All posts filed under: Performance

Lakshmi Ramgopal’s “A Half-Light Chorus”

As I’m nestled between the drapes of lush green fronds in the Fern Room at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, I become aware of the ambient sounds. I hear the steady trickle of nearby water and the bird calls that fill the space. As I wait for the afternoon performance to start, the bird calls begin to demand a bit more of my attention. I hear what sounds like a whistle and then what sounds like a human call. Then, clicking, brief pauses, more clicking, and suddenly a layer of bird calls that begin to sound more and more human as the moments pass, all followed by what I’m sure is a human sound. Click. Pause. Bird call? Chirp. No, definitely a human call. Wail. Human call. Pause. As I become more aware of the presence of the piece, Lakshmi Ramgopal and her ensemble, clad in all white, take their places for the final performance for this installation. This environmental soundscape, which feels simultaneously personal and celestial, is Lakshmi Ramgopal’s installation “A Half Light Chorus” at the Lincoln Park Conservatory as part of …

In the Realm of Senses and the Pleasure of Eating with Music

Before Jeff Yang takes the stage, someone behind me says to a friend, “What you’re about to experience is like nothing else … it’s remarkable.” I don’t really know what I’m about to expect. I came to the event alone, my partner had to work, and I have an irrational fear of interactive events. I’m going into the night without many expectations. I received an email about a week or so in advance inviting me to In The Realm of Senses: Pictures at an Exhibition Fundraiser, and of course, I read the pamphlet — food, drinks, sense, scent, taste, music, sound — but I wasn’t sure how it would be exhibited, how the audience would be involved, and how I would react. All of the senses are familiar as simple words but existing together, and depending on one another, was something I had not experienced. I was nervous. Behind Yang hangs the work of Maja Bosen, an installation artist, whose pieces hang delicately from the ceiling on the back and left hand side of the stage. Yang …

The photograph shows the artist at center, standing in front of one of the gallery’s internal, white walls, with performers and guests sitting or standing on either side of her. Black vinyl letters are installed directly onto the walls, in the form of words and phrases in English and Hindi. Text appears in different sizes and spatial orientations (e.g., right-side up, upside-down, diagonal, vertical, and organic shapes), with some words/phrases expanded in space, condensed, or intersecting with other text. English words/phrases shown in this image include “a tender beginning,” “offer,” and “of this winter.” A gestural drawing—also made of black vinyl—is shown on the left-hand side of the image.

Beyond the Page: Udita Upadhyaya’s “nevernotmusic” (the show)

“Beyond the Page” digs into the process and practice of writers and artists who work at the intersection of literary arts and other fields. This interview is the first of three with interdisciplinary artist Udita Upadhyaya about “nevernotmusic” — a solo exhibition of scores activated by curated, collaborative performances — and her process of developing these scores into a book (read the second interview here and the third here). In early March, on the last day of her show “nevernotmusic” at Roman Susan, I met with Udita to discuss her processes of creating and “gifting” performance scores, transforming the scores into an installation, and learning from performers’ interpretations. Follow @uditau on Twitter and Instagram and check out her book launch at TriTriangle on September 8, 2018, at 7pm. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.   Marya Spont-Lemus: Knowing a bit about your work, and specifically your work with language, I already wanted to talk to you for “Beyond the Page.” And then I was so excited to hear about “nevernotmusic” — the …

Dwell in Other Futures

I had a basic sense of the urban history of St. Louis: deindustrialization, redlining, and white flight, all reflected in a downward sloping population chart and an interactive online map whose shaded regions shuffle along radial axes further and further apart over time. Nonetheless, I was surprised as I walked downtown. Tallish, newish buildings lined a wide boulevard dotted by tap rooms and cafes dealing overpriced salads to the only other pedestrians out and about: a small cluster of people in color-coordinated tee shirts (a school group, perhaps) and an occasional professional-looking person in a suit. I had arrived that afternoon via the Amtrak Lincoln Service Train No. 301 from Chicago, sleepy and hungry, and after taking care of both concerns with overpriced salad and bottomless coffee, and while waiting for a friend to come pick me up after work, I sought the one place in the area recommended to me by people in Chicago, the City Museum. Sensory overload was sudden and overwhelming. I now understood the meaning of the tip to “bring knee …

Body Passages: Exploring Visual Art with Poets Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken

