I’ve just wandered over to the CFA Theater where the Theater Department is preparing to open THE SKRIKER, by Caryl Churchill. Some of you may remember the department’s call to campus and community members for donations of items from attics & garages: the setting for the play is entirely created from found materials. Old toys, garbage bags, wood remnants, furniture and “stuff” of all kinds fill over half of the seating area. The audience sits on the stage–facing out: are we being asked to reflect back on ourselves and our trash? Robert Bresnick, the play’s director, describes the work as a cautionary tale–a confrontation of our relationship to the environment. As Bresnick said, “The piece remembers a time we took solace in nature…‘nobody loves me but the sun is still shining.’ But in the world of this play, the sun burns and there is no refuge.’” The story centers around two women: one pregnant and one who has committed infanticide. They are haunted by the Skriker, an earth spirit whom Churchill refers to as “ancient and damaged.” They are joined onstage by a shape-shifting bunch of earth spirits, extraordinary puppets by Leslie Weinberg (many of you will remember her puppets from Don Quixote and her masks from Oedipus Rex.) Sound design is by California-based Marco Schindelmann and Michael Raco-Rands and lighting is by Professor John Carr (who also co-designed the set with Weinberg.)
And downstairs from my office, the Zilkha Gallery has become a laboratory for the Eiko and Koma Retrospective. The experiment? How do you create a visual installation about the artistic legacy of performing artists whose work is time-based and often site-specific? As Eiko puts it, “What does it mean for living, active performing artists to have a retrospective? Is putting our heads into a creative closet a creative thing, or a nostalgic thing?” Working with a team of student assistants, many of whom have studied with Eiko at some point over the last four years, Eiko and Koma are creating mini-environments that allow audiences to contemplate their artistic values and inspiration. These are presented alongside video installations and a visual timeline of photographs that date back to when they first met in Japan. It’s amazing to see their faces and bodies when they were in their twenties just beginning to develop their movement vocabulary. You may remember their first performance at Wesleyan in the Zilkha Gallery in the summer of 2002 when they presented Offering, their 9/11 a work about mourning; in 2006, they brought Cambodian Stories, their masterwork performed alongside young people from the Reyum Art Center in Phnom Phen; in the summer of 2007, Quartet and Grain. What you may not know, is that Eiko and Koma have sent both of their sons to Wesleyan! Yuta graduated in ’07, and Shin graduates in ’10.
The Retrospective opens this Thursday, November 19 from 5-7pm, with a performance at 5:30pm followed by a reception. Eiko and Koma will be working on the installation over the course of the next month, so feel free to come by and see how the exhibit evolves. The Retrospective will have future iterations at Danspace Project in New York, the Walker Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.
The Skriker, by Caryl Churchill will be performed at the CFA Theater, November 18-22
Eiko & Koma: Time is not Even, Space is not Empty will be at the Zilkha Gallery, November 19-December 20