This spring at the Center for the Arts we bring you work that is of today: innovative, inquisitive and sure to surprise and engage you. Continuing our exploration of Music & Public Life, we bring you a concert of music from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello–what you might have heard both in the mansion and in the slaves’ quarters–where audiences will have the chance to experience the first glass harmonica on the Crowell Concert Hall stage. The great activist and trumpeter Hugh Masekela will bring his band to Wesleyan, and our own West African Drumming ensemble will have the chance to open for him. In dance, we bring back Andrea Miller’s Gallim Dance after their performance at the DanceMasters Weekend Showcase in 2011 brought audiences to their feet. Her piece Mama Call investigates her Spanish-Sephardic heritage, and the reprise of Pupil features the spirited music of Balkan Beat Box. In theater, we bring the master innovator Lee Breuer to campus with his newest work Glass Guignol, a compilation of texts from Tennessee Williams’ women, performed by the indomitable Maude Mitchell.
In Zilkha Gallery, Lucy and Jorge Orta’s Food-Water-Life will be on view. This is the first-ever solo show in the U.S. of work by these Paris-based artists, who stage performative events to bring attention to some of the world’s most urgent environmental and social issues. The colorful sculptural works, including a large canoe, and three parachutes, will take advantage of Zilkha’s scale, and a series of food events is being staged to more deeply connect you to the themes of the show.
Wesleyan faculty, students and graduate students have a long history of exploring the intersection of visual art and performance. Professor Ron Kuivila tells me that performance artist Charlotte Moorman performed the legendary Nam June Paik’s TV Bra for Living Sculpture at the first-ever opening at Zilkha in 1973… featuring a different baseball game on each breast!
You’ll see the work of 19 artists from a vast repository of new performance from around the world since 2000, a period that has witnessed exponential growth in the field. Museums around the world are creating performance departments to increase the presence of performance in institutional offerings and to harness this new energy.
The debut also coincides with the establishment of Wesleyan’s new Institute of Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), a post-graduate certificate program that is the first of its kind in the United States. ICPP brings artists, presenters, managers and other arts professionals together with Wesleyan faculty and some of the finest performance curators working today for a nine-month low residency program. Our students develop a responsive curatorial practice that takes the best from the fields of visual and performing arts. Performance Now is an important show to integrate into this year’s ICPP curriculum, while also resonating with community members and many of our undergraduate and graduate arts students interested in exploring contemporary performance practices and their social and historical contexts.
Beginning with the Futurists in the early 20th century, performance art has sustained and expanded its presence in artistic communities but only recently has its history and practice begun to be articulated and discussed. The lack of discussion in the past may very well be related to the difficulty of defining and categorizing performance art, a form that is situated in an ambiguous space between visual and performing arts.
Among the “must sees” in the exhibition are the works of Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Omer Fast and Marina Abramović, all of which are presented here as video documentation of live art performances. Allora & Calzadilla’s piece Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy, No. 2 presents a restructuring of the prolific symphony “Ode to Joy”in which the performer plays from a hole cut from the inside of a piano, creating two inoperative octaves, while moving around the exhibition space. The piece facilitates discussion on music and sound as well as a reassessment of “Ode to Joy” historically and politically. Omer Fast’s Talk Show, inspired by the childhood game “telephone,” is a social critique and personal exploration of communication and its universal malfunctions. In Talk Show, a person tells an actor a personal story (that connects to larger political themes) on stage that the actor must then recount to another actor; the audience watches the story change as it is recounted. In Marina Abramović’s Seven Easy Pieces, the artist “re-performs” seven performance pieces that were originally presented in the 1960s and 1970s by six artists (two pieces were Abramović’s) in New York’s Guggenheim Museum. The piece is presented as a multi-screen video installation documenting the seven performances of Seven Easy Pieces.
During the run of the exhibition, we’ll have a number of special events including a film series curated by Wes alum Lana Wilson ’05, a panel of Wes alums currently engaged in performance art, and a lecture by RoseLee Goldberg. For a complete listing of events, please visit: www.wesleyan.edu/performancenow
Over the course of the next year, a campus-wide steering committee has put together a far-reaching series of global performances, talks and participatory projects, all with the intention of bringing us into an examination of the role of Music & Public Life. We will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage the campus and community-at-large. From performances by Middletown’s own Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem to the legendary Hugh Masekela; showcasing student research in the role of music in the current political campaigns; to the creation of MiddletownRemix–there are points of entry for everyone.
In September, we feature dance and theater companies who are exploring the role of the audience as actively engaged in the live creative process of the theatrical event. In ZviDance’s Zoom, patrons use their smartphones to integrate their own photos and text into the work; in Anonymous Ensemble’s Liebe Love Amour!, the audience is engaged in constructing the “performance script.”
