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 …
Black Out Dinners are not the dining-in-the-dark, date-night novelty you may have seen offered on Groupon. 6018North, an Edgewater nonprofit for experimental arts and culture, takes the experience far beyond a trendy meal. In partnership with The Chicago Lighthouse, Black Out Dinners are presented by fully or partially visually impaired servers who guide guests in the pitch-black setting. The first two courses of the delicious vegetarian meal (Giuseppe Catanzariti of Midnight Kitchen Projects was the chef, with Sonia Yoon, when I attended) are enjoyed at communal tables in the dark, with only minor bumps and air-grasps. Dessert is served back in the light, and includes a discussion with the servers and meeting your fellow table-mates. As dinner guests, we were placing ourselves in the unknown, trusting someone for whom the dark is not unknown at all. This trust, the ability to lean on one another’s strengths, makes Black Out Dinners about far more than food. I had the chance to speak with Tricia Van Eck, Artistic Director at 6018North, as well as Elbert Ford, Job Placement Counselor …
A review of the recent performance at the Poetry Foundation.
Libyans sometimes refer to being arrested and taken away without warning as being “taken behind the sun.” This interview series celebrates—through conversations with formerly-incarcerated artists and their allies—the ways in which an artistic, creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. In 1984, Vincent Wade was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, based on a confession tortured out of him by Chicago police detectives. He spent 31 years in state prison, teaching and working as an artist in every available medium, sharpening his skills for the day he would walk free. On August 14, 2015—years after proof of systematic torture and coercion by the Chicago Police Department was uncovered—Vincent was finally released. While groups like Chicago Torture Justice Memorials continue to fight on behalf of Chicago police torture survivors, Vincent remains focused on the thing that got him through more than three decades behind bars: his art. We sat down just south of Washington Park to talk about Vincent’s artistic mentors, his …
Get a first look at the episodes of Transition To Power, the latest documentary film series by On The Real Film on artists in the election aftermath.
An audio interview with the Kenya-born and Chicago-based dynamic musician behind the albums Cloud High Vybes and Pocket Juice.
An interview about their experience at Mill Hill and being asked to leave for questioning the ethics of the residency’s approach to social practice.
A look back on 32 years of work, play, ethos, and process with the former Associate Curator and Director of Education at the Renaissance Society.
A series of interviews that reveal how a creative life can transmute the impact and redefine the legacy of an experience within the Prison Industrial Complex.
A look into the latest series of publications out of Half Letter Press by Public Collectors.
Scrolling, swiping, and clicking are the only tactile skills required to engage with Institutional Garbage, a web-based exhibition produced by Sector 2337 and the Hyde Park Art Center. These actions, performed by a mouse, keyboard, or the tap of a finger, make a ritual out of interacting with exhibitions presented in the digital sphere. Co-curated by Caroline Picard and Lara Schoorl, Institutional Garbage conceptually tears down the institutional walls of the art world, from elite academic spaces to donor-run museums, to showcase “the administrative residue of imaginary public institutions.”  As the title insinuates, the show makes a point to draw attention to the seemingly imperfect “trash” of 41 artists, writers, and curators. Lara Schoorl, a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and current publicity manager at Sector 2337, states that the exhibition aims to “elevate the connotation of trash,” attempting to understand it as a crucial component of the creative journey through the art world. Schoorl described in detail how this innovative rendition of a virtual exhibition initially “started …
An conversation with Chicago burlesque dancer and performance artist about coming out to her family, facing toxic masculinity in the nightclub scene, and performing the black body.
There are limits to how far artists can push works of art, but few test them as forcefully as Sadie Benning. Benning’s installation on view now at the University of Chicago’s Renaissance Society attempts to give viewers a Shared Eye on US politics and history, conjuring a kind of collective memory through the rhythmic sequencing of panels and our subjective interpretations of their interpolations. That aim might already be a mouthful, but Benning does not stop there. Taking leeway with what she calls the “complexities” of visual media, she wanders far afield into contemporary art’s hottest clichés. Cut up and reassembled from digital snapshots, found photos, trinkets, and painted segments, Benning’s panels collapse and expand media. As physical objects, they are neither here nor there, neither the one nor the other. Unfortunately, the artist takes the same postmodern tack to their subject matter, willing it to hover in the ether and float away at first sight. The operative word here might be “edgy.” Work that cannot be defined as belonging to any one medium is in …
An interview with the organizer of this New York-born, now Chicago based all-female dance party.
