Michelle Ellsworth (2013 Performing Arts) is an artist unlike any other. Her quick, anxious speech dares you to keep up with her, and her art practice is just as ingenious and prolific. The premiere of her Creative Capital project, Clytigation: States of Exception, is a perfect example. A multi-media performance that allows the visitor to wander a theater space at will, Clytigation injects a dose of technology into the Greek myth of Clytemnestra. Writing for Artforum, Claudia La Rocco said that Michelle is “doing some of the most engrossing explorations of how the body and technology coexist and collide.” Suffice it to say that the performance must be experienced in person to really get a sense of how she’s actually accomplishing this; and luckily for New Yorkers, it’s coming to the Chocolate Factory November 11-14. We caught up with Michelle on the eve of her premiere.
Alex Teplitzky: Can you describe Clytigation and how it relates to Clytemnestra, a Greek mythological figure noted for her troubled relationship with Agamemnon?
Michelle Ellsworth: Clytigation is the sequel to a piece I made several years ago called Phone Homer. Phone Homer is a feminist remix of Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Iliad. I moved some language around with my sister Ann Ellsworth to explain what motivated Clytemnestra to kill Agamemnon. The language is arranged around Skype calls between the homebound Clytemnestra and her husband Agamemnon, her friend Penelope, her sister Helen and her lover Aegisthus. In between calls, Clytemnestra navigates her custom-built world wide web with a kinetic alphabet looking for peace through materialism. Clytigation picks up after the murder. Post murder, Clytemnestra is identified as a terrorist (for killing the king) and begins to develop over-the-counter counter-terrorism protocols to avoid surveillance, interpersonal drama, and death. In performance, I demonstrate several of Clytemnestra’s protocols—including hiding in furniture and art, an interpersonal drone and attempts to complicate her identity and location.
Degenerate Art Ensemble, “Predator Songstress.” Photo by Joe Iano.
The Seattle-based performance group Degenerate Art Ensemble (2013 Performing Arts) is premiering their Creative Capital-supported project, Predator Songstress, with upcoming engagements at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco (Nov 5 & 6, 8pm;Nov 7, 5pm) and On the Boards in Seattle (Dec. 3-5, 8pm; Dec. 6: 5pm). Inspired by punk, comics, cinema, nightmares and fairy tales, Predator Songstress tells the story of a modern-day anti-heroine in search of her stolen voice. The piece fuses live music, dance and media to create an immersive art environment set in a world of hyper-surveillance, interrogation and data mining. Predator Songstress investigates personal power and the divine secrets of the human voice, engaging audiences in a stunning theatrical experience infused with otherworldly visuals, gorgeous vocals, incredible costumes and a singular butoh-meets-anime vision.
Degenerate Art Ensemble (DAE) is led by co-founders and co-artistic directors Joshua Kohl and Haruko Crow Nishimura. I connected with Joshua and Crow to learn more about this ambitious performance event.
Jenny Gill: Predator Songstress centers on a female character (played by Crow) whose voice has been stifled by societal forces. Can you talk about the oppressive forces or societal issues behind this concept that you want to bring to the foreground? In the end, how does the character find her voice and expression?
Haruko Crow Nishimura: There is a central female character in this modern fairy tale named Ximena, who is growing up in a totalitarian state, where the public sharing of people’s personal stories and struggles centering around voice are strictly forbidden. Her obsession with people’s stories and the source of people’s power gets her into deep trouble. She is sent away to a women’s penal colony and has her voice removed. Continue reading →
Sarah Michelson’s performance at the Whitney Museum in 2014. Sarah also performed at the “New Circuits” conference at the Walker this past month.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting with colleagues for New Circuits: Curating Contemporary Performance at Walker Art Center, a convening supported by a curatorial fellowship grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. We came together to discuss new models of performance curating, particular how they are supported within the museum setting. In addition to learning about the incredible work being created across the country by these forward thinking artists and curators, I learned a lot about what artists can do to better advocate for themselves. Here is my Top Ten list, the best things I heard from curators who want to help you help yourselves!
Before accepting a commission, performance or residency, instead of giving the director or curator your proposal, Kristy Edmunds, Executive and Artistic Director of the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (CAP UCLA), suggested that artists provide a wish list instead. That way the curator or director can tell you how they can support your creative process and how they can’t.
The MAP Fund, one of Creative Capital’s ancillary programs, supports live performance projects, and we love sharing an office with them because we get to hear about all the amazing, exciting artists they support! MAP—which was founded in 1988, making it among the longest-standing grant programs in contemporary performance—distributes over $1 million each year to projects that tend to be experimental in nature and that “question, disrupt and complicate inherited notions of cultural and social hierarchies across the American landscape.” Program Director, Moira Brennan, says “MAP has a long history of supporting artists and arts organizations that might fall through the cracks at more traditional funders. Because it’s been around so long, it has really led the charge toward a more diverse and expansive performing arts sector in this country. We love this time of year, because we get to hear about the incredible work being done in performance far and wide. It’s inspiring!”
The 2015 MAP Fund grant round is now open for Letters of Inquiry through September 28, so we thought we’d tell you about some of the projects they have supported in the past couple of years.
Next week, Holcombe Waller (2013 Performing Arts) premieres his Creative Capital project, “Requiem Mass: LGBT / Working Title,” in Portland, Oregon in conjunction with PICA’s TBA Festival. Waller’s Requiem Mass is a ceremonial choral work that explores contemporary faith, advocacy through art, and collective catharsis. Performed in historic Trinity Episcopal Cathedral with an all-abilities community choir drawn from all walks of life, the Requiem is an emotional and personal work invoking remembrance and peace for the dead who have suffered persecution for their sexual orientation or gender expression.
