Since 2014, students in Earth and Environmental Sciences 197: Introduction to Environmental Studies have had the option to create an artist book for their final project. This spring, with support from the Center for the Arts’ Creative Campus Initiative, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos offered those students some expert, socially-distanced mentoring from local artists. Wesleyan’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Ali Osborn recorded bookmaking video tutorials from his home studio; and New Haven-based artist Joseph Smolinski joined a Zoom session to critique student work (including an artist book, shown above, by Emma Singleton ’23). Each semester, the class votes on the most creative and interesting books; over the years, more than 30 of these have been selected for inclusion in the Wesleyan Library’s Special Collections & Archives and are available for viewing.
Campus and Community Engagement Manager
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University
ICPP students and alumni offer extraordinary examples of how their curatorial work designs ways of sustaining individual and collective practices in this time of uncertainty.
ICPP Leadership Fellowship
Deborah Goffe (MA ’19) has been working for over a year onThe Nest, a retreat for movement artists and cultural workers of color in the southern New England and New York areas to gather and share processes around performance making and commoning as survival strategies. The gathering was scheduled to take place this month. In the face of the global health crisis, Goffe redistributed the funds to the participants to offset their personal financial losses and is considering how to re-imagine the gathering at a later date. Deborah’s leadership and care for others illustrates the intentions of theICPP Leadership Fellowship, which is awarded to graduating students to foster professional and networking opportunities while nurturing underrepresented perspectives in the field of art and performance curation.
ICPP Students Community Spotlights
MA candidate Candace Thompson-Zachery, Manager of Justice, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives atDance/NYC, co-organized their 2020Symposiumon March 21. As New York City implemented social distancing guidelines, the all-day event was moved online and content shifted accordingly. The panels touched on indigeneity in performance, development of a disability politics toward dismantling racism, the current state of the dance field, and direct emergency response for the dance community during COVID-19. Since the symposium, Dance/NYC launched the COVID-19 Dance Relief Fund, awarding 180 grants to dance makers in the New York metropolitan area, and continues to aggregate NYC area classes and workshops on theircommunity calendar, as well as host digital town halls.
Graduate student Jamie Gahlon continues her exemplary work throughHowlRound Theatre Commons. As co-founder and director Jamie and her team have been turning out pandemic-related content consistently and frequently over the past weeks, including livestreamed talks and panel discussions around artist resources, the state of affairs in the arts today, sustaining creative practices, and much more. The organization, already functioning as a digital commons, has taken the opportunity to host conversations around pragmatic strategies for freelance artists during the crisis, offering information on livestream technology, financial planning, and sustaining creative practices, in addition to regular content. Take a look at their ongoing onlineprogramming.
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Performing Artist Case Studies
As part of ourDoris Duke Charitable Foundation Performing Artist Case Studies, an examination into art practices, economical resources, and modes of sustainability amidst changing cultural economies, ICPP is excited to be working with Detroit-based movement artistJennifer Harge. For the ICPP online summer intensive, Harge will be reimagining a live-streamed version of Fly | Drown (2019) in her home—the very site that inspired the original installation for the performance.
Class of 2020
We are so proud of our four anticipated MA graduates from ICPP this month:
Beatrice Basso, independent curator and theater maker (Thesis: Curating in Translation: Oblique Gestures of Repair); Victoria Carrasco-Dominguez, Gallery Management and Adjunct Curator, Public Programs at Phi Foundation(Thesis: Public Art as Performance: Curating the Utopian Sculpture in and out of the Museum); Raechel Hofsteadter, Associate Director of Development Operations,Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University (Thesis: Mobilizing Dance Legacies: Curating Embodied Archives Through the Praxes of Jennifer Harge and Anna Martine Whitehead); and Candace Thompson-Zachery, Manager of Justice, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives atDance/NYC (Thesis: Encounters in Caribbean Dance: Curating Beyond Display).
Thank you for your inspiring work, which opens rich and urgent avenues for performance curation across contemporary cultures.
Though making and convening performance in times of social distancing brings great challenges, we will take our cue from ICPP co-founderSam Miller’75 and continue to imagine infrastructures of care to accompany artists in these shifting conditions and economies.
This week we begin to highlight the recent work of Eiko Otake, a long-time friend of Wesleyan and mine, and our first CFA Virtual Artist-in-Residence.
At the onset of the pandemic, we took time to look for past reference points to guide us forward in this moment; and to consider how some of the artists we have worked with might help us process our present situation. Among these, none has engaged with us for as long, or in as many profound and different ways, as Eiko Otake, who regards “Body as a landscape and Landscape as a body,” and who has made a life’s work of contemplating grief.