This is the second article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center (the first is here). This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. On an afternoon in early May, I showed up to watch an “open rehearsal” at the Chicago Cultural Center’s dance studio only to find myself a participant. This opportunity became even more exciting when the people I was there to see—Lorraine Harrell and David Nekimken, two delightful and effervescent poets who were in residence through Body Passages—invited me to join them as they sought inspiration and inputs in the galleries. We spent an hour together exploring the Cultural Center’s first-floor exhibitions, as the pair shared their observations and perspectives about visual artworks, made connections to their own lives and practices, and generated ideas for a joint creative project—an interdisciplinary, in progress work, prompted by their participation in Body Passages. A …

Featured image: This is a photograph of a group of people in a dance studio, sitting in a circle of chairs. Some people have their backs to the camera, and other people are shown straight-on or in profile. The two chairs nearest the camera are unoccupied, creating a window to the speaker, a man holding a microphone. Photograph by Hannah Siegfried.

Body Passages: Poets and Dancers Discuss Collaborative Processes In Progress

This is the first article in an ongoing series about Body Passages, a partnership between Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble and The Chicago Poetry Center. This series gives brief looks into a 10-month, interdisciplinary creative process between Body Passages poets and dancers, documenting and reflecting on aspects of that process as it happens. Launched in 2017, Body Passages is the brainchild of co-founders Sara Maslanka (Artistic Director of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble) and Natasha Mijares (Reading Series Curator of The Chicago Poetry Center; Natasha also writes for Sixty). This innovative, interdisciplinary partnership brings together artists of various forms—poets and dancers, ostensibly, but many with practices extending beyond those bounds—over the course of 10 months to create original, collaborative work engaging language and movement. The 2018 cohort is comprised of 14 broadly diverse artists at different points in their artistic growth, who are together interrogating this year’s theme—“Activation”—and developing new work in response. Following December auditions, their process formally began in January when selected poets and dancers were assigned into groups and will officially conclude in October with final …

Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism by Nicole Garneau

Artist and activist Nicole Garneau’s new book Performing Revolutionary: Art, Action, Activism takes you on an intimate journey through her project UPRISING, a series of performances that took place once a month for five years. Defining her UPRISINGs as “public demonstration of revolutionary practices,” these performances, protests, celebrations envelop around efforts of connection, community, and care in a way that is reflected in the writings in this book (Garneau, 2). The artist lovingly holds your hand while she walks you through how this project began, and then onwards into each of the 60 performances taking place in eight states and other international locations, beginning in 2008. Each of the sixty performances explored within this book is two-fold: one part being ‘IN ACTION’ which describes the performance and event; the other being ‘Revolutionary Practice,’ which offers a prompt, an exercise the reader can do themselves, putting the action into practice. Garneau describes this book as, “The result of many years of exploration into how performance can be used to create public demonstrations of the possibilities for a more loving, …

Review: Bebe Miller Company at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago

In a Rhythm begins with storytelling, a storytelling which gradually darkens into theater: Bebe Miller steps out onto the stage with her dancers, and begins a short narrative about hearing an audiobook of a David Foster Wallace story. As she continues talking, the lights dim and the bodies around her begin to move – a pleasing, calm split to the viewer’s attention. After all, the David Foster Wallace story, as Miller informs us, “is not a part of this dance.” Soon a single piano note chimes in, and the narrative is subsumed by the familiar structures of concert dance. But they are not so familiar here. Miller is explicitly interested in the choreographic potentials of syntax: in her words, “how we collide with meaning through the juxtaposed dynamics of action and context, in time and space.” Her work, however, doesn’t merely follow through with this curiosity – it explodes it with a rare breed of infectious joy and sharpness. In this world, the casual release-based grace of postmodern movement is immediately followed by jagged, awkward weight sharing; …

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 …

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 …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Full Interview with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

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 artist’s 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, conducted by Sabrina Greig, will be contributed to D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem’s file at the Chicago Artist Files at Harold Washington Library. Sabrina Greig: I’m here with Denenge in her home studio in Chicago. It’s summertime and a beautiful warm day overlooking the city and Lake Michigan. So, Denenge, tell us about your work and your space here. D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem: Thank you for being here and welcome to my space! So, to give some background for the work, I was born and raised in rural Nigeria in a small town called Mkar, Benue State, Nigeria, and it was very spare but rich cultural upbringing. …

Chicago Archives + Artists Project: Interview with D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem

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 D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, 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 Denenge was conducted by Sabrina Greig 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 the Chicago Archives + Artists Project with support from the Gaylord and Dorothy …

