make a piece that didn’t involve bodies at all.  I mean why do there have to be bodies?  It’s so weird and silly – why are there bodies on stage at this point in history?  Can’t we just go…

JJ: Totally virtual?

MG: Yeah – not even virtual or holograms – but… there are people that are doing that – work that’s about post-human bodies – but, I am still invested in the interpersonal dynamics of being in the room with people. That’s what keeps me interested in my work.

JJ: I think it goes back to the value thing.  What’s at the core of what you do?

MG: And where do you build knowledge? Where do you build a sense of how you understand things and how you perceptively locate yourself in the world? When I look at dance, I can understand it. What does that mean? Not one specific, concrete meaning.  Rather, as I’m watching the dance, I am understanding it and grappling with comprehension.  And that perceptual act becomes a way to construct meaning.  That doesn’t necessarily translate easily into language. I mean I like words. I can talk. But, dance actually offers another perceptual experience in time. I don’t think this is exclusive to dance, either. Mark Johnson argues that reality is actually an aesthetic experience. He doesn’t use this exact language – but we’re choreographing our way through our lives. And, that feels really powerful in relationship to what performance or a body in action can do. It doesn’t always happen. Most of the time, dance is written about exclusively as a visual rendering but, that’s not the whole picture…

Working with Deborah Hay was pretty instrumental for me.  Something she would say is, “The movement is just a costume for perception.”  And, I feel that’s really true. That’s my experience of dancing actually…  So much of what intrigues me about dancing is about contending with myself in the moment.  And all the fucked-up-ness of that question.

JJ: “Contending with things in the moment” is the way that people talk often about improvisation. You’re working with a pretty incredible set of improvisers as collaborators performing in the work.  I wondered if you wanted to talk a little bit about that?  I mean it’s a very diverse, powerhouse group of people.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Boru O'Brien O'Connell.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Boru O’Brien O’Connell.

MG: Yes.  I wanted to have a group – well first, that weren’t all young 20-year olds.  I wanted a diverse age range for this piece.  I hadn’t worked with a group of people who were older than me before.  And, I wanted a group of improvisers who could own themselves in a very clear way. I wanted to work with people who seemed restless or curious.  And, I feel like that’s pretty true of this group!

JJ: So, you’re working with Michelle Boulé…

MG: Hilary Clark, Luke George, KJ Holmes, and Ishmael Houston-Jones.  At first, I was a little like – oh my god, who am I to tell these people what to do? It really did feel that way.  Which was great, because I wanted to be challenged directorially.

JJ: It seemed to make a lot of sense to me because you’re dealing with a kind of big existential topic – life and death, philosophical truths such as ‘person-hood’ and ‘being.’ It requires a certain maturity.

MG: Yes.  It feels important that the audience is looking at people who have contended with things. I also think that I was going through something about casting in general. This thing that often happens in the dance field is people don’t take into consideration the representational value of the bodies that are there.

JJ: Which is kind of saying, maybe the visual does matter.  The way that we read bodies matters.

MG: Absolutely.  Bodies come marked. But, it feels like often the problem with the visual rendering thing is that people ignore it in the most important aspects in some ways.  Because they think “I’m dealing with abstraction.” Or, something neutral. I know that when I first went into dance as an adult, I was excited about how it contrasted to theater, because I didn’t feel like I could get type-cast in the same way. I didn’t have to audition to fulfill just one thing. It wasn’t like – “Oh, I’m that Latino kid.” So, it’s funny to have come full circle and now become hyper-conscious about who is on the stage.  But also, I think now more than ever – the way artists work – you’d be hard-pressed to find a choreographer whose not working explicitly collaboratively with their dancers. Although, I sort of suspect that’s always been true.  There’s a real thought around how you have people involved in your process.

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People, And lose the name of action, National Center for Choreography, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida. Photo: Chris Cameron

JJ: I wonder if we could talk about some of the other collaborators involved and, some of the sources because in a way you could think of sources as collaborators.

MG: Somewhere towards the beginning of the process I read Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen. I realized that writers give themselves permission to do so much.  You really can go there.  You can interrelate different things.  A novel – or that kind of novel let’s say – doesn’t aspire to be minimalist. Certainly there’s editing. But it doesn’t see reduction as the only compositional value to explore.  As someone who has struggled with living in an aesthetic climate where minimalism is privileged above all else, I’m excited to encounter work that deals with interrelating or association. I started to realize that what we were making – in a sense – was a novel. For example, each dancer wears multiple costumes in the piece – I’d never done that before.  Or, even having people leave [the stage space].

JJ: By having people leave and re-enter there could suddenly be chapters.

MG: Yes, I really feel like the piece does unfold in that way.

JJ: Even though a lot of the piece comes from the idea of embodiment, you’re also using text in the piece. Could you could talk a little bit about how the text figures into the work? What drew you to using text?

MG: The bulk of the text it written by Boru O’Brien O’Connell (who also collaborated to create video projections).  Some of the text is an appropriation of George Berkeley’s writings.

Text is often used as the locator of meaning. And, if it exists in a performance – that’s when we’re like – there’s the meaning!  That definitely happens in this piece. But, it also functions as a texture. It functions…almost like a kind of perfume….

JJ: That’s a nice image.

MG: …A kind of experience that’s not even exclusively about it being attached to understanding.

And lose the name of action appears at the MCA, Chicago January 31 – February 3, 2013.  For more information and tickets: http://www.mcachicago.org/performances/now/all/2013/884 This performance is part of the IN>TIME Festival. http://www.in-time-performance.org/

Jane Jerardi is an artist working in the media of choreography, performance, and video installation.  Currently based in Chicago, her work has been presented at such venues as Transformer and The Warehouse (Washington DC), Defibrillator (Chicago IL); Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church and the LUMEN Festival for Video and Performance (New York), among others.  She is one third of the cohort that runs Adult Contemporary, an alternative art space in Logan Square.  She teaches at Columbia College, Chicago, where she is also on staff at the Dance Center.