Heather Hart assists a volunteer during the Black Lunch Table’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at Project Row Houses in Dallas, TX, in 2016
If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about an artist, chances are a Google search led you to their biography on Wikipedia. What happens if the artist you wanted to learn about isn’t on Wikipedia? Who is and isn’t on Wikipedia has more to do with gender and race than one might think. With this in mind, Heather Hart and Jina Valentine—working collectively as the Black Lunch Table—have launched an initiative through their practice to help black artists get on Wikipedia and fill in more of the details of their pages. It’s a seminal step in helping art history become more inclusive. On Feb 27, Creative Capital is hosting a Black Lunch Table Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon. You can RSVP here! We asked Heather some questions about the practice before the event.
Alex Teplitzky: Tell me about the Wikipedia edit-a-thons you’ve been hosting. What a great idea to help get artists online recognition!
Heather Hart: Yes! When Jina and I were in school, there was very little coverage of visual artists of the African Diaspora, especially notable contemporary people. Whether we like it or not, Wikipedia is used by 374 million unique visitors every month, more than your average encyclopedia has ever had. So this was a perfect fit for our over all Black Lunch Table project. We have the power to create a discursive site to fill gaps in the (art) historical record.
Medea is the Greek mythological character who kills her own children. Hers is a storyline that has so resonated with us that nearly every generation has had its own adaptation or interpretation of her. In her adaptation of the myth, Yara Travieso (2016 Performing Arts), does not provide the audience with one version, but a multiplicity of interpretations simultaneously. Her Creative Capital project,La Medea, premieres this weekend as part of PS122’s 2017 COIL Festival. True to the concept of multiplicity, there are a number of ways to experience the work: either live at BRIC on January 20-22, where the audience will watch and also take part in the making of the film; livestreamed online; or, eventually as a film produced by Dance Films Association. Amid preparing for the performance, Yara joined us at our offices to talk more about the project.
Alex Teplitzky: Ok, start with a run down of the project. What is La Medea?
Yara Travieso: La Medea is essentially a made-for-camera, Latin-disco, pop musical that is simultaneously a show, and a livestream feature film. It’s based on Euripides’ Greek tragedy of Medea. I’ve readapted, rewritten the work to fit inside a musical composed by Sam Crawford and to exist as a live-television special tell-all, all surrounding this one myth-character Medea. It’s a portrait of her more than anything else, and it takes on many forms: it’s a musical, it’s a dance-theater work, it’s a feature film, it’s a live-television special, it’s a concert. It takes on many lives.
A scene from “Saga,” from Wakka Wakka Productions and the Nordland Visual Theater. Credit Jim Baldassare
These people may be geniuses. –The New York Times
The Obie and Drama Desk-winning performance group Wakka Wakka produces puppet shows. The company tackles relevant social and political issues like climate change, financial crisis, consumerism and human rights. Creative Producer, Gabrielle Brechner, answered a few questions about the evolution of Wakka Wakka since its founding in 2001 and the development of MADE IN CHINA.
Baby pandas, dancing appliances and romping middle-aged lovers populate Wakka Wakka’s universe of tiny-to-huge puppets, belting out original songs. As with climate change in Baby Universe (2010) and the global financial crisis in Saga (2013), the company spins issues of our times into a vastly entertaining tale with surreal dimensions, lots of laughs and powerful take-aways.
MADE IN CHINA features 30 puppets, seven puppeteers, music inspired by both American and Chinese traditions, and animated video. MADE IN CHINA premieres Off-Broadway in January 2017 at 59E59.
Nowadays, photography is perhaps the one artistic medium with which literally everyone has some experience. And that’s what makes Brittany Nelson’s work so important. Her Creative Capital project, Alternative Process, opens November 5 at David Klein Gallery. Typical of her process, the work shows the various way in which Nelson has been able to playfully experiment with and trouble outdated photographic processes to create abstract work. Unlike other mediums, photography, in particular, has a long history of perpetuating tradition. By experimenting with processes, Nelson challenges these traditions, which, as she explains, is a white male dominated art form. We caught up with Brittany to find out more about her work.
Alex Teplitzky: Can you talk about the show at David Klein Gallery: what are the themes that tie the work together?
