Tag Archives: art

Breathing Circles

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.

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A Little Versa Style Hits Royce Hall

Today, Versa Style Dance visited the Royce Rehearsal Room for a series of Design for Sharing workshops with fifth and sixth graders. Their work is an infectiously energetic blend of hip-hop, latin and afro-latin styles.  The company aims to elevate social dances–the moves spotted on street corners and quinceneras, on dance floors and school yards–of Los Angeles, counteracting the many misrepresentations and misconceptions of hip-hop and popular dances in the process.

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They covered a lot of ground.  There was salsa dance and popping and locking. There was a quick primer on ’90s hiphop and today’s internet-fueled hits likeThe Nene and The Whip (don’t worry, we didn’t know about those either–we’re still trying to learn the dougie).  There was a Soul Train tribute that had everyone dancing in their seats. No matter what they were doing, it was impossible to watch this young company, practically buzzing with enthusiasm, without a smile.

When Versa Style shares their work with student audiences, they also share a message of hard work, pride in your community, dedication to an art form, and the value of education. Many of the dancers are the first in their families to go to college.  Some are the first to finish high school. One of those was Ernesto, who started after-school dance classes with VersaStyle’s cofounder Jackie Lopez when he was just 12.  He graduates from UCLA’s World Arts and Culture department in June with a minor in Arts Education.  Our kids thought that was almost as impressive as his moves.

There were some pretty important take-homes for the 11 and 12 year olds in the audience today.  But for us, and for the company,  this morning was all about joy.  Joy in movement, joy in sharing, joy in inspiring and supporting a new generation of artists. Joy in bringing our whole selves when we do the things we love, on stage and off.

More shots below of the joy in full effect. All photos by Phinn Sriployrung.

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Flutes, Flutes and More Flutes!

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.

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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.

Schedule:

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 mlfriedman@arts.ucla.edu

 

Loving Leonard

 

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Recently I was asked to describe what it is like to know and work with Leonard Nimoy. My answer was that he is the embodiment of the very best there is in the whole of human consciousness.

Anyone who knew him well would agree.

Knowing Leonard, and having the exceptional honor of working with him, was accompanied with an awareness that he was generating something that offered me the gift of being better than I was beforehand.

Leonard’s grounded intellect, immense talent and public kindness was woven together in all of his work. He was in possession of a distinctive joy, infectious wit and compassion. His honesty in his approach to everything was wholly generous. He was an alchemist of life at its best potential.

It is tempting to wonder if perhaps Leonard actually was from another planet. No, Leonard was utterly of this world and to imagine otherwise would be to somehow miss his extraordinary example of what it means to be so resonantly, fully and inspirationally human.

Through his works of art, works of philanthropy and advocacy, and through his legacy of profound impact, I know I will continue to learn and benefit from his spirited goodness. These will indeed live long and prosper. For so many of us the world over, our capacities have been ever expanded through his life and works and I know that this will only continue.

I don’t have a deep enough word to acknowledge his rare brilliance. Whatever that word is, it is stuck in my solar plexus and tethered there in my heart as I write this.

Thank you Leonard Nimoy.

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Kristy Edmunds and Leonard Nimoy. Photo by Spencer Davis (at top Leonard Nimoy, photo by Spencer Davis).

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Leonard Nimoy, Kristy Edmunds and Susan Bay Nimoy. Photo by Phinn Sriployrung

Ruminations on L.A. by Gabriel Kahane

As Gabriel Kahane prepares to bring his sonic treatise The Ambassador home to Los Angeles, he shared some thoughts on the city that inspired an album, a theatrical stage show, and a state of mind. 

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If you turn onto Vernon Avenue just east of Lincoln Road, you’ll find neat rows of modest bungalows which once announced themselves cheerfully with paint jobs in vivid reds and greens and blues, but which after decades of neglect and exposure to sun have been left mottled and fading. And so it is that these houses have been passed over in the otherwise inexorable spread of gentrification in the Venice area. I am complicit, if only as a window shopper, in this fancification that has largely replaced the seedy character of Free Love-era Venice Beach with a wealth typified by bespoke shops doling out luxury coffee, four-figure caparisons, and faux-Dutch bikes, to a newly transplanted demographic that can handily afford them.

