It seems as though the artistic community must have the same discussion every few years (and presumably will continue to do so ad infinitum) – where do we draw the line between inspiration and theft? Every so often a song will top the charts or a video will go viral that prompts us to ask what may have inspired it. These conversations are happening on the local and national levels, and never seem to come to a satisfying conclusion. An artist can win a case saying that what some call “inspiration” others call “copyright infringement,” but where does that leave us after the settlement? However it may have been born, that art is now alive and out in the world, affecting moods and sometimes effecting change.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker entered the conversation a few years ago. A prolific and stimulating dancer and choreographer, De Keersmaeker has been active in her work since the early 80s, and received numerous international accolades. One work in particular, Rosas danst Rosas (1983), is one of her more well-known pieces, winning a Bessie award for choreography in 1987.
Well-known enough, in fact, that it would appear somebody in Beyoncé’s creative team was “inspired” by it. According to De Keersmaeker, Beyoncé and director Adria Petty lifted moves, costumes and staging from Rosas danst Rosas as well as elements from 1990’s Achterland. “I’m not mad, but this is plagiarism,” Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker told Studio Brussel in an interview. “What’s rude about it is that they don’t even bother about hiding it.” After the news hit, the Queen Bey and her creative team admitted to being “inspired” by De Keersmaeker’s work.
What was impressive was De Keersmaeker’s follow-up in 2013. She could have been litigious, but instead she decided to open up the conversation to everyone. In celebration of the work’s 30th anniversary, De Keersmaeker uploaded a series of videos on her website that allow a viewer to learn part of Rosas Danst Rosas, and invited all of us to film our performances and upload them. Thousands of people, of all ages and from all over the world, have taken her up on the offer. A trailer for this “remix” features little children, pregnant women, even teenage girls in their school yard in India. What started as a statement on theft turned into a dialogue on the right to participate in art. Sometimes participation is simply spectating, holding a space for it to occur. Sometimes it means imitating a style. In this case, however, it meant teaching the process to the world.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker is here with Rosas, her company, for a four-night extravaganza of different works—including Rosas danst Rosas on November 12th. We would love for you, as a part of our community, to learn the compelling movements and film the outcome to share in a similar “remix” video. The onus is on all of us now here at UCLA to participate in this international dialogue on who can perform and take ownership of somebody else’s artistic creation. We invite you to speak with us.
We began rehearsals this week with flutist extraordinaire Claire Chase to prepare for the West Coast premiere of Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni (Cutting the Circle of Sounds). This is a rarely performed work for 104 flutes, four soloists situated at the four corners of the performance space and 100 migrating performers who continually move throughout the space, cutting into the circle of sound created by the soloists.
We gathered at the Hammer Museum Wednesday and Thursday night for public rehearsals where we were introduced to several very interesting breathing techniques that make this instrument play a very different role than one would usually expect from it.
It was fascinating and kind of physically dizzying actually. As Claire pointed out several times, we were doing breathwork tantamount to several yoga classes.
We all brought our own relationship to the flute, to performance and to music in general and it is a piece that creates space for that individuality to shine.
Tonight we move over to Schoenberg Hall and we’ll explore how to activate that space in this very purposeful manner.
Check out images from our rehearsals below and read Claire’s note for the program. We hope you’ll join us and become part of this circle of sound and breath we are creating.
I have always been fascinated by the emotional impact of a single, unpitched exhalation into the flute, a sound that, as we discovered during our thrilling public workshops at the Hammer Museum this week in which both flutists and non-flutists participated, anyone can make with exhilarating individuality, purpose and nuance. There is a kind of irrepressible poetry to this most quotidian of labors: the simple gesture of breathing in and out, trying precisely not to make a tone on the most lyrical of musical instruments. As I found myself engrossed in the sounds that this remarkable group of people, the youngest of them ten and the oldest in his seventies, were huffing and heaving and woooof-ing into these tiny metal tubes Wednesday night, I was reminded of Rumi’s wise words on flute-playing from nearly 800 years ago: We have fallen into the place/where everything is music.