Brittany Nelson: My Creative Capital project has really been a series of solo exhibitions this year leading up to “Alternative Process.” It was perhaps an unusual situation because I have been showing the work as I develop it. Starting with “The Year I Make Contact” at Morgan Lehman in NYC, “Controller” at Patron in Chicago, and landing in Detroit in November at David Klein Gallery; all new work was created for every exhibition, and each show centered around its own sub-theme. “The Year I Make Contact” centered around themes of evolution. “Controller” focused on the idea of mirroring and movement with ties back to very early astronomical photography, and “Alternative Process” is being created around ideas of time (as a physical quantity).
All of these exhibitions and the body of work at large center around major themes of communication/transmissions, future artifacts, abstraction as the philosophical ideal, and of course the history of photography. Alternative Process features a collection of tintypes on brushed silver aluminum that contain various recreations and reinterpretations of science graphics. I have been flipping through a large quantity of books on astronomy and theoretical physics, specifically looking at the graphs and charts that have been created as an attempt to communicate very complex sets of knowledge as simply as possible. I have been very interested in these modes of communication by both how succinct they are, but in the ways in which they fail to cause a comprehensive understanding. This segues into the thoughts behind designing the Golden Record that went out on the Voyager spacecraft, and how you design something for a brain and logic system you can’t comprehend. I think of the tintypes this way: as an alien or future artifact. In this instance, though, the aliens I’m trying to communicate with are the gallery patrons.
Jeffrey Gibson’s 2014 exhibition at Marc Strauss Gallery
IdeaFestival is an annual event based in Louisville, Kentucky where innovators across all fields come together to talk about how their work precipitates change. Every year IdeaFestival invites Creative Capital to present a session called “Art at the Edge.” This year’s panel, taking place on September 29, is an exciting opportunity to give a platform to some of the artists we support.
This year, our Executive Director Suzy Delvalle will be joined onstage by artists Jeffrey Gibson, Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Shawn Peters and Phillip Andrews Lewis for the Creative Capital presentation.
From “On Larry Lee’s ‘The (Un)Timely Death of Multiculturalism,” by Eunsong Kim
In May, we spoke to a few arts bloggers who had won Arts Writers grants to maintain their blogs. One blog, contemptoraryby writers Gelare Khoshgozaran and Eunsong Kim, was just beginning at the time. As of August, 2016, however, their project is well underway with articles on artists and arts exhibitions, like MOCA Los Angeles’s “What is Contemporary?” Their stated focus this year on women of color and indigenous on and overall hope to reframe marginalized voices in art history and criticism struck us as particularly important, so we reached out to the writers for further comment.
Alex Teplitzky: Your blog will profile women of color and indigenous women queering the art world. Can you go more into specifics about who you hope to profile or hear from? What convinced you to start this blog?
Gelare Khoshgozaran & Eunsong Kim: We introduce contemptorary as a “cyberspace project covering: women of color and indigenous women queering the art world; queers disrupting white hegemony: immigrants and those displaced due to war, occupation and colonialism who breach all terrains.”
We wanted to create a unique space dedicated to those who have been historically marginalized (or inevitably auto-marginalized), tokenized and alienated. We wanted to assert our taste and bring into light the works of those whom we deeply value and have been inspired by, (re)introduce their works in a new context and see how their different voices resonate together cacophonously.
We started contemptorary because we didn’t see anything that was like it. We also made this decision because we have been students and practitioners of the arts and our previous education, our assigned reading guidelines have not been enough. They were curricula that consistently left us needing to: unlearn and to research and build on our own. So we’re carving out a cyberspace that holds what we want to learn about, what we want to read about, what we want to see and share.
Today, one of our ancillary programs, the MAP Fund, announced their 2016 round of artist projects. Thirty-six new works in contemporary performing arts will receive a total of $1.1 million in direct support for project development, creation and premiere.
We noticed some interesting themes and connections between the new projects, so to get a better sense of them, let’s take a look at a few.
A few projects this year are focused on rural communities outside the large metropolises in the U.S. where arts programs are typically focused. Roadside Theater, a part of Appalshop, an multidisciplinary arts organization in Appalachia, will produce Performing Our Rural Future, a musical play about the end of coal mining and the rise of a younger generation committed to a better life founded on a just economy. The organizations will collaborate with people based in Letcher County, Kentucky, which has one of the richest cultural heritages in the U.S., but is the poorest and sickest congressional district in the nation.
