Pryings (June 2012)

Dancers Erin Carlisle Norton and Joyelle Fobbs interpret Pryings as a fully embodied performance existing between a dance and a struggle for power. Watch an excerpt of the original work by Vito Acconci here. Performed June 7, 2012, at the Ohio State University.

Erin Carlisle Norton is Artistic Director of The Moving Architects (TMA), a Chicago-based dance company founded in 2007. As an artist, she seeks to channel research of places, structures, their histories, and associated cultural transformations into choreography, exploring the embodiment of past and distant spaces in the heightened presence of live performance. Erin holds a BFA in Dance from Ohio State, is a Certified Movement Analyst and Pilates Instructor, and is soon to complete her MFA in Dance at Ohio State.  TMA has performed and taught at universities, dance studies, and community centers throughout Chicago, the Midwest, PA, NYC, Guatemala, upcoming in Morocco, and throughout Central Asia through the U.S. Embassy/Department of State.  Erin’s current choreographic research is delving into how cross-cultural dance experiences can be translated into creative choreographic processes.

In June I was so happy to be able to finish a video project I started with Alicia Chester and Andrea Slavik earlier in the year – a reinterpretation of Acconci’s “Pryings”  Two 12-minute takes consisted of being painted, dabbed, and scrubbed with gold paint by my dancing partner, Joy.  In a chair-sized space, it was a rather incredible and rigorous set of states I flinched and converged through – it was all about a physical set of responses to the intimate struggle. Escaping, fighting, trying to rise above it, giving in, passivity, numbness, coming up with ‘games’ to get away; I am used to pushing my dancers to go in this direction.  To be on the inside for that amount of time, knowing a filmic lens was on me, was empowering/exhausting/resourceful/raw.  What was really interesting to me was that the only way I could be part of the struggle was through the physicality of it – as if my body knew how to approach the task far better than my rational mind.  This project profoundly informed my interest in making and watching dance that is about being real and making choices in the moment – an example of trusting that a life of ingrained dance training can make intentional projects like this so fulfilling.

– Erin Carlisle Norton

Joyelle Fobbs trained in ballet under private coach, Elzbieta A. Kutek in Michigan and later at American Ballet Theatre (ABT), Kirov Academy, Julliard and the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) schools. She then toured across the U.S. and Europe as a member of both the DTH Company and Ensemble under Arthur Mitchell and Lavine Naidu respectively. She later attended the University of Michigan receiving her BFA in dance performance with honors and was featured as a soloist in works by Alonzo King and Martha Graham. After graduating, she performed with the Michigan Opera Theatre, Dayton Ballet, and Dayton Contemporary Dance Company II. Joyelle is a fully certified STOTTPilates® and ABT National Curriculum certified instructor on faculty at BalletMet Columbus.  She is currently an MFA candidate in dance history and pedagogy at the Ohio State University and enjoys collaborating as a guest artist for Erin Carlisle Norton’s Chicago-based dance company, The Moving Architects.

Working on this project with Erin and Alicia was an a-mazing thrill ride. Alicia really knew how to make us feel at ease and have the freedom to experiment, but she also kept us on track and had the ability to capture the moments of contrast we were creating: both beauty and angst. I remember it was pretty hot outside and the studio had no air conditioning, Erin and I were finishing up assignments for grad school, and I was moving the next day–such is the craziness of life–but each of us was so focused and 100% “in it” that time flew by and things came together almost seamlessly. After dancing in PLUCK for Erin, I also knew to be prepared when dancing one of her pieces–that there would be some sort of psychological realization coming to the fore. Sometimes it’s ugly or glorious, perhaps scary even, but it’s most of all revealing and raw without actually trying to be, if that makes sense! Which is so much a part of the fun! I also, never knew quite how much I loved metallic Ben Nye Makeup until the day of the shoot! I used to do retail makeup, but that stuff is amazing! I was like a kid in a sand box! So, thanks Alicia and Erin for the opportunity to be a part of the art-making with you, and I really hope people enjoy it.

– Joyelle Fobbs

Open Book (January 2012)

Yasi Ghanbari addresses the viewer while attempting to speak for nine minutes without closing her mouth. Watch an excerpt of the original work by Vito Acconci here.

Yasi Ghanbari (b. 1984) is an artist living and working in Chicago. She received a BA from Oberlin College in 2007 and an MFA in Film & Video in 2010 from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her recent areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following: Eleanor Roosevelt/horticulture, defense mechanisms, “installation”, masterworks, feminism, set design, bio pics, interpassivity, guilt, reference, “mark making”, and Sigmund Freud.