Eiko first performed at Wesleyan as Eiko & Koma in 2002 with Offering, a three-hour performative ritual of sustained mourning after 9/11. She dove deep into the idea of body/landscape with A Body in Places, which included performances in Wesleyan’s Olin Library and Van Vleck Observatory. In 2017–18, Eiko was a Think Tank Fellow in the College of the Environment, which was focused on themes of disaster and human-environment relationships. Her ongoing collaboration with Wesleyan professor William Johnston brought them repeatedly to post-nuclear disaster Fukushima. In addition, Eiko regularly teaches an interdisciplinary course focused on movement and massive violence, and this has introduced her over the years to many young collaborators, artists, audience members, curators, and friends. As a result, The Duet Project, begun in 2017, features many alumni, including Alexis Moh ’15, Nora Thompson ’15, DonChristian Jones ’12, and Iris McCloughan ’10.
Like most performing artists, Eiko’s upcoming performances and works-in-development have been cancelled or postponed. So upon returning to Japan mid-March, and entering into self-quarantine, Eiko embraced the opportunity to collaborate with Wesleyan on this new experiment.
Below are links to a Virtual Studio, developed by Eiko and Allison Hsu ’19, that carries Eiko’s works, reflections, collaborators’ voices, and dialogues with others through her virtual residency.
In this time of uncertainty, in a field reliant on connection for survival, we are called to work together and to be a community of care for one another. We invite you to spend time with us in Eiko’s Virtual Studio, where your feedback and reflections are welcomed and appreciated.
Center for the Arts
History and Personal Note
Eiko and I shared a mentor and friend in Sam Miller ’74, who many of us are missing greatly right now. Eiko and Sam had a way of guiding one another simultaneously—a partnership and deep collaboration that influenced both of their careers and wove its way in and out of Wesleyan in profound and long-lasting ways.
It is through their collaboration that I was introduced, as a 1994 intern at Jacob’s Pillow, to the work of Eiko & Koma. Years later, again under Sam’s guidance, I would get to know Eiko as an advisor to the National Dance Project, a program I managed at the New England Foundation for the Arts. Eiko was the highlight of our meetings. There were sometimes tears and, at least one time, pounding fists on the table, as advisors were asked to keep silent during the panel deliberations. Eiko helped us realize how problematic this was, and we adapted.
True collaboration, I’ve learned through trial and error, is built on trust and communication. It takes time, makes room for reflection, and leans into complexity and nuance. And as Eiko described in her American Dance Festival program notes for The Duet Project, “difference is an engine of inquiry.”
Between 2006 and 2009, as Director of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, I had the privilege of working closely with Eiko & Koma through our Living Legacy program on the development of Cambodia Stories, Hunger, and the Retrospective Project. It may have looked from afar that we were supporting Eiko & Koma, but we were really learning from them.
Since that first performance some 25 years ago, I have often longed for opportunities to experience Eiko’s work as an antidote to an overly busy and fast-paced life. I crave time to consider shape and texture, skin and body, breath and pace, and Eiko’s profound ability to make one feel absolutely present with her.
As we collectively pause, reflect, and re-imagine how to move forward, my hope is that we slow down to really absorb our time, body, and landscape—and maybe one day—we will catch up to her.
This week we write to share news from the CFA’s Creative Campus Initiative (CCI). When Wesleyan moved to virtual learning in mid-March, we knew that professors across campus would be reimagining their syllabi—and that artists everywhere would be reimagining the purpose and possibility of their work in this unprecedented time. CCI’s mission since 2006 has been to connect Wesleyan faculty with artists—and to catalyze cross-disciplinary collaborations that elevate the arts as a way of teaching, learning, and knowing. What better time than now, we thought, to bring those collaborations online?
Historically, CCI has focused on pairing artists with non-arts faculty primarily for cross-disciplinary work. But in this unusual time, we chose to extend an invitation for artistic collaborations to all departments. Faculty response was swift, and in just a week we had awarded modest grants to resource faculty connections with sixteen artists—choreographers, poets, actors, musicians, video, and multimedia artists—who will lecture, offer workshops, and share the labor of mentoring and inspiring students during this difficult time.
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos and choreographer Jill Sigman will work together withENVS201: Sophomore Seminar in Environmental Studies on a movement practice that supports new assignments: a personal journal and a final project that investigates shifting ecological networks during a pandemic.
Assistant Professor of Theater, African American Studies, and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Katie Brewer-Ball shifted her syllabus forTHEA364: Friendship and Collaboration to address how we may find new ways to be together in this moment, assigning her students to begin a letter-writing practice. She invited poet Kay Gabriel to lecture on the history of the epistolary form in poetry and to guide the class in a writing workshop.
Makaela Kingsely ’98, Director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Adjunct Instructor in Public Policy, invited five fellow Wesleyan alumni toCSPL262: Introduction to Social Entrepreneurshipto discuss how they have used artistic practice as a vehicle for social change. First up were Laura Stein ’03, founder of Dancing Grounds, a multigenerational arts space that brings inclusive and accessible dance programs to New Orleans residents; and Chris Kaminstein ’04, founder of Goat in the Road Productions, a New Orleans-based performance ensemble.