Center for the Arts Director Pamela Tatge reflects on the many events that have taken place this week.
Monday, April 2, 2012:
I had some wonderful conversations, emails and phone calls from students and community members who attended Chunky Move over the weekend. I will say that I thought it was one of the most successful integrations of visual art and dance that I’ve ever witnessed, and I was particularly pleased that Gideon Obarzanek said he’s never seen Connected look better than it did in the CFA Theater. For those of you who were there, thank you for supporting this important performance.
I had lunch with Gillian Goslinga in Anthropology and Jill Sigman, Center for Creative Research Visiting Artist to hear about “Ritual, Health, and Healing”, the course they are co-teaching in Dance and Anthropology as a part of the Creative Campus Initiative. It’s also a Service Learning Course and so they are taking their students to St. Nicks Alliance in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on three Saturdays to conduct research with residents. It will culminate on Sunday, April 22, 2012 as a series of student performance works are presented alongside Sigman’s Thinkdance installation at St. Nicks. See a reflection by one of the students in the class, Hannah Cressy ’13, here.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012:
I attended the opening of the beautiful exhibition, Provincial Elegance: Chinese Antiques Donated in Honor of Houghton “Buck” Freeman, a collection of objects donated by Anna Lee ’84, that’s at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Gallery through Sunday, May 27, 2012. I was so moved by Patrick Dowdey’s story of how Anna made the contribution to Wesleyan in honor of the great spirit that was Buck Freeman, whose family made, and continues to make, so many great things possible at Wesleyan. Jean Shaw, former director of the Center for the Arts, told me that not only did Anna graduate the same year I did, but that Anna worked at the CFA when she was a student!
I also attended the second week of the Senior Thesis Exhibitions in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. If you’ve never taken the time to attend one of the Wednesday receptions from 4pm to 6pm, then you are missing one of the great “scenes” at Wesleyan. Hundreds of students flock to Zilkha to see their fellow students’ capstone project. All of us have the great opportunity to feel the pulse of contemporary art on our campus in all of its many manifestations, from JoAnna Bourain’s video animation installation [sometimes its hard 2 b a woman (i c u looking at me!!)] to Alex Chaves’ vibrant paintings [casual desire] in South Gallery. Exhibitions continue for the next two weeks, with receptions on Wednesday, April 11 and Wednesday, April 18, 2012.
And I want to wish our senior thesis students in dance the best of luck on their thesis presentations in the Patricelli ’92 Theater, tonight through Saturday, April 7, 2012 at 8pm. Click here for more information about the concerts.
Despite the power outages earlier in the week, and fallen trees and branches in the Center for the Arts, we are still preparing to welcome artists and scholars from around the world to Wesleyan this weekend to explore the work of Alvin Lucier. Alvin has been the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music at Wesleyan for over four decades. At eighty, he is as prolific as ever, and all of us who have been working on the events in his honor have so appreciated getting to know the depth of the impact of this magnificent man. It is fitting that the festival is scheduled in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Homecoming/Family Weekend, as several thousand of our undergraduate and graduate students have been influenced by Alvin over the years.
Perhaps no one has come to know more about Alvin than Andrea Miller-Keller who has expertly and lovingly curated an exhibition that opens this Saturday at the Center for the Arts Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. You may know Andrea from the nearly thirty years she spent at the Wadsworth Atheneum where she was the founding curator of MATRIX gallery. Alvin Lucier (and His Artist Friends) is the first exhibition to explore the breadth of his work in a gallery context. It’s a broad and colorful overview of his nearly six-decade career, featuring seventeen of his major works through audio presentations, performance videos, scores and archival memorabilia. A special section includes both a presentation of Alvin’s landmark 1969 piece, I Am Sitting in a Room and an exploration of its widespread influence on other artists over the past four decades. Andrea also examines the sources of inspiration and exchange of ideas among Alvin and his some of his artist-friends, including Sol LeWitt, John Ashbery, John Cage and others. One of my favorite films in the exhibit is George Manupelli’s Dr. Chicago trilogy that premiered from 1968 to 1971, featuring Alvin in the title role.
An installation that is sure to fascinate and delight is the tribute to Alvin’s 1968 masterpiece, Chambers, organized by Ron Kuivila, chair of Wesleyan’s Music Department and a former student of Alvin’s. Over forty Wesleyan alums recorded environmental sounds following Alvin’s instructions and submitted mp3 files along with a small resonant object into which the sounds will be played. The objects, some fanciful, some ordinary, are displayed on long tables and include a toaster, a shotgun shell, a flute, a vase, and a sauce pot, among many others. Patrons to the gallery will have the opportunity to lean in and listen to each object.
Kuivila has also staged a “flash-mob” for current Wesleyan students who have created their own Chambers works that will begin on Foss Hill at 1:45pm and process to the gallery in time for the opening.