Salvatore Sciarrino’s sonic explorations of the flutist’s bow arm – our breath — have metabolized into slow-moving soundscapes, operas and immersive musical experiences that defy categorization. There are few composers since the 18th century who have done more to expand the expressive capacity of the flute than Sciarrino, whose compositional influences range from Perotin to Punk Rock. Cutting the Circle of Sound, which takes its inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic spiraling architecture, is one of the composer’s most intrepid investigations into a few simple, barely audible sounds re-imagined en masse.
The composer describes the impulse of the work through the patterns of a particularly fearless, but supremely delicate migrating animal:
“A wild butterfly crosses the space and seems to fly randomly, but she has a precise direction and she is at once moving of her own volition and not ever alone. There are no living beings that don’t move periodically…. In recent times we have seen that our species is very attracted to the opposite instinct, to home, to stability, to the absence of motion, to keep ourselves and our society in balance. An impossible balance. Impossible? Yes, life is mutation.”
The hour-long piece has only been performed a handful of times, and it has never been documented as a complete performance, so our work this week has been equal parts inventing and inheriting a nascent oral tradition. I have been in constant contact via Skype and e-mail with Luisa Sello, the Italian flutist who premiered the work under Sciarrino’s supervision, and members of our dedicated migrating flute force have been online with one another, communicating between Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Brooklyn, sharing instructional videos, impressions, musings and ideas on breathing new life into humankind’s oldest musical instrument.
I am grateful to The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA for taking the leap to present the West Coast Premiere this afternoon; to the brilliant sound engineer and instrument-builder Levy Lorenzo whose idea it was to design LED lights that illuminate the migrating flutes; to Erin, Christine and Michael for their tireless work on the devilishly difficult solo parts; and most of all to my fellow fearless, migrating, metamorphosing flutists.
We are looking for 100 flutists of all shapes sizes and skill levels to comprise our “Flute Migranti” as part of master flutist and International Contemporary Ensemble co-founder Claire Chase’s April 4 appearance at CAP UCLA. She will be leading a special performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s “Cerchio Tagliato dei Suoni” (“Cutting the Circle of Sounds”) an immersive 60-minute work for 104 flutists: 4 soloists and 100 migranti, who move throughout the theater playing air sounds and simple extended techniques. Participants in the migranti can be all ages (10 and older) and all levels, all you need is a flute and an enthusiasm for making new sounds on the instrument.
This piece is aural theater and it has only been performed once in the U.S. Our presentation is the official West Coast premiere and it’s not soon to be repeated. Read more about this unique work and its 2012 presentation at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Positioned around an audience arranged in a square with an aisle cut through it, the soloists exchanged trills, hisses, sputters and violent bursts. Around 10 minutes into the 70-minute work a cadre of 100 additional flutists — “migranti,” Mr. Sciarrino designates them — marched through the aisle, playing breathy, hooded sounds at the cusp of audibility. These players, seasoned professionals and small children alike, circulated intermittently, some using intact instruments while others blew through head joints only.
I’m tickled at the thought of a heard of flutists floating through Schoenberg Hall. I have many memories of being part of herds of flute players in my life. And there’s this very incredible emotional high you get from being inside a sound, being part of an orchestra or conglomeration of people making music, making sounds.
I started playing the flute when I was 11 years old after experiencing an introduction to orchestral instruments in the weekly music class at my middle school. (This was in the 1980s, we had music class every week, we learned to sing and read music and play basic tunes on myriad instruments). I, like so many other musically inclined young girls, fell in love with the flute. It was beautiful to look at, beautiful sounds came out of it. I felt (and still feel) beautiful whenever I pick it up and make music with it.
As I traversed the years that followed, I discovered the flute appealed to a multitude of young musicians, many of them girls. Every audition, every competition, every music camp I attended for the next 15 years was punctuated by a sea of fellow flutists vying for a seat, a spot or a score. My private teacher would gather together all of her students every Christmas and institute a “flute choir,” and we would perform crowd-pleasing songs of the season at a busy shopping mall in Phoenix, Arizona. It was almost always an all-girl group of performers, even though at the time my only knowledge of a professional flutist in real life was James Galway, who I adored and wanted to see whenever he came to my city.