This observation is intended without any kind of territorial griping; my claims on the neighborhood are thin at best. I was born, in 1981, in one of those bungalows, either at 648 Vernon Ave. or maybe 652, but we moved East in 1983. Of those first two years, I have only a pair of (interrelated) memories: first, that the walls may have been a pale yellow; and second, that I had a fever at some point and in its subtropical grip I looked out through the white slats of my crib with burning eyes and beheld those yellow walls, and that’s what I remember.

Though on its surface The Ambassador is a piece about Los Angeles through the lens of film, fiction, and architecture, I think it’s actually a piece about memory, and how memory dances infinitely with physical space. From what I can surmise, Los Angeles started to have a sense of its own history, of collective memory, in the early aughts, around the time of the preservation battle over the Ambassador Hotel, a three-way affair that pitted the LA Unified School District and the Kennedy Family against the L.A. Conservancy. Though the campaign to preserve the hotel failed, and in its place an architecturally vacuous complex of schools (admittedly serving a community much in need) built— about which Christopher Hawthorne has written incisively and eloquently—the process of trying to save the hotel nevertheless reified in many Angelenos a sense of pride in history.

But long before Diane Keaton spoke at the wake for the Ambassador Hotel, there was a trove of cultural artifacts that served, consciously or not, as a historical record of the city. I’m thinking now of the novels of Joan Didion and Nathanael West and James M. Cain, the films of Howard Hawks and Michael Mann and William Friedkin, the criticism of Esther McCoy and Reyner Banham and Mike Davis, and the houses—oh the houses— of Rudolph Schindler and John Lautner and Lloyd Wright. It’s this archive that was my way into making The Ambassador, which as a body of work is more a reflection of what interested me instinctively than an attempt to be comprehensive vis a vis Los Angeles. For how can one map an unmappable city? To paraphrase Christopher Hawthorne, L.A. is not great at sitting still for portraits.

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There is one portrait of Los Angeles that became familiar to me as I worked on The Ambassador, much of which was written in a postage-stamp of a studio apartment perched at the southern end of Griffith Park, an apartment whose original function was as the servant’s quarters of the connected house that Rudolph Schindler remodeled in the early 1920’s. There’s a door on the eastern side of the studio that opens onto a small wooden roof deck, canted nails jutting up and out threateningly. (During one visit, I ended up sitting in the pharmacy at the creepy Walgreen’s at Sunset and Western, waiting to get a tetanus shot before driving home rattled in that singular way one does under the combined influence of foreign chemicals and native adrenaline, one of the nails having had its way with the heel of my left foot.) Stepping outside, if I turn to face south on this little parallelogram of decklet high above the city, it’s all hypnotic views of the L.A. basin. Nights: coyotes skirling just beyond the window, their cries sharp and dry and anechoic, an uneasy counterpoint to the silent play of hundreds of thousands of lights throbbing in the basin below. Mornings: steam rising off of coffee to meet the fog; the ritual of assessing air quality by visibility— can you see Palos Verdes?

Thom Andersen, in his film Los Angeles Plays Itself, says early on that L.A., as a city, is not photogenic, that its edges are blurry, smudged, imprecise. (Another way of articulating Hawthorne’s quip about Los Angeles not taking to portraiture.) That may well be the case, but through human eyes—or at least through my eyes— to behold the city at dawn before the fog has burned off, and to read it as a quick pastel sketch of a metropolis on the brink of bustling activity, commands great emotional precision, even if the image isn’t in focus. And that emotional precision was the thing I wanted to capture in The Ambassador. For as I began to visit Los Angeles more often in my late twenties and early thirties, there was an accretion to the emotional weight of the city. Driving through East Hollywood, Inglewood, Westchester, Marina Del Rey. Walking Vermont Ave. in Koreatown, chatting up the proprietor of a piano shop that seems as uncomfortable in its skin as its owner; she’s still rattled twenty-some-odd years later. The pilgrimage to the San Gabriel Valley for soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung and the reluctant camaraderie that accompanies the lines that stand between you and xiao long bao. Or this: standing under a gunmetal grey sky and gaping at the modest majesty of the Watts Towers and the improbable fact of one man’s vision and persistence.