Democracy at Work: travis and P.Michael of ONO

“It’s spooky, actually,” said P.Michael when I asked about his 37-year collaboration with fellow ONO member travis. “Sometimes, he’ll be working on something and I’ll be working on something, and we’ll show each other what we’ve been working on, and it’s the same thing, sort of. It’s like one person started it and one person finished it. It just fits perfectly.” We were sitting at travis’s kitchen table in his South Side Chicago home on a Sunday afternoon, drinking peppermint tea ladled out of a pot. ONO is the “Avant-gospel” noise band that P.Michael and travis formed in 1980. They started regularly performing again about seven years ago in all varieties of DIY basements, art museums, music festivals, and loft galleries, with an evolving cast of band members. They have released several recordings in recent years, but the full ONO experience lives in the live show, which is tightly orchestrated, with a narrative arc and several costume changes. travis spits out words that weave history with personal pain, moving in and out of the crowd as he adds or subtracts …

Dancing in Public: Chicago Park District’s Resident Companies

Urbs in Horto: the official motto of the city of Chicago. This translates from Latin to “City in a Garden,” yet the construction of public green spaces around Chicago has a fraught, often troubled history. From its origins in the late nineteenth century, exhuming as corpses from plots on the North Side, the Chicago Park District emerged as a consolidated entity in 1934 and today proudly announces its status as “the largest municipal park manager in the nation.” As the Chicago Park District expanded, so did the city’s need for comprehensive, accessible arts programming. Though these needs existed prior to such expansion, the process of opening new public spaces threw them into a sharper relief. Landscape architects, like the Olmsted brothers who were commissioned to provide some recreational relief for the city’s overcrowded conditions, envisioned a new set of parks providing social and cultural services in addition to open green space. Parks might not merely be designated areas for fitness and recreation, they could also become an important facet of the Chicago’s cultural landscape. As it …

Exaltations: Ricardo Gamboa, Storyfront, and Theater as a Living Archive

There is a certain way that we are often expected to approach Mexicanidad in our practices – whatever our field—one that centers the white gaze, commodifies our pain, exotifies us, and overall, attempts to deviate us from our original visions to a didactic one, namely, one burdened with the mandate to teach others about ourselves. I remember picking up a book in my elementary school’s library called The Mexicans, expecting to read about my family’s homeland, wanting a connection.  Reading the first sentence, which said “The Mexicans are a proud people” under unrecognizable caricatures, I narrowed my eyes and put it down, realizing that it wasn’t written for an actual Mexican like me. This disappointment has become familiar over time. Is this show actually for someone like me or is it for the type of people The Mexicans was meant for? I narrow my eyes. It’s hard to tell beforehand since criticism tends to have little representation of diverse voices who can evaluate work through different perspectives. But one of the artists in Chicago whose …

Interpreting Faye Driscoll’s “Play”: The Art of Audio Description and ASL Interpretation

None of the typical rules of a play apply here. Then again, when you come to a performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, you aren’t really expecting typical, are you? Play is the second performance in a series called Thank You For Coming, created by Bessie Award–winning director and choreographer, Faye Driscoll. This performance “uses the ritual of storytelling to explore our reliance on stories to relate to one another and form identities as individuals and citizens.” What begins as a communal audience-participation on stage quickly delves into a parody of an absurd theater act. Employing multiple meanings of the term “play,” the cast performs a drama but an allowance for improvisation leaves room for the actors to engage in the more fanciful version of “play” as well. Play is also atypical in its breaking of the fourth wall. Not only does a sound engineer remain on stage, occasionally being called into the action, but Driscoll herself joins the cast. At times she is grabbing props or directing the actors, as if it were a rehearsal …

Build, Break, Repeat: An Interview with HOGG

To experience a live HOGG set is mesmerizing and terrifying. Over bass lines that pulsate, H and E* growl, howl, crawl, laugh, scream, and slam their bodies onto unsuspecting instruments. And then they stand still—so still, for so long. These movements are methodical and choreographed as they swap instruments that include bass, guitar, a floor tom, electronic samplers and drum machines. When I think of HOGG I think of my best friend. Around the time when we first saw HOGG play, we were also making music together, and we cared deeply about ecstatic, physical performances. It was moving then, and almost a relief, to see another pair of musicians dedicating their whole selves and bodies to that end. HOGG has three studio records to date (“Solar Phallic Lion,” Scrapes, 2016; “Carnal Lust & Carnivorous Eating,” Rotted Tooth Recordings, 2016; “Bury the Dog Deeper,” Nihilist Records, 2015), with a fourth album set to be released this spring. Like the live performances, their lyrics evoke embodiment, horror, sensuality, and psychology. HOGG occasionally collaborates with other artists, such as the dancer Eryka Dellenbach and …