Counting myself among a sea of flutists was a big part of my artistic development. I eventually became good enough to find myself a soloist, or a featured performer, earning a scholarship to college in 1990 where I discovered an even greater sea of more-talented and more-dedicated flutists in the world than I was.
But I was young and content for my chosen instrument to become a hobby rather than a career. I still love to play. I look at music that I used to proficiently perform and enjoy and can pick out much of it, which makes me feel more nostalgic than chagrined at my deteriorated skill.
It’s a beautiful instrument and I still love making music with it and hearing others make music with it.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing Claire Chase perform and witnessing every possibility of this wonderful instrument in the hands of a contemporary master.
And of course I jumped at the chance to join the gathering of flutist that will be part of her performance.
If you play the flute, or used to play the flute and long for an opportunity to dust it off, please join me. It’s going to be a very special moment on the season.
Claire will lead two public workshops with the migranti to prepare for the performance.
Ideally participants would be available for all rehearsals, but we can be flexible with schedules.
Wednesday, April 1: 4-7 pm
Thursday, April 2: 4-7 pm (April 1st and 2nd are at the Hammer Museum, free parking available)
Friday, April 3: 6-9 pm (Rehearsal at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall)
Saturday, April 4: (1:30 rehearsal, 4:00 Performance at Schoenberg/UCLA)
For more info and to confirm participation, contact Meryl Friedman firstname.lastname@example.org
The Royce Terrace turned into a dance club on Friday, February 13 to launch CAP UCLA’s first Movement event—a party to bring art enthusiasts together to celebrate the artists and performances that inspire us.
Following the Los Angeles premiere of Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion’s “When The Wolves Came In” guests partied with the company under the disco ball and danced to beats fueled by KCRW’s Garth Trinidad.
A special shout-out goes to new CAP UCLA member Karin Okada who got the party started. Karin was the first guest to participate in the interactive dance video. Video of revelers dancing were projected on to the Royce Hall Building, which non-dancers got to enjoy while taking advantage of snacks and the cash bar. We’re very happy to provide CAP UCLA members complimentary drink vouchers and members’ priority line at the bar for events like this.
And, we’re very grateful for the CAP UCLA members and collaborators who made this party possible. Thank you Sasha & Bill Anwalt, Stu Bloomberg, Fariba Ghaffari, Deborah Irmas, Diane Kessler, Renee Luskin, Ginny Mancini, Julie Miyoshi, Edie & Robert Parker, Kathleen & John Quisenberry, Anne-Marie Spataru, Jennifer Simchowitz, DeeDee Dorskind & Brad Tabach-Bank and Patty Wilson.
Check out more photos from Movement 2015 and both Kyle Abraham performances here. There’s more to come!
Wednesday night, thanks to Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston, we found ourselves immersed in a world of wordlessness. With live music, visuals and spoken word, through WORDLESS! Art shared with us images and tales of the artists whose wordless works spoke volumes to an entire community and culture of visual artists, cartoonists and graphic novelists, including himself.
The project definitely left a stamp on campus.
Art started his day on campus by speaking to a convening of students from several different areas of study in UCLA’s Design Media Arts.
Art is beloved by established and emerging artists around the world, including DESMA students here at UCLA. Art’s e-cigarette and coffee were as omnipresent as his wit and wisdom.
Meanwhile, our friends at UCLA Special Collections also took up the cause, creating a display of work from 1930s wood-cut artist Lynd Ward, who was the first graphic novelists and major influence on many artists who followed–including Art Spiegelman.
Scenes from the mini-installation in the Charles E. Young Research Library.
And, on the night of the show we harnessed some creative talent from within our own community to explore one of the concepts from WORDLESS!–that of balancing on a hyphen..between words and pictures, right brain and left brain.
“First, I would like to say…thank you for your service.”
In a UCLA class of 400 students, young women and men raised their hands and stood to ask a question of Tyler LaMarr: Marine, actor and lead performer in Basetrack Live. Before every question, each student expressed their gratitude. “My brother is a Marine and I want to say thank you.”