Heather Vermuelen, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for the Humanities (CHUM), invited artists micha cárdenas and Jen Liu, to SOC300: Queer and Trans Aesthetics, where students are considering how their own research, curatorial, and creative projects (proposed prior to the pandemic) will change in light of the shapeshifting geographic coordinates and digital realms in which they now exist. Cardenas will lecture on Thursday, April 16 at 4:30pm and Liu will lecture on Thursday, April 23 at 4:30pm. Both lectures are open to anyone with a Wesleyan email address—see both posters and learn more here.
To these teachers, artists, and students, and to the broader Wesleyan community and all of the artists we know and have yet to meet: we are incredibly inspired by the ways you are finding to practice, teach, learn, create, and share your work as we pivot into this new world.
Rani Arbo Campus and Community Engagement Manager Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University
Report from the Virtual Classroom
Catherine Damman writes, “We had an incredible virtual class visit with artist Carolyn Lazard in CHUM325: The Work of Art Against Work: Art, Labor, Politics. Students had read their 2013 essay “How to be a Person in the Age of Autoimmunity,” and Lazard began by taking us through many of their recent works. We had a complex and rewarding conversation on many of the topics that Lazard’s work addresses, including: the history of television closed captioning, the testing of psychotropic drugs on incarcerated populations, and the relationship between privacy and convalescence. Lazard spoke insightfully about how, rather than bring art to the hospital as a therapeutic tool, their work brings the hospital to the art world. Students are interested in the temporality of disability, as it is fundamentally at odds with capitalism (related to an assigned reading by Alison Kafer on “crip time,” which is also the title of one of Lazard’s video works), and we talked about the potential intersections between queer temporalities and disability temporalities. As the students are beginning their final projects for the class, Lazard shared many insights about their experience making art and scholarship that begins from illness as a site of value, rather than lack; the ways that dependency can be configured differently, as either “scarcity” or “abundance;” and making art about trauma without fetishizing its representation. The group had particularly incisive questions and reflections about how a disability studies perspective recasts such concepts as mutuality, reciprocity, and consent outside their normative definitions. Together, we have been studying theories of reproductive labor, and my brilliant students are very interested in how the work of care can be reconfigured such that it does not merely reproduce a labor force in service of capital, but rather can reimagine and enact forms of community and collectivity deserving of those names.”
CFA Arts Administration Intern Chloe Jones ’15 writes about the Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble and its upcoming performance on Friday, May 9, 2014.
Last spring Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen founded Wesleyan’s Toneburst Laptop and Electronic Arts Ensemble. This Friday, May 9 at 8pm in World Music Hall the group will have their final performance of the year. They’re calling it an “electroextravaganza.”
Most of us don’t think of our laptop computers as instruments, so what then is a Laptop Ensemble?
Each member in the ensemble performs with a laptop that’s connected to a hemispherical speaker. Fourteen members strong, Toneburst projects sound out of an equal number of hemispherical speakers. Members draw from pre-existing programs and ones that they create themselves in order to generate remarkably inventive musical scores, each one a unique interaction between laptop and musician.
Highly interactive, it’s as much about the ensemble as it is about the technology. Just like any instrumental ensemble, the members assume different roles depending on the score and constantly engage with one another.
“This is a different way of recognizing the laptop as instrument but also as social interaction,” says Ms. Matthusen. “It takes its inputs in a way that we have to interact with each other.”
One work in this Friday’s concert has ensemble members connected to their computers and clapping hands, so that each time two members clap a musical note sounds. The original score, composed by graduate student Christopher Ramos Flores, transforms the ensemble into a circuit system.
“They are essentially acting like a large keyboard,” explains Ms. Matthusen.
Another piece derives its material from OKCupid, an online dating site. Composed by graduate student Daniel Fishkin, the score utilizes text-to-speech software to transform the OKCupid profiles into sound.
“Daniel’s piece recognizes the laptop as an interface to this entire other world,” comments Ms. Matthusen—the world of online dating and social networks.
This Friday’s concert is particularly momentous for Toneburst because it is comprised primarily of new works written by the ensemble members.
The scores are imaginative and engaging, technical and compelling. Each one is carefully crafted and then rehearsed again and again. Yet the laptop ensemble leaves a lot of room for improvisation and play.
“Learning the program is the first part of it and then you can figure out how to actually express yourself using the restrictions of the score,” explains Toneburst member Mark Frick ’14. “You’re taking a technology that hasn’t been exploited for something particularly expressive before and using it for an expressive means.”
“There’s a shared spirit of exploration that has evolved through the group as part of this way of making music,” reflects Ms. Matthusen. “They are working together to realize these scores, and there’s a power about that.”
The Toneburst Electroextravaganza concert is Friday, May 9, 2014 at 8pm in the CFA’s World Music Hall. Admission is free.