Closing out the year with a reflection on the mixed feelings of the art fair experience in comic form.
A conversation about hip-hop, Hairy Who, and his approach to tackling race and gender issues with David Leggett. Part two of a two-part series.
A list of art, performance, talks, and other events happening across Chicago.
One of Chicago’s mainstays discusses her beginnings in Dayton, Ohio, relocating to Chicago, and how her poetry and visual work come together through deep poetic, sonic, and visual influences.
A conversation about comics, flea market digs, and collecting Americana with David Leggett. Part one of a two-part series.
One of Chicago’s performance artists discusses absurdist identity art personifications, YouTube stardom, and her guest spot on Comedy Central.
An interview with artist, curator, and co-founder of The Franklin in Garfield Park for Connect Hyde Park Arts Festival.
A conversation about ReformedSchool’s roots in Gaona’s dance practice and how fashion can be used to spread a message of empowerment and historical awareness.
A series of gatherings that bring together arts and culture writers, platform-builders and media-makers in Chicago, launching in 2017.
An interview with one of Connect Hyde Park Arts Festival’s featured artists and designer of BKE Designs.
Artist in residence at Hyde Park Art Center and featured artist for Connect Hyde Park Art Festival discusses her interactive works which speak to international citizenship, global migration, and the power dynamics of passports.
The artist and cyclist behind the Chicago chapter of Sister Cycles and Bronzeville Bike Box discusses her love of bikes, design, and the story behind her featured piece in Connect Hyde Park Art Festival.
Earthbound Moon (EbM) is a collaborative organization whose stated aim is to “terraform the Earth” by transforming its surface into a non-contiguous sculpture garden. They propose to undertake this re-purposing, or rather this perceptual shift (for their concept of “sculpture” is generous), over the course of a hundred generations. This is a radical expansion of the time-scale usually involved in evaluating the possibilities of cultural production. It is a time-scale reserved for geological histories, an ecological positioning not lost on EbM. Earthbound Moon is consistent in contextualizing their work in the history of everything. The entire show at Ballroom Projects is organized as an archive of the organization: its projects, its resources, its library, its collection, and its influences. The archive is organized as a timeline that stretches back to the Big Bang, represented as a tiny white dot on the floor protected by a haphazard masking tape square. Their work is contextualized in the large fabric of all time. They describe years in which they are working to 5 values, dating a work ‘02014’ …
Facing many great obstacles towards progress in our society, we look to artists to illuminate the path forward.
Kurt Chiang, artistic director of The Neo-Futurists, calls their space in Andersonville “a labyrinth,” and when you go see their signature show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, entering the building can feel like entering another world. Your experience begins in a long line of people outside the building. There, you are given a token to reserve your seat. You enter the building and trek up two flights of stairs. To the left are the bathrooms. To the right is “The Hall of Presidents,” a long hallway lined with portraits of every US president to date, rendered in a variety of artistic styles. Go down this hallway, and you are in a kitchen. There is a candy counter manned by a volunteer, and behind the volunteer is a sink, some cabinets, a stove. It’s a kitchen. Past the candy counter, past the antique photo booth, past a typewriter station, through two double doors, and down a step into “The State Park,” a gymnasium-like space with a player piano at one end, and a …
Movement Matters is a column that investigates work at the intersection of dance, performance, politics, policy and issues related to the body as the locus of these and related socio-cultural dialogues on race, gender, ability and more. For this installment, we sit down with dancer, collaboration and performance artist Mary Wu to discuss her at times alarming audience interactions, the ethics of art-making and new aesthetics of the body arising out of the disability arts movement. Michael Workman: Thanks for taking some time to sit down with me discuss your work. Mary Wu: I haven’t made my own work in a long time, I have to say. I want to make work that I feel like I need to make. It was years ago that I made a solo work now, I showed it at Research Project, this very small work-in-progress showing curated by friends. It was very much making art for art’s sake based on years of solo practice for myself. I wanted to have something to show and then I did it and …