“Can you tell us, do you ever feel angry about how some people say negative things about the military?”
“How do you feel when actors who have never been in service portray Marines or soldiers in combat?”
“Do you think the government is telling the truth about what goes on over there?”
The questions flowed for two hours, evolving organically into a conversation: thoughts, opinions, fears, hopes. Tyler’s path since graduating from high school was markedly different from the majority of the students he now faced, but any one of them could have been him — they were more similar than different.
“Can you talk about the stress you felt when you came home?”
“I want to ask you about sexual assault in the military – how bad is it, and what can we do?”
“Did you always want to be an actor? How does a Marine get to be an actor?
The room was filled with laughter, hushed silence, intense listening. You could feel the listening. At the end of class, instead of the usual rush of students pushing to leave, hurrying to the next class, hurrying to lunch, hurrying somewhere, they pushed to the front of the room to shake hands with the young man who proudly talked about his choices. One young woman said, “If you had to do it all again, if you could make any choice, would you do anything different?”
“No,” said Tyler. No, I would do it all the same.”
Hundreds of handshakes. Thank you for your service.
CAP UCLA presents “Basetrack Live” tomorrow night in Royce Hall. And our “Peace & Quiet” station on the Royce Quad, will remain up until after the performance. Join us to experience this unique theater work and join the conversation by visiting “Peace & Quiet” or contributing to our Tumblr.
For our Artists Bookshelf initiative we askedselect artists on the season to share 5-10 books that have had a lasting impact. Graphic novelist and all-around creative philosopher Art Spiegelman took a slightly different approach and wrote us this wonderful treatise which we will share in its entirety here.
The greatest “cartoon” novel I ever read, populated by grotesques and stereotypes, but (or therefore?) drilling into the heart of the human condition. It’s a seriously hilarious work drenched in alienation and despair, written during Great Depression I (1939), and focused on the losers and lowlife on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. It uses Hollywood as a metonym for an America populated by “innocent” monsters, and ends—spoiler alert!—with Armageddon. Sentence for sentence The Day of the Locust is one of the most beautiful books I ever read, and one of the most visual—as in this description of our protagonist, Tod Hackett, a hack Hollywood set painter, washing his hands: “He got out of bed in sections, like a poorly made automaton, and carried his hands into the bathroom. He turned on the cold water. When the basin was full, he plunged his hands in up to the wrists. They lay quietly on the bottom like a pair of strange aquatic animals. When they were thoroughly chilled and began to crawl about, he lifted them out and hid them in a towel.”
(With new books precipitously piling up around me like kipple*, I don’t reread novels as often asI’d like—a pity, considering that with my rapidly fading memory, I could save a lotta dough rereading all the ones I’ve got—but I still re-dip into this short novel every few years. The only book I’ve compulsively returned to more often is….)
The Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett
If I was more rigorous, I’d have limited myself to Godot (the first Beckett play I read and the one most cited by people who never read Beckett) or maybe Endgame, but—happy days!—this set includes Happy Days, Krapp’s Last Tape and all the rest. Beckett’s floridly minimalist and precise language is so deadpan funny and wise it makes me sob. A couple of years back, facing a brain operation and fretting more than usual about mortality, I realized I was too confirmed an atheist to have any sort of deathbed conversion so I steeped myself in his writings (the Molloy trilogy as well as the plays) and realized I indeed had Religion: I’m a devout member of the Church of the Absurd.
(And speaking of holy texts….)
The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics, edited by Bill Blackbeard & Martin Williams
We now live in a golden age of comics reprints that includes enough beautiful multi-volume collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Gasoline Alley, Dick Tracy Peanuts, et al to break any library’s budget and bookshelves—but this 1977 anthology of the first 60 or so years of newspaper strips was seminal. Bill Blackbeard was a peerless connoisseur, collector, and scholar of comic who curated this inspiring collection of lost treasures, a book so essential to understanding my medium that a number of my closest cartooning cronies simply refer to it as ‘The Book’.