I wanted to know why the city made me feel so much.

Bringing The Ambassador back to Los Angeles is terrifying. I want to do right by the city that I abandoned so soon after it bore me. I want those who might be prone to reflexive defense of their city to know that if there’s tough love in the piece, it is the object and not the modifier that’s key. But ultimately, I cannot and should not offer preemptive defenses— all I have is to invite you to join me at the Freud Playhouse on February 27 and 28, and to have a look for yourself.

Just Curious…More Curious? (Stay Curious)

Happy New Year! As we launch ourselves back into the art of performance, I am thinking about curiosity and how important it is to be curious creatures.

One of the underpinnings of what we do here is informed by a sense of curiosity, both our presenting curiosity as a curatorial entity but also as a Center that seeks to create a safe space and fertile playground to discover what artists and makers are curious about—and in turn to inspire curiosity in the students, audience goers, patrons, art makers, thinkers, inventors, creators and researchers who surround us as they matriculate, educate and encounter new ideas on this campus or as they visit this institution by attending our programs.

Kristy Edmunds, our director, last year filled in for longtime UCLA arts professor and theater director Peter Sellars, teaching his class titled “Art as Moral Action.” It is a class in UCLA’s World Arts and Cultures department, but one that is taken by students from multiple disciplines in the arts  and other studies. Kristy often talks about her time teaching this class. And given that she is one of the most curious humans around, she often queried her students of the time about their relationship to the arts, seeking to discover what made them curious about the world beyond their personal and projected studies.

What Kristy discovered and what we continue to discover as we work with and amid students, is a sense that students do not feel like they can afford to be curious. Literally. With the costs of an education rising every year, they move through their course of study with a laser focus on the classes required for their particular degree. There’s often no time or funds to spare on a meandering elective course like “Tudor England” or “Early Women Writers,” like yours truly was lucky enough to somehow fit in alongside the requirements for a Journalism Degree 15 years ago.

The ability to be curious today can be a precious commodity. When it comes to helping students at UCLA explore their curiosity in the arts, we sometimes find ourselves with limited access to their time and attention,  a fact all parties lament–which is why we are continually investing in ways to integrate artists and our program into the college experience and curriculum on this campus.

We think curiosity is an essential part of the University experience. It is an essential part of the human experience. Curiousness, whether it’s about a thing, a person, a time in history or a place in the world, is the precursor to understanding and to empathy. And understanding and empathy are the things that inspire human beings, on an interpersonal and societal level, to collectively move forward toward goals that are more aligned than combative. Curiosity, understanding and empathy are things we cannot have too much of.

And art, in all its vibrant shapes, sounds, colors, themes, its oddities and collaborations is one of the greatest instigators of curiosity.

In the spirit of curiosity, I thought I would share a few interesting tidbits about the artists visiting us this month that will hopefully pique your curiosity.

LOUISE LECAVALIER (JAN 16)

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DID YOU KNOW…..that for nearly 20 years Louise was the principal dancer and muse for La La La Human Steps, a thrilling and innovative dance troupe from her home base of Montreal? This brought her center stage with pop icon David Bowie often and she also performed in one of Frank Zappa’s final concerts.

ALSO… “So Blue,” the work we are presenting, is the first piece she ever choreographed, for herself. She’s in her 50s now, but her body hasn’t slowed down on her. She holds an epic headstand in the piece that will have all our abdominal muscles shaking.