Buy Three, Get One Free!
Call or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355 to purchase subscription packages for the Alvin Lucier Celebration, which include all four concerts: $36 general public; $30 senior citizens, Wesleyan faculty & staff, non-Wesleyan students; $18 Wesleyan students.
At a time when so many of us are turning to YouTube to see performances by our favorite artists, we can lose sight of what it’s like to experience live performance. This fall, the Center for the Arts offers you a wide range of performances and exhibitions that will connect you with some of the brightest minds in contemporary art-making, transport you to foreign lands, and inspire you to think about the world in new ways—and the performers will never be more than 69 feet away!
We recognize that it has become increasingly difficult to classify a work as strictly music, dance, theater, visual art, or film as more artists are blurring the boundaries among disciplines. So we have merged our visiting artist performances into a single Performing Arts Series. We hope this will lead you to cross the boundaries of your own comfort zone and discover new artists and art forms.
Highlights of the fall season include the American premiere of the ground-breaking Italian movement theater collective Dewey Dell and the return of Philadelphia’s Rennie Harris Puremovement, that has been a trailblazer in taking hip hop forms from the street to the concert stage for nearly twenty years. We’ll also host two New England premieres: the astoundingly brilliant throat-singers and musicians from Inner Mongolia, AnDa Union and, continuing our collaboration with the College of the Environment, we’ll welcome Water is Rising, a breathtaking performance by a group of 35 dancers and musicians from the Pacific Island atolls, the first islands predicted to be submerged due to climate change. In November, the Music Department and CFA join forces to celebrate Alvin Lucier, internationally renowned composer who has just retired after serving on our faculty for four decades. Alvin Lucier: A Celebration features a major symposium, concert series, film screenings and an exhibition curated by Andrea Miller-Keller.
With performances and exhibitions by visiting artists, students and faculty, there is an extraordinary amount of good work to see at Wesleyan this fall, with 60% offered free to the public or at ticket prices that make us one of the most affordable venues in the state. Tickets are on sale now online. Starting at 10am on Tuesday, August 16, you can call or visit the Wesleyan University Box Office at 860-685-3355 to receive a 10% discount on your purchase of four or more Performing Arts Series events (and if you buy six or more “Performing Arts Series” events, you’ll save 15%!) Starting August 16, you will also be able to buy subscription packages for both the 35th annual Navaratri Festival (a 15% savings) as well as the Alvin Lucier Celebration (a 25% savings!)
Please join us. We appreciate that you believe, as we do, in the power of the arts to add meaning to our lives and to remind us of the capacity of the human spirit. Thanks for making Wesleyan’s CFA your center for the arts.
First, I want to thank everyone for enlivening this blog with your opinions about the work that you’ve seen at the Center for the Arts over the past month. All of us at the CFA appreciate your comments…keep it up! There’s nothing better than an engaged audience!
I had a wonderful trip to New York on Saturday to see the latest iteration of the Eiko & Koma Retrospective Project at New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center. Sam Miller ’75, the producer of the project, and Program Director of Wesleyan’s new Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance, introduced the work and two members of ICPP’s faculty (Judy Hussie-Taylor, Danspace Project and Doryun Chung, MOMA) gave an introductory talk and then we were ushered into an adjacent studio to view the installation. If you saw Raven at Zilkha in November of 2009 or at the CFA Theater last summer, you would see how Naked has grown out of that work. The scorched canvas pressed with rice and salt now surrounds the work and the audience. Eiko and Koma lie together on another canvas laden with earth and raven feathers. To me, the work is about life and death, aging bodies, memory, dreams, proximity and distance. It is visually stunning and completely captivating. The New York Times thought so too.
I saw Evelyn Israel ’10 and Julia Cheng ’08 in the audience and chatted with them after we saw the piece. They, too, were moved and excited to see the long line of people waiting to get in.
Those of you who attended the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange’s Time Has Set the Table for Tea in February will remember Brian Stewart, Professor and Chair of Wesleyan’s Physics Department, who hosted of the tea alongside the character of Edith Warner. You’ll be interested to know that after his highly acclaimed performance, Brian went on tour with the Dance Exchange! The company performed The Matter of Origins (which includes the stage work as Act I and the tea as Act II) at Montclair State University in New Jersey last week, and Brian reprised his role as host of the tea for three sold-out houses.
Finally, please don’t miss KaWa Hula: Hula Through Time on Friday night. This is the first time we have featured traditional Hawaiian music and dance in Crowell Concert Hall. The group of glorious dancers and their jovial master Kawika Alfiche are from San Francisco and received a wonderful write up in the Times for their performance at Symphony Space last week.
Our own Kehaulani Kauanui, Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, gives the pre-show talk at 7:15pm.