In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round of fiscal year 2016, including an Art Works award of $20,000 to Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA to present Phantom Limb’s Memory Rings.
The Art Works category supports the creation of work and presentation of both new and existing work, lifelong learning in the arts, and public engagement with the arts through 13 arts disciplines or fields.
NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from CAP UCLA offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”
Memory Rings is a multi-disciplinary theatrical presentation that tackles nearly 5,000 years of human and environmental change from the perspective of the Methuselah tree, the world’s oldest known living tree. This performance is a part of a greater trilogy that examines ecological and environmental threads of narrative and research. Defying categorization, the ensemble uses dance, puppetry, mask, installation, music, projections, and costume to transport the audience. Phantom Limb is known for its work with marionette-puppetry and focus on collaborative, multi-media theatrical production and design. Co-founded in 2007 by installation artist, painter and set designer Jessica Grindstaff and composer and puppet maker Erik Sanko, Phantom Limb has been lauded for its unconventional approach to this venerable format.
To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAFall15. For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, go to arts.gov
Linearity plus Travel Intensity plus Center of Mass plus Gaze equals…
in solo improvisation
enacting a written score
responding to visual prompts
navigating an aural landscape
mirroring another body
translating ordinary movements into 3D sculptures.
The final day of our Choreographic Coding Lab: CCL 5 was in many ways about capturing motion.
Motion. /ˈmōSH(ə)n/ noun. The action or process of moving or being moved.
On Saturday afternoon, about 60 colleagues, friends, and observers moved through the EDA gallery space in the UCLA Broad Arts Center in an informal showing of projects, ideas, hypotheses, investigations and whimsy. How does the body move – how does the structure of motion capture the intent of the one who is moving? How does an audience or observer, interpret that intent? In this final day of the CCL, movement was projected on screens, walls and floors, bodies caught by a thermal camera, a digital paint brush, or a series of lines and dots transmitted via sensors. MōSH(ə)n. We are captivated by it. We can’t look away.
One of the participants, also a gymnast, attached some simple Go-Pros and sensor devices to her ankles and wrists. Jumping on a trampoline, her splits, scissors, rolls and tumbles were rendered digitally on a screen – capturing her flight though space. We watched a complex web of dots and lines in constant motion, and it was totally clear what she had been doing, how she had been moving. Her intent was to capture the memory of her movement, so that when she can no longer move that way, a record exists. “I wanted proof,” she said, “proof that I could do it. I wanted to see what my body feels.”
Motion. The action or process of moving or being moved.
It was such a thrilling experience to be a part of this week, to watch ideas take shape, change, and assume a different shape. It felt like things were being made, sparks were definitely flying. As the day came to an end and the projectors were turned off, and the laptops were closed and the extension chords were rolled and the ladders were struck, the EDA space – our home base for the week – regained its old shape. Empty and quiet, but ready for the next wave of motion.
Ann Carlson, our intrepid artist in residence and the creator of The Symphonic Body UCLA, joined the participants of the Fifth Creative Coding Labs on Wednesday to talk about her aesthetic, share insight into her approach to movement and explore what she calls “the movement of the movement.” Ann is the architect of a unique dance performance under construction that will be performed by workers from this campus on Nov. 21 in Royce Hall. (Check out videos of the progress of this piece here).
For Ann, the word “gesture” is synonymous with the word “dance.” Much of her work, The Symphonic Body in particular is focused on accumulation and inspiration, on “the aesthetic of the everyday.”
“The movement of the movement is taking a functional gesture of utility and moving it to something more abstract, metaphorical or ripe with symbolism,” she said.
Carlson talked about triggers in her conceptual development as an artist (hearkening back to moments that snapped her attention away from her childhood traditional ballet training). She talked about dismantling conceptions that surround what a dancer should look like and false constructs of what dance language should be comprised of. She talked about movement as both a memory trigger and memory preserver.
CCL participants got a minimalist sneak peek at The Symphonic Body, with two performers rehearsing segments of the ever-evolving performance work in front of a rapt audience who seemed fascinated not only by the intricate and unique social structure of the project, but by the potential for emotion and self discovery that can be triggered by having an artist observe a person’s everyday movement and physical gesture and then collaborate with that person to manifest a highly personalized and idiosyncratic movement vocabulary based on it. This is what The Symphonic Body is all about.
It’s interesting to watch Ann’s own gestures as well as they rehearse and create, to witness the gestural language she has developed that will allow her conduct the movement and score the physical symphony.
Her projects and presence seemed to energize the room and play on themes that had already started creeping in to this experimental space.
We’ve been working on this project with Ann for the better part of a year and have been enmeshed in the very UCLA-specific nature of this work, so it was also quite fun to see shades of Symphonic Body in a piece Ann created almost 20 years ago, titled Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore. For this, she shadowed four young lawyers in their daily work lives, then created a dance piece based on their movements, rooting their feet to the floor.
Around here we often use the phrase “artist-centric.”
We are an artist-centric organization.
What exactly does that mean?
There are a couple of things happening this week and in the near future that I think help to shed light on just what that phrase means, with two polar-opposite artist-centric commitments from the Center serving as great examples of the phrase.
First, starting today, is the Fifth Choreographic Coding Lab from Motion Bank, a project that grew out of work with the William Forsythe Company four years ago. It is a gathering of disparate artists/creators, some dancers, some choreographers, some video and graphic designers, some coders, some who dabble in multiples of these things.
This gathering represents one extreme end of the artist-centric continuum. These individuals are here simply to collaborate, to explore, to dream, to understand and to inspire each other. There is no projected outcome. There is no performance pressure. Something tangible might come of it, or even multiple things—some new technology or piece of visual art or movement vocabulary. Or not. The point is not the end result, the point is creating and harboring a space where artistically inclined individuals can, without restriction or pressure, endeavor to build and traverse rabbit holes of possibility.
We had a casual meet-and-greet with the participants last night. There are a few former UCLA students involved, a few students from other design schools in the city, two coders and video artists from Seattle. Everyone I talked to admitted they were excitedly entering the project with few preconceived notions or thoughts on what will transpire. All are curious and open to whatever comes.
Here’s a quick snapshot of them all sharing space together today:
Bringing Motion Bank to campus has been a work in progress over the course of a year. And as Kristy Edmunds, artistic and executive director of CAP UCLA said last night, the Labs actually do have the potential to have a lasting impact on an art form—dance.
I spoke with Scott DelaHunta, one of the Motion Bank founders who said this will likely be