GREGORY PORTER  ( JAN 17)

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DID YOU KNOW….Porter was born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield and originally went to college in San Diego on a football scholarship. Though he calls Brooklyn home now, California will always have a soft spot for this soulful vocalist.

SUSSAN DEYHIM (JAN 23)

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DID YOU KNOW…Sussan, who is known amid Hollywood as an incredible vocalist and composer whose voice has been featured on such major motion pictures as “Argo,” “The Kite Runner” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” studied dance and performance in the late 1970s with the notable French choreographer, dancer and opera director Maurice Béjart at his Mudra School in Brussels.

FRANK WARREN ‘POSTSECRET LIVE’ JAN 28

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DID YOU KNOW….Frank is not only the creator of one of the most successful blogs in the world, one that inspires people to share anonymous secrets, he also volunteers for the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1(800)SUICIDE, for which PostSecret has helped raise more than $500,000. In 2006, Warren was presented a special award from the National Mental Health Association in recognition of how PostSecret has “moved the cause of mental health forward.”

ALSO…during PostSecret Live events things can get not-so-anonymous. Frank invites the audience to share secrets live in front of each other and says that far from being a tough sell, it is often the most funny, poignant and special moments of the night.

Bring your secrets, bring your curiosity. We’re ready for more creative ways of looking at the world in 2015.

Stay curious my friends!

Robert Wilson, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Willem Dafoe: ‘The Old Woman’ Nov. 14-15, 2014

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes. 

Over the last year or so, Los Angeles audiences have been rich in opportunities to experience the iconic and unique creative vision of Robert Wilson, one of the most revered directors in American contemporary theater.

The triumphant and long-awaited performances of Einstein on the Beach, Wilson’s seminal collaboration with Philip Glass and Lucinda Childs happened last October and were met with sold-out performances populated by engaged and enthusiastic crowds of audience goers that shattered known demographics of opera audiences. We were proud to partner with the LA Opera to bring this work to the Los Angeles stage. And we held on to Robert Wilson after the curtain fell on Einstein, bringing him to Royce Hall for John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, a challenging piece performed by Wilson himself and which was met with awe and appreciation.

Over the last two seasons we have been committed to showcasing his exceptional artistry as one of the Center’s inaugural Artist Fellows and we’re proud to once again bring a Robert Wilson work to the Royce Hall stage with The Old Woman.

There’s been a great deal of excitement and buzz around this particular piece, thanks in part to the two incredible performers—Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe— who have collaborated so closely with Wilson to bring this unknown work of absurdist Russian literature to vivid life and thereby cementing Daniil Kharms, an often-forgotten writer of Russian absurdist literature into American theater canon. It is a work of passion that would not be possible without the complete creative investment of many artistic visionaries, those who you will witness on the Royce Hall stage tonight, and those behind the scenes.

Robert Wilson is a profoundly important theater maker. He also is a profoundly generous “permission giver” when it comes to artistic possibility. He creates a fertile and intricately crafted field of study that is unnatural and often bizarre. But in the bizarreness, in Wilson’s exactingly manufactured specifications of movement, sound, style and color, there is also a freedom—a freedom to explore the concept of absurdity, of perception, of reality and unreality.

The medium of theater, the ephemeral nature of the art form, lends itself to framing a safe space for us all to explore the unknowable, the gloriously unnatural. It is an invitation and an exclamation simultaneously. No one harnesses those sensibilities better than Robert Wilson.

We thank him for this work, we thank the performers and crew and staff who work tirelessly to build it for us, for just a moment in time.

We thank you for being here to share it.

Ronnie Burkett Theatre of Marionettes: The Daisy Theatre Nov. 11-15

The unsigned editorial from the evening’s program notes. 

Ronnie Burkett is one of those artists who knew very early on what shape his life would take. Or, at least, after watching The Sound of Music “Lonely Goatherd” puppet show segment as a kid he had a powerful image of what he would like to do for the rest of his life.