The idea of reenactment seems to have become an intuitive process. Children reenact the fights of their parents, art students reenact styles/ways of painting to “learn,” etc. Despite the intuitive nature of this act, when approached about reenacting an Acconci video, I was still curious about this exact choice. Perhaps I wanted to ignore Acconci, as I am also a person who has made low-fi performance based video alone in my bedroom. Perhaps I am still not open to examining my relationship to him, but I will say that participating in this project was very interesting. Reenacting Acconci (Acconci, one name, like Madonna) videos, only using contemporary female artists, on the surface, seems to be a defiant act. But I might argue that reenactment in this case was not about defiance, but about creating something new. It was an opportunity to make the past not so distant and ask where we stand.

– Yasi Ghanbari

Sounding Board (December 2011)

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Gordon Hall lies on top of speakers playing a track list she has selected. Jillian Soto interprets and reacts to the music on Gordon’s body, so that Gordon feels the music coming through her body from the speakers and simultaneously feels Soto’s reactions to the music and to her body. Watch an excerpt of the original work by Vito Acconci here.

Gordon Hall is an artist and writer based in New York. Gordon has exhibited and performed in such venues as The Kitchen (NYC), Taxter and Spengemann (NYC), Samson Projects (Boston), LaMontagne Gallery (Boston), Roots and Culture (Chicago), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), and The Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago). Gordon has been published in Monsters and Dust, New York Art Magazine, and Apenest and holds a MA in Visual and Critical Studies and a MFA in Fiber and Material Studies from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gordon was the curator of Second Gallery in Boston from 2005-2007, and is now director of the Center for Experimental Lectures.

Jillian Soto is an artist and writer. Soto’s videos, performances, and sculptures have been presented extensively throughout the United States as well as published work appearing in multiple magazines. In 2006 Soto received a BA in Studio Art from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2011. Soto lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

Collaboration

As we began the Every Acconci project at the end of 2011, a collaborative aspect with our performers emerged. We are producing videos not with actors or people acting simply as stand-ins for Acconci, but with mostly female artists based in Chicago whose work resonates with the specific Acconci videos we are remaking. These women become performers and collaborators in each video. Using Acconci’s original performances as texts and working within the parameters we set, they are free to interpret Acconci’s performances as they wish. Some stray far from the original works, though the seeds remain recognizable. The results are collaborative performances created for video in which highly personal aspects of each person’s work and personality are tangibly present.

With each video posted we include short biographies and links to websites for the artists/performers, who also have the option to provide a written response to the process of making the video or to the finished work. The heart of the project remains deliberately local, focusing on artworks in the collection of the Video Data Bank in Chicago and creating a visible network of diverse and incredibly talented artists based in or connected to Chicago, many of whom have personal and professional relationships. The result is a call and response form of conversation among our work, created not only through the blog, but through the performances and videos themselves.

Postmodern pastiche and historical distance

Vito Acconci’s canonical early video work engages hierarchical power struggles, sexuality, violence, control, and resistance. We are remaking every video by Acconci in the collection of the Video Data Bank, but with women and a HDSLR camera. These seem to be simple enough parameters to explore the intersections of performance and video and to ask: what would it mean to change the gender dynamic and remake his work forty years later?

The remake is not necessarily an homage to the original artist. The remake can allow us to measure historical distance. In a recent article concerning remakes, curator Karen Irvine at the Museum of Contemporary Photography stated, “They need to make some kind of commentary or question the canon of art history. When it’s done right, a remake engages the viewer because of the familiarity, then throws into question the history of representation.” Thinking of Acconci’s work and postmodern pastiche, David Clark wrote in his 1999 essay The Ghost of an Exquisite Corpse:

“The remake is rarefied form of popular culture’s general inclination to reproduce already existing cultural forms… [E]very reproduction, no matter how exact, always has a different meaning. The remake is measured by its relation to the already made, the already always present. The remake, therefore, becomes a gauge for measuring the historical shifts of meaning that have taken place. The post-modern critique of originality and the role of the author parallels the rise of the remake as an avant-garde strategy. The remake allows us to bracket out the content of the artwork and look at its distinguishing formal characteristics, in a way that is similar to Phenomenology’s project of bracketing out the subjective aspects of experience, leaving only the phenomena that exists outside the subjective. The remake removes the subjective aspects of the work and leaves the non-subjective, the phenomenological, as a gauge of the residues of history.”

We are not the first to remake Acconci, even with women performers. But we are willing to reinterpret Acconci’s work in a post-second wave, post-9/11, post-Obama, post-YouTube and Facebook, post-Occupy Wall Street world and find what historical distance emerges.