Front-woman: A Look at Fran

I first saw Maria Jacobson from Fran play over the summer at The Hideout. Her voice, which I had previously only heard on Bandcamp, was atmospheric. It was natural. Her lyrics, empathetic and encapsulated with raw emotion and narrative, were something I could cry to. In short, I’ve been trying to pencil as many Fran shows into my calendar ever since. I met Maria in Humboldt Park, where we chatted about where she is going and what she is doing since picking up music a year ago. S. Nicole Lane: You studied theater, right? Maria Jacobson: Yeah, so I went to school for acting—for theater—and was pretty set on being an actor when I moved back home [Chicago], and did it for a year. I did musical theater growing up, so I have a strong singing background, and also studied some music in college—sort of broadly. I was the singer in bands—in high school and college—but never had a personal songwriting practice. I was trying to be an actor for a year, and then two year ago I got an …

Intimate Justice: Lauren Steinberg

“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 Lauren Steinberg in the grass of Lincoln Park about a queer future, pop culture, and rolling around online.  S. Nicole Lane: We can begin with your background. You’re from New York City.  Lauren Steinberg: Yeah. I grew up in New York City. Manhattan. My dad, he’s 75, he’s an older dad. He grew up there too, and he never left. He refuses to leave. He kind of tried to instill that in me. It worked for a while, I ended up going to undergrad at Pratt in Brooklyn. I think I wanted to punish myself a little bit for being an artist. Not that I didn’t love Pratt, Pratt was amazing, but it was definitely the most rigid school that I got into at the time. I was like, “If I’m really going to do this and suffer, because everyone tells …

Intimate Justice: An Interview with Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero

“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 met with Jacquelyn Guerrero in the Pilsen neighborhood to discuss heritage, performance, and Chicago music. Nicole Lane: Where are you from? How did you end up Chicago? Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero (aka CQQCHIFRUIT): I’m from Miami. My mom is Cuban, my dad is Puerto Rican. I ended up in Chicago when I went to Northwestern. I studied theater and dance. I really wanted to go to school away from Miami. I didn’t appreciate the culture when I was growing up there. I came out as bisexual when I was eighteen and I wanted to have some room to figure out what that meant. SNL: Can you talk about the events that you’re a part of and the queer spaces that you’re creating with parties like TRQPITECA? JCG: After I graduated school, I really loved to go out dancing. I tried to go to …

The Chicago Home Theater Festival Interviews

Since 2012, the Chicago Home Theater Festival‘s mission has been to pull neighborhoods and communities together through a strange yet intimate experience—performances hosted at homes and in living rooms throughout the city. As the festival swings into its sixth year, we feel the need for those community bonds more strongly than ever. Chicago Home Theater Festival runs from May 14 to May 29. But before you make your way to a few of the nights, we offer you some insight into the featured neighborhoods from the hosts who call Kenwood, Hyde Park, Pilsen, Albany Park, Edgewater, and South Shore home.  Writers Haydée Souffrant, Michael Workman, Sheila Lewis, and Tempestt Hazel interviewed several hosts about their neighborhoods, the outside and inside perspectives of each place, and their hopes for this year’s festival. Images created using one provided by Chicago Home Theater Festival. Image for the a postcard photographed by 이다함 (eedahahm) and designed by Dave Pabellon.

Intimate Justice: An Interview with Lucy Stoole

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. Lucy Stoole is an art star. Her drag personality unhinges the queer community in spaces like SmartBar, Berlin, and Beauty Bar weekly. Her larger than life aura tackles pertinent topics like sex positivity, politics, and gender inequality. The filthy and honest mind of this vivacious queen has been having a conversation with Chicago’s night life scene and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.  Quite fittingly, Lucy recently launched a sex toy line called Stoole Sample, that features high quality toys in her signature color: pink. Her performative essence is now matched with a high quality merch line that accompanies her stage presence.  I talked to the bearded beauty in a restaurant conveniently located next to SmartBar, where you can see Lucy every Sunday night for Queen! The historical context of drag in Chicago is deeply rooted in its contribution to House, its …