And we lucky creatures are the beneficiaries of Ronnie’s earliest artistic impulses in puppetry and his ongoing commitment to his craft. Our director, Kristy Edmunds, has often stated a deep desire to make Ronnie a household name in the U.S. theater community. He’s incredibly renowned among puppeteers around the world, but these performances of The Daisy Theatre mark only his second appearance in Los Angeles.

Last season, the Center presented his evening length narrative work Penny Plain, a very darkly comic apocalyptic tale that riveted audiences. This time around is a bit more whimsical and a lot more improvisational.

No two performances of The Daisy Theatre are alike and even if you just catch one, you’re experiencing something quite special. Ronnie is fresh off a sold out run of The Daisy Theatre in Edmonton, Canada and last year had a sold-out run in Vancouver.

These six nights here at the Actor’s Gang theater are the only U.S. performances of The Daisy Theatre. Count yourself lucky.

Ronnie is an exceptional performer, and also an exceptional craftsman. If you don’t already follow him on Facebook, you should. In the casual confines of social media he often provides a very unique glimpse into his work, documenting his process through photos and updates that detail the extremely technical craft that goes into the manifestation of a puppet.

“I love jointing marionettes,” he said recently, posting photos of a character-in-progress. Those intricately created joints, so tiny, and so intelligently designed and manipulated with such love and care by the man holding the strings are what help bring these works of sculptural art to vivid performance life and incredible movement.

In human physiology, joints connect bone to bone and are what allow our bodies to articulate movement. Artists like Ronnie serve as a kind of metaphorical joint as well, one that connects human creatures to ideas, delights, and to each other in elaborately conceived ways that serve to articulate movement within our culture at large.

We’re proud to bring Ronnie back, proud to be a cocommissioner
of his revival of The Daisy Theatre, which he first debuted 25 years ago, as he began making his name in the art world.

Welcome to The Daisy Theatre.

A Journey Through and With Ryoji Ikeda

A message from Kristy Edmunds for the evening’s program notes. 

Ryoji Ikeda: superposition. Royce Hall Nov. 7, 2014

I have had the great pleasure of working with Ryoji Ikeda over the span of a nearly 20 year arc. I first experienced his work in the context of an artist collective in Kyoto, Japan, called DumbType. I had seen their performance entitled “S/N” in 1994 at On the Boards in Seattle, Washington and was at the formative stage of my own career as a curator/artistic director.

DumbType was unique in their cross-discipline approach. They weren’t “blurring boundary lines” between art forms exactly, they were compressing many sources of artistic intelligence into a specific form. Their projects were stunning – quite literally. While we were grappling with floppy disks, dial-ups and beginning to say farewell to the marvels of our beepers and fax machines – Ryoji and his contemporaries were generating dimensional aesthetic poetry for the stage, the screens and for the gallery cubes that sought to frame their dynamic exploration.

I for one, had absolutely no idea what I was experiencing when I saw that first work – but I understood it was brilliant and it left me with a wonderment that soon converted into a recognition that I would have to galvanize something in my community in order for it to be seen. I started the Portland institute for Contemporary Art in the spring of 1995.

In 1999 we presented DumbType’s project entitled, “OR” and again in 2002 with “memorandum.” When I took up the position of Artistic Director at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, I invited Ryoji to perform and screen two of his pieces: “C4I” and “Formula” in 2005; with DumbType returning in the 2006 Melbourne Festival with “Voyage.”

By 2010, I was consulting artistic director at the Park Avenue Armory in New York and Ryoji was living in Paris, I commissioned an immersive installation entitled,  “the transfinite” which premiered in April of 2011. Below is an excerpt of my introduction to this installation

“In ‘the transfinite,’ Ryoji Ikeda takes the pursuits and structures of mathematics as one ‘material’ for his aesthetic and does so with monumental and poetic result. At the center of the work is his sonic and visual re-purposing of binary code: 0 and 1. These numbers form the string codes used to represent all information in the digital world. While few of us understand just how the intricacies of this works, we are impacted by it in every conceivable way and on a daily basis.

