Month: March 2018

Reflections of the ECLIPSING Festival

I’ll begin at the end. Arms raised, knees levering, booties popping, we danced to the beats served by DJ Hijo Pródigo in the Currency Exchange Café, which had turned into a bar for the night, serving up cocktails loaded with activated charcoal. We had an hour before been perched next door on stools and benches for a reading at the BING art books store, and an hour before that stood chatting with cheese cubes on napkins in the Arts Incubator gallery. Nearly a festival in itself, it was the closing night of the monumental ECLIPSING festival: three months that included a performance series, a group and a solo exhibition, workshops, a vegan market, and a “performative lecture” in four arts venues around Chicago. The festival, whose full title is ECLIPSING: the politics of night, the politics of light, was organized by Amina Ross and took place between January and March. The word Ross used to describe the robust programming is “holistic.” An eclipse is a drama, a shifting in the relationships between the looker, the looked-at, and the …

Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight. Photo: Robbie Sweeny.

“Radical Hospitality”:
Relaxed Performances on the MCA Stage

Chair or floor cushion? I decided to make myself comfortable in a chair on the corner of the stage—in the midst of the action, but removed enough to observe much of what was happening at the edges of the space. This performance of Claire Cunningham & Jess Curtis’ The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was certainly relaxed. Escorted to stage level, the audience was invited to sit directly on the stage in clusters of chairs and cushions, and prompted to make themselves at home, even remove their heavy winter boots if they were so inclined. After explaining what to expect, Cunningham and Curtis—acclaimed international theatre and dance artists—set into motion a “collage of dance, song, and text.” For roughly 100 minutes, the audience was treated to a show pendulating between humorous yet poignant moments and more classical performance segments of dance and song. (You can see a clip here). Though classical might be the wrong word, as Cunningham and Curtis’ work itself questions what we consider classic or traditional, playing with romantic ideals, gender …

In Conversation with Terttu Uibopuu

“This is what making work should be like. You should be nervous and you should be a little bit scared. And you should feel kind of apprehensive and you should feel like you’re doing something kind of wrong. That’s the state I want to be in when I make my work. I don’t want to be comfortable. I don’t want to know what the hell I’m doing. I want to feel like I’m trying something new and scary and weird. Something not so polite and not comfortable for anybody.” – Terttu Uibopuu Estonian-American photographer Terttu Uibopuu moved to the United States in 2002. Born in 1984, in Soviet-occupied Estonia, Uibopuu lived much of her formative years during the fall of the Soviet Union. After receiving a photography award from the cigarette company Phillip Morris in 2001, she booked a one-way ticket to the United States. At the age of 17, Uibopuu found herself in a small city in northern Illinois where she began documenting her experiences and forging herself a career in photography. In this …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Interview with Roell Schmidt

This interview took place as part of an initiative occasioned by the first Chicago Archives + Artists Festival, held at the Chicago Cultural Center in May 2017. The festival kicked off a series of in-depth artist interviews, including this one with Roell Schmidt of Links Hall, which will be contributed to the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. This series of interviews was conducted with a group of artists, curators, instigators, and organizers who we believe are essential to the history of Chicago art. The interview with Roell was conducted by Annie Morse, a curator and Senior Lecturer in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago, and is excerpted below. In addition to this smaller group of Sixty-interviewed artists, a call was put out to ALL the city’s artists: #GetArchived! The core of the free festival was a pop-up archive processing center staffed by Sixty Inches From Center and volunteers. Many partners lent their time, resources, and high-res scanners(!) to this endeavor, including LATITUDE, the Visualist, and Read/Write Library. Sixty Inches From Center is excited to be continuing …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Full Interview with Roell Schmidt

This interview took place as part of an initiative of the Chicago Archives + Artists Project . CA+AP serves as a laboratory and pipeline for the community preservation of artists’ archives. We want to find creative ways to care for an ever more accessible, playful, and diverse compendium of artists voices, process and ephemera. We believe in the power of stories in many voices, on many platforms, past, present and future. This interview of Roell Schmidt, conducted by Annie Morse, a curator and Senior Lecturer in Museum Education at the Art Institute of Chicago, will be contributed to Links Hall’s file at the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. Annie Morse: Roell, will you please introduce yourself and talk about how you came to the archives project. Roell Schmidt: I currently am the director of Links Hall, an experimental dance group and performance space that’s been in Chicago for 38 years. And how I came to be part of this archive was: Tempestt invited me to be one of the interviewed people, and, although I am not super comfortable being the person …

Intimate Justice: GLAMHAG

“Intimate Justice” looks at the intersection of art and sex and how these actions intertwine to serve as a form of resistance, activism, and dialogue in the Chicago community. For this installment, we talked to GLAMHAG (née Molly Hewitt) in the Pilsen neighborhood about compulsions, empowerment through a chosen identity, and queer sexual narratives.  S. Nicole Lane: What does performance mean to you? Are you always in character? Who are you right now? GLAMHAG: I guess I’ve always been compelled to perform in my work, whether that’s live performance or in my video work. I think it’s really a compulsion. I do feel that with the kind work I’m making, communicating with my body when it’s so much about my body—other bodies—and sexuality, using my body makes the most sense. I do definitely have a compulsion to perform. And then I also do things that come along with a lot of other performers too, I definitely have exhibitionist tendencies. I like attention. SNL: Where are you from originally? GH: I’m from England originally, I was born in London. …