Inside Mad, edited, written and laid out by Harvey Kurtzman
This 1955 paperback collection of Harvey Kurtzman’s early issues of Mad (back when the no wailing magazine was still a comic book) is the very first book I read that changed my life. I was seven or eight and, if nothing else, it doomed me into aspiring to become a cartoonist. (The cartoonists who collaborated with Kurtzman—a genius cartoonist in his own right—all seemed to draw with pens manically overflowing with seratonin rather than india ink!) Mad also changed the life of America. Kurtzman’s self-referential anarchy may get taken for granted now, but he held up a cracked mirror that told the truth about a then Very Bland and Monolithic American culture. For better or worse, Harvey Kurtzman made literary irony mainstream. Without Mad there’d be no generation that grew up to protest the Vietnam War; nor the one that at least tried to Occupy Wall Street; no Simpsons or Colbert Report or Daily Show…. and certainly there could’ve been no Maus without Mickey Rodent!
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, by Tadeusz Borowski
Tadeusz Borowski was a Polish poet and journalist, a non-Jewish Communist prisoner in Auschwitz, who committed suicide in 1951 by sticking his head in a kitchen oven. His short stories, strikingly written even in translation, are seen through the eyes of a brutalized and brutalizing kapo, whose wide-open eyes are a camera, and whose emotions are clamped shut. It’s as if a less romantic and sentimental Raymond Chandler had lived through Auschwitz.
In the decade or more that I fully immersed in the grim world of “Holocaust Lit” in order to turn my father’s memories into comics panels, I couldn’t wrap my brain around the oxymoron of daily life in a death-camp until I found this book. If, as Franz Kafka once wrote, “a book must be an icepick to break the sea frozen inside us,” then Tadeusz Borowkski’s book of short stories is the volume that broke me the most.
Also in my top five are
—Kafka’s collected stories
—and Nabokov’s Lolita (as well as his Pale Fire)
—and Portnoy’s Complaint
—and maybe a collection of Harvey Kurtzman’s anti-war (or at least Humanist) War comics of the 1950s to show the flipside of that artist’s furshlugginer genius. (“Corpse on the Imjin” and Other Stories was published by Fantagraphics in 2012)
—and definitely the two-volume compilation of Lynd Ward’s six woodcut novels published by The Library of America that has an introduction I wrote that catalyzed the Wordless! performance at Royce Hall on October 15th (which occasioned the UCLA library’s request for this list.)
(At the moment I’m reading book on elementary math so I might to learn to count to five with greater accuracy….)
—art spiegelman, 2014
∗A word coined by Philip K. Dick (whose Ubik and The Three Stigma of Palmer Eldritch would be on this list if I put it together yesterday or tomorrow), defines kipple in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, (also on tomorrow’s list):
“Kipple is useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match or gum wrappers or yesterday’s homeopape. When nobody’s around, kipple reproduces itself…. the entire universe is moving towards a final state of total, absolute kipple-ization.”
You may have encountered, over the past two seasons, our exploration on poetry and poets. We’ve stuffed poetry writing prompts in envelopes and stashed them around the hall. We’ve created mini-poetry books. We’ve held poetry slams and instituted an on-the-spot poetry bureau.
We have typewriters scattered about our offices and notepads with the prompt “Who is the Poet in Your Life?”
It’s been interesting to witness the ways in which people encounter these moments of poetic thought. It’s been gratifying to witness how many times it has inspired a poetic impulse.
We found the following poem on a table in our Royce Hall Pop-Up Library the other day. We’re not sure who wrote it or when. But, we love it. And we thank you, whoever you are for sharing it.
Half of my life is spent rolling my eyes
at dumb things I do or
I am rolling my eyes right
Who am I to act like a poet
To pretend like I am not inadequate
To talk myself up so I don’t feel the disappointment
that creeps into my veins without warning
These same veins that once flowed with the
hot blood of want
now stiff with doubt
Am I really doing all I can to succeed
Who am I to preach when I am guilty
I am a hypocrite of the worst kind
The one with the false pride
The one who attends church every Sunday
Yet cannot recall the last time I had a prayerful thought
Is this what it means to be humble?