Ikeda is drawn to that which is at the edge of comprehensibility and human perception and he distills it into an experience we can viscerally and physically connect to. In so doing, he also offers us a tangible glimpse into the sublime purity that exists within mathematics.”

I think this continues to provide insight into his continuing explorations, now involving the language of physics, and Einstein’s theory: “superposition.”

Having with Ryoji for many years, I am interested in his return to the incorporation of live performers on the stage as a part of his immersive sonic and visual environments. So too, the conjoining of his work within the legacy of Royce Hall itself. A stage where the multiple languages and lineages of art, poetry, poetic and scholarly thought are steeped into its history located within the confines of a major research institution known worldwide for its contributions to mathematics and data.

I think it is worthy of mention, Einstein himself stood on this very same stage, a fact I cannot wait to share with Ryoji.

In both cases, and certainly the many other artists, scholars and innovators who have spanned the distance in between these two men and their ephemeral footprints – this is a place where we illuminate the existence of endless possibility.

Thank you for being here.

Kristy

Warhol, Exposed. Us, Together.

We stirred things up a bit last Friday night here at Royce Hall.

It seemed appropriate, considering the stage that night  was home to live music from an uber-eclectic smattering of modern music artists merged with home movie-esque video footage from the 60s, shot by the one and only Andy Warhol. One of my favorites included shots of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gerard Malanga, Taylor Mead, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, capering around a couch at The Factory  while punk god Martin Rev unleashed a revved up solo instrumental barrage of sound.

This was another good one too, just a few minutes of an “unidentified man” drinking a coke. Paired with Rev’s high-velocity “Sugar Baby” instrumental, a simple act performed by an exceptional-looking person became artistically mesmerizing.

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Another choice moment of the performance was Eleanor Friedberger’s gentle and loving “All Known Things” set to screen test footage of the luminous Edie Sedgwick. It was so beautiful, a moment gloriously rendered in sound and celluloid. It made me happy and nostalgic, and it made me think about how fleeting youthful beauty is.

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Speaking of beauty, we saw it in spades that night, both onstage and off. For our pre-and post-show activities, we set up a giant screen on the terrace and asked partygoers to step behind it for two minutes of minimal movement—a la Warhol’s famed screen tests.

It was very endearing to stare at these faces, faces of strangers and friends alike. Sometimes it was joyful, sometimes it was meditative, sometimes their faces conveyed deep longing and pensiveness, some stifled laughter as their friends called out to them from the other side of the screen. It was an exposition, an exposé, each person was completely exposed on a large-scale screen, and were required to simply sit and look into the confronting single eye of a camera, without really knowing what pieces of them were being exposed on the other side.

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(Many thanks for the students from the campus TV station ResTV Channel 22 for their amazing work on the live screen tests.)

With some help from our talented friends at Snap Yourself, those amazing faces could take home a Warholized memento of the evening, via our on site Pop Art photo booth.

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There’s something about Andy Warhol. Something about his way of being in the world that invited and continues to invite us to expose ourselves to art in different ways, to be OK with liking the things we like, no matter how or where they land on the scale of pop art, fine art, high brow or otherwise.

At least, that’s what Warhol’s words and work have always done for me. I’m grateful for the very specific kind of  color and vibrancy he brought to the art world, and how inviting and fun he has made it feel for me. And I’m really grateful that CAP UCLA was able to be part of his ongoing legacy. We were early partners with the Warhol Museum and BAM on this unique performance project.

And generally, it was just a great party, a wonderful moment to hang out with what was the coolest audience of the year (thus far).

So thanks for coming out, thanks for snapping yourself, for exposing yourself, for making some pop art with us around here.

Let’s do it again soon.

Here’s me–Warholized. 😉

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Photos by Phinn Sriployrung and Meryl Friedman.