Writing at The Club: A Look at The State of The Dance Circle

On October 11, 2016, artist, writer, performer, and DJ, Juliana Huxtable, gave a lecture at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the Visiting Artists series at SAIC. The lecture was a look into her practice and she mentioned everything from her love of Geocities, liberation theologies, and the Mesozoic era. It’s been over a year since this lecture took place and one of the echoes that has remained in my mind from that evening is Huxtable’s view on the “dance circle.” We can see forms of dance circles in nature enacted through many processes. On the cellular level, “cooperative binding” is used to construct well-defined assemblies of cells and is used to transfer information. Possibly the greatest dancers of all, bees, take part in what is called “the waggle dance” which appears to be a method by which the direction and distance of a food source is communicated among individuals. A scientific drawing of cooperative binding. Courtesy of the National Academy of Sciences.  Images of sound recordings of a bee’s waggle dance. Courtesy of The …

Without, Within the World: Hume Chicago

Call them DIY, alternative, radical, or safe, Chicago’s independent art spaces create a world without money and borders within a world defined by both. They function as community hubs and communal living spaces, providing free and affordable entertainment, hosting activism workshops and food drives, and building connections among young, emerging, and marginalized artists. “Without, Within the World” is a series of interviews that asks curators and administrators about building utopia while maintaining viable spaces.      For this installment of “Without, Within the World,” we talked to executive director Fontaine Capel of Hume Chicago. Hume is a small gallery and artist studio space run out of a storefront in Humboldt Park. Through an open call process, Hume exhibits work by artists who are underrepresented on the gallery circuit, particularly women, queer, and immigrant artists. In addition to its gallery shows, Hume provides affordable studio spaces for artists and hosts regular events that contribute to its relaxed and friendly environment, such as movie nights and karaoke parties. Hume was established by Capel, Olive Panter, and Gita Jackson, who have …

Body Talk: “Beyond Measure: Daniel Cerrejón and Carolyn Lazard” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid

In the video Crip Time (2017) by Philadelphia-based artist Carolyn Lazard, we watch two hands dole out units of medicine, one by one, into the expectant slots of a weekly dosage organizer. The methodical preparation plays out as a choreography of repetition and accumulation, a rhythmic tapping of pill on plastic. The pills themselves—studies in color and form as well as chemistry—become small ritual objects for marking time in a sick body. Abstracted from the suffering that necessitates them, these are pharmaceutical gemstones made from science we can’t access for purposes we aren’t told. The video marks the beginning of Beyond Measure, curated by Charlotte Ickes and Jared Quinton at Tiger Strikes Asteroid. The show pairs Lazard, whose personal experience with Crohn’s disease has shaped how they make visible the procedures and power dynamics structuring a life with chronic illness, with Daniel Cerrejón, who takes on the ways we try to demystify the condition of having a body among other bodies. At a time when dominant cultural narratives rely on the supposed immateriality of information …

Preserving Celluloid Film: A Look at Archiving in Chicago

In 2011, visual artist Tacita Dean opened her exhibition “FILM” at the Tate Modern where she responded to the destruction of celluloid film. She exhibited a silent, 11 minute, 35mm looped film in the London museum. The exhibition set out to provide a physical display for viewers to see the difference between digital and celluloid. The history of the moving image, important to Dean, exhibited the richness in color and the power of the projection. The New York Times writes, “Like the vinyl long-playing record, the Polaroid camera and the manual typewriter, celluloid has attracted a generation of artists who have come of age in a digital world and have developed a nostalgic soft spot for analog.” I spoke to Dan Erdman, an archivist at the Media Burn, and Director Nancy Watrous from Chicago Film Archives, about the importance of preserving celluloid and the impact of film on history. No one ever claimed that film restoration was sexy. It’s granular. It’s a bit mundane. It’s lots of organizing and dusting off grimy surfaces. It’s protective gloves and …

Beyond the Page: Saleem Hue Penny

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. In February, I was excited to speak with “rural hip-hop blues” artist Saleem Hue Penny—whose work I have long admired—about his recent poetry chapbook and its audio companion, his process for creating within and across multiple media, and his work’s relationship to place, childhood, and the natural world. Follow @huedotart to hear about future readings, including the “Tammy Journal Takeover” at Pilsen Community Books this spring. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Marya Spont-Lemus: You call yourself a “rural hip-hop blues” artist. How did you come to that framing for you and your work and what does it mean to you? Saleem Hue Penny: So I have traditionally used the acronym “h.u.e.”, for “hope uplifts everything.” It’s a double-play on my middle name, of Hue. My mother gave it to my little brother and me because we’re different shades in a bigger picture. And at some point I …