“Requiem Mass: LGBT / Working Title” was informed by research into the pivotal gay history from the 1980s through present day and by community engagement that has included working with experts in liturgical music, queer theory, faith-based equality initiatives as well as over 100 participants in a series of choral workshops with Waller over the past year. I connected with Holcombe to learn more about the Requiem Mass and the community he has built around this work.
Jenny Gill: Music has such amazing potential to reach people on a personal and emotional level. Are there any particular musical works—religious or otherwise—that have deeply affected you, or inspired you, or provoked you?
Holcombe Waller: A few of the first pieces of music that come to mind in terms of my Requiem Project: Roger and Hammerstein’s amazing activist show tune, “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught,” from South Pacific, definitely changed my world. In many ways, the “Dies Irae” section of my Requiem—which I’ve titled “What’s Next”—is rooted in a similar style of musical theater social activism, albeit with a nod to the Dies Irae of Verde’s Requiem. Continue reading →
DawN Crandell with artist and PDP workshop leader Dread Scott
This post originally appeared on reflectionslifeartistmom, the blog of Artists Summer Institute participant DawN Crandell. Artists Summer Institute kicked off earlier this week and runs through August 9. ASI is a five-day intensive series of workshops, seminars, and presentations featuring curriculum from Creative Capital’s Professional Development Program and LMCC’s content on financials and entrepreneurship for artists.
Wow. My brain is full and my body is exhausted and there is that familiar fear and anxiety based on insecurities of not enough. I’m not enough, I’m not doing enough. I don’t have enough. But today those feelings are being pushed to the background because I am gaining the skills and deeper confidence to climb up to the next level in my career.
For the past two days I’ve been a participant in the Artist Summer Institute presented by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and Creative Capital. Along with fifty-four other NYC artists, yesterday I learned about strategic planning and business planning for my career. Today was focused on marketing. I am making so many great connections and am beyond inspired by all the other artists. Continue reading →
¡Viva las Roots! at Intermedia Arts, Robert Karimi, 2011
If marketing leaves you feeling uneasy, reconsider how you approach it. For artists, marketing is an exercise in self-definition, not self-promotion. Your marketing strategy should echo your ideas and intentions. Creative Capital consultant Brian Tate identifies seven principles as a framework to implement and analyze his own strategic marketing plan. This post looks specifically at the elements of the story, the message, the audience and call to action. Brian will discuss using the seven principles in depth on Monday, October 19 in his popular Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing webinar.
Byron Au Yong at Sundance Institute; photo by Fred Hayes
Byron Au Yong is a composer, Creative Capital awardee, and leader of our “Art Business Management” webinar for the Professional Development Program (PDP). His interdisciplinary projects, scored for voices with Asian, European and handmade instruments, have been performed in concert halls, festivals, theaters, museums, and site-specific locations. We had a few questions for Byron about his creative work and how he manages it. For more, be sure to check out Byron’s webinar on Thursday, October 29.
Hannah Fenlon: Your work has been performed in all kinds of places. What are some of your favorites? Any non-traditional spaces that really stand out in your memory?
Byron Au Yong:My favorite places and presenters provide multiple access points to develop and think about a project. American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven, and Sundance Institute Theatre residencies around North America were crucial in supporting my Creative Capital project, STUCK ELEVATOR, and other shows.
In my hometown, favorite venues include On the Boards, Seattle Art Museum and Seattle Theatre Group’s Moore Theater. Memorable non-traditional spaces include 64 waterways for KIDNAPPING WATER: BOTTLED OPERAS thanks to guidance from 4Culture’s Site-Specific Performance Network and Jack Straw New Media Gallery. I am blessed to continue working outdoors along the water with performances of TURBINE, June 27th & 28th, 2015, commissioned by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia for the 200th anniversary of the Fairmount Water Works.
Emily Johnson/Catalyst (2013 Performing Arts) is bringing the expansive installation SHOREto New York this month, with gatherings and events throughout the city (April 19-26) and performances at New York Live Arts (April 23-25). SHORE expands beyond the theater to celebrate the places where we meet and merge—land and water; performer and audience; art and community; past, present, and future.
Throughout her work, Johnson asks: How can performance uniquely connect us to our land, our lives and each other? A native of Alaska who is based in Minneapolis, Johnson has spent the past four months working with community partners to plan this locally-specific version of SHORE in New York City, or as the Native Americans called it, Lenapehoking (“land of the Lenape”). She describes the events planned for SHORE in Lenapehoking: “SHORE moves, over the course of a week, from the dunes in the Rockaways, to the East River estuary, onto and into New York Harbor, over Minetta Creek, to the banks and buoyancy of Newtown Creek. We’ll listen to stories, we’ll work together, we’ll share food and this performance, taking care of what we need to care for. We’ll walk and bike and canoe and celebrate.” Continue reading →
What distinguishes Creative Capital from more traditional funders?
Now in our second decade, Creative Capital continues to consider itself the premiere provider of risk capital in the arts—taking chances on projects that are singularly bold, innovative and genre-stretching. We want to support the latest thinking in the field: ideas of scope and ambition expressed through audacious combinations of form and content; varied projects that engage or even create new technologies; and works that take traditional approaches into new territories, teaching us something new about the world and ourselves. We often provide early support for projects that initially have challenges receiving funding from other sources. Continue reading →