When I am still faking sick to stay home from school at 20 years old,
Two stacks of small, white note-cards, each printed with the above words. On each card, underneath the printed words are handwritten responses:
I am a civilian, and I want to ask…what did you witness?
I am a veteran, and I wish the world worked in a way that no one needed an army.
These cards were part of a public installation called Peace and Quiet. Conceptualized and designed by Matter Architecture Practice, the original Peace & Quiet was installed in Times Square in 2012 as a temporary dialogue station where veterans and civilians, two groups whose paths increasingly do not cross – could engage in conversation, leave a note, share a story, or just shake hands. When the Center committed to presenting the Los Angeles premiere of Basetrack, a live performance piece featuring the real-life stories of servicemen and women; I began doing research into art projects that explored the veteran/civilian experience in new ways, and after much searching, I found Peace & Quiet. Luckily, Sandra and Alfred, Matter’s Co-Directors were willing and eager to revisit the project, so Peace & Quiet will have a new life: re-designed and installed on the UCLA Quad, between the iconic Royce Hall and Powell Library. The quad, one of UCLA’s great public spaces, provides an ideal circumstance to host a dialogue station, to initiate and inform an exchange of ideas, and to offer a highly visible hub highlighting the many programs UCLA offers the veteran community.
Last month, before a meeting with the team from Matter, I stood at the northern edge of the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where Matter has their studio. The sky was impossibly clear and blue for an August day in New York, a vibrant backdrop for the Yard’s 200-year-old buildings, which stood their ground next to new construction. Established by President John Adams in 1801, the Yard’s first naval ship was built and launched to suppress the slave trade off the coast of Africa.
I am a civilian.
I am a veteran.
Our country’s relationship to conflict is deep and complicated. At the tip of the Naval Yard, surrounded by the bridges that connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, I hoped that our version of Peace & Quiet will be its own bridge: connecting stories, revealing history, closing the gap.
For more information on the upcoming Peace & Quiet installation click here.
For more information and tickets to our presentation of Basetrack Live, click here.
Help get the dialogue going by participating in our Peace & Quiet tumblr. We’re starting with the concept of service. Share a thought or a quote or a video or photo that answers the question “How do you serve?”
This weekend we got a rare experience to get up close and personal with the art we present. Folks who attended the Paul Dresher Ensemble Schick Machine performances were invited to cap off the show by taking a hands-on tour of the eponymous machine from the production.
And I mean hands-on. The creators refer to this moment as “The Petting Zoo.” They not only allow, but encourage eager hands to pick up mallets and bang on implements in this crazy sonic laboratory. Dresher and Schick and members of their crew were on hand to offer suggestions and instructions of how to make sounds and to explain how all the pieces work.
I attended the Sunday matinee with my significant other, who is something of a sonic tinkerer himself, (mostly in a playground called Abelton), I could sense his wonder and desire to crawl inside this glorious concoction on the stage (which kind of is what I imagine the inside of his brain looks like).
We immediately lined up, eager to get our chance inside the machine, along with about a third of the audience from the performance, many of whom were young children who excitedly chattered with their parents about their favorite parts of the machine and how they might build their own.
Steven Schick himself came out and chatted with a few of the kids for a minute, asking “Are you ready to go in and bang on some stuff!?”
The answer was a resounding “yes.” We all were ready, and we were not disappointed. Up close, the Schick Machine was cleverly ingenious and delightful to experience as a group of curious amateurs collectively provided a soundtrack of dissonance that was somehow just as engaging as Schick’s charming and meticulous theatrical stage performance.
Of course, few of us were able to extract the same quality and precision of sound as the mastermind himself, but that is as it should be.
Paul Dresher, composer of the piece was staked out on the stage to help answer questions and guide interested audience-goers through the elaborate inner workings of the device and how it all comes together in live performance.
It was a moment of incredible generosity from a group of passionate artists that I have no doubt left a powerful impression on the imaginations of all those who got a chance to experience it with us.
If you were one of those people, thank you so much for leaving your own stamp on the machine and helping invent this performance for CAP UCLA.