Journal

Lane Czaplinski on the 11/12 Inter/National Series May 10, 2011

Angélica Liddell was the toast of the 2010 Avignon Festival. Her featured  show was 5 hours long and it took 2 nights for me to muster enough energy and sobriety to see it. Funny thing is that Angelica has a difficult time staying sober during her performance too. When negotiating for her to bring this solo show to Seattle, we learned that she has to take a day off and skip Saturday to let the alcohol escape her body. Angelica’s work is difficult. She has said, “Theatre’s place is on the world’s periphery, which asserts its conflicting otherness as it struggles for existence. Audiences are consequently divided: some spectators will boo, others will not. And I have to put up with that: contempt on the one hand, and strong complicity on the other.” While she calls her work theater – and it is theater – this project will mark the first of several projects in 11/12 that blurs the lines of the genre.

About at the same time we filmed Temporary Distortion’s Americana Kamikaze in 2010 for OntheBoards.tv, this young NYC company began gaining recognition in Europe, touring to the continent with their film noir style of theater. At the center of their work are box like sets reminiscent of Joseph Cornell or Francis Bacon. The performers inhabit these spaces almost as though they are staging a radio play; they don’t move around much or act much, and the text is dry, dry, dry. This starkness is juxtaposed by sumptuous video, the effect of which is dreamlike and otherworldly. Their show at OtB, Newyorkland¸ hearkens back to the gritty cop films of Dirty Harry and the like. The father of director Kenneth Collins was a cop and collaborator William Cusick worked on Law & Order so there is a lot of first hand experience – both observing and portraying crime fighters – that will go into this project.  Having first worked with the company on OntheBoards.tv, we are excited to see what is like to present a company after filming them elsewhere.

Probably best known internationally as a visual artist, Rabih Mroué is also an adept story-teller who makes live performance. Last year, he was given the Spalding Gray Award, which acknowledges an artist who possesses the spirit and innovation that characterized Spalding’s work. OtB is part of a consortium of organizations including the Walker Art Center, Warhol Museum and P.S. 122 who determine the awardee and subsequently invite the artist to make a new work that travels to each of our new venues.

Mariano Pensotti is part of a vanguard of experimental theater makers – Young Jean Lee, Nature Theater of Oklahoma and Stefan Kaegi come to mind, too – who seem like they’re operating with radical propositions and constructs such as non actors, prerecorded text and untraditional performance spaces but achieve a kind of natural realism and relevance that almost feels traditional. I called them New Genuine.

I think Michelle Ellsworth is one of the most unique experimental artists of any discipline living outside of New York City. She is deeply curious, highly intelligent and maddeningly funny. She works out her issues, whether fueled by religion, science or philosophy, through her chosen medium of the hamburger. This project will serve as mini-retrospective of sorts, and though it definitely functions as performance, it is difficult to determine if it is theater, dance, performance art or video art. It’s all in there.

Sometimes I get a little despondent about what is happening in the dance world, and almost every time that happens, I learn about a new artist or project that makes me excited again. This happened most recently with Kyle Abraham. It seemed as though everyone I talked to about dance over the course of a couple of weeks kept mentioning his name. I did some research and couldn’t believe I hadn’t been aware of him sooner given the accomplishment of his work. He works with urban aesthetics and gender politics but in a deep, completely refreshing manner.

Watching Julie Andrée T. this past January at the PUSH Festival confirmed my jones for solo artists who make courageous and inventive statements on stage. Sometimes I think they epitomize the spirit of experimentation more than group works and Rouge is one of those examples due to its sheer audacity coupled with really clever ideas. It’s live action painting or living sculpture but better than those things. It’s living breathing art.

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