Multilingual artist Jen Shyu performs the musical Song of Silver Geese in six languages: English, Taiwanese, Tetum of East Timor, Korean, Javanese and Indonesian. If that’s not impressive enough, Jen plans on bringing the musical drama to all 50 states, focusing on small towns less exposed to cross-cultural and innovative art.
A letter from “The Birthday Project” in 2006. Photo: Dhanraj Emanuel
“Would you like to write a postcard to the President?” This was an initial prompt artist Sheryl Oring used to engage the public on the street in her Creative Capital-supported project, I Wish to Say. In 2006, Sheryl dressed as a 1960s secretary, set up a portable public office complete with a manual typewriter in public areas across the country, and typed birthday cards to then President Bush as dictated by passers-by. The originals were mailed to the White House. Since then, the project has grown exponentially and she has enlisted a number of volunteer typists to take dictation. On April 26, she will bring the piece to Bryant Park as part of the PEN World Voices Festival, and anyone can dictate a letter to the 2016 presidential candidates. We spoke to Sheryl as she prepared the piece for New York.
Alex Teplitzky: Can you describe the project, and specifically the history behind it. How did it come about?
Sheryl Oring: I had been thinking about the idea of doing what ultimately became I Wish to Say for a while. It grew partly out of my experience in newspapers—the idea of the person on the street interview. But there’s a more personal connection as well. My grandmother was a secretary in the Political Science Department at the University of Maryland. She was the kind of secretary who always went to work dressed to the nines. When I was a kid, she let me go into her closet and into her jewelry boxes, her many jewelry boxes, and dress up when I visited. I think that is also one of the sources of the idea for this work.
In 2003 I had been living in Berlin for six years and came back to the country and I felt completely out of touch with the American public and what people were thinking about politics. Many things came together for me when I thought about going out onto the street with a typewriter and asking people what they’d like to say to the President.
I should mention that I Wish to Say also came to be partly because I saw the movie Central Station. There’s a woman sitting in the central train station in Rio taking dictation for people who are illiterate. I was drawn to the idea of a typist taking dictation of letters from strangers in a public space. It also stems from my own biography. I grew up in a very liberal family in North Dakota, which is a pretty conservative place. We were used to interacting with people with different political view points because we were the minority in my hometown.
Clockwise from top: Maria Gaspar, Paul Rucker, Shawn Peters, Michelle Coffey, Gregory Sale, Nick Szuberla
Starting Tuesday, April 19, something big is coming to New York. Ok, it’s the New York primaries (please vote!), but it will also be the first in our series of Creative Conversations, a panel of artists addressing critical issues. In this first discussion, we will gather five Creative Capital-supported artists who are addressing criminal justice and mass incarceration in their work: Maria Gaspar, Shawn Peters, Paul Rucker, Gregory Sale and Nick Szuberla. And we’re so happy that Michelle Coffey, Executive Director of the Lambent Foundation, will moderate the conversation!
We will livestream the conversation (RSVP here) from 6-8 EST on Tuesday, April 19, and take questions from Twitter, so use the hashtag #CreativeConvos and our handle @creativecap to follow along! In the meantime, read on to learn more about the presenting artists.
Queen GodIs’s artistic practice crosses many disciplines from performance to hip hop to art therapy. On April 9th in Brooklyn, she’ll bring many of these disciplines together for an event exploring women and gender non-conforming MCs. We asked her a few questions about her practice and the event.
Alex Teplitzky: The website describes the performance as a concert and a conversation; a coming-of-age story during an exciting and tumultuous hip hop era, but also a collection of poetry, prayers and prose exploring women and gender non-conforming MCs. How will these topics and mediums come together during the event at the gallery?
Queen Godis: The Book of Lyte is a creative dissertation. It explores women and gender non-conforming MCs (1978 – Present).
I have been researching, collecting and creating this content for over 20 years. As an artist and independent scholar, the work has both entertainment and academic value.
From MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, to Big Freedia and Iggy Azalea, the work is born as a collection of creative and expository writings that contemplate, celebrate and in some cases, challenge each muse. The more I began to write, the more imperative it became for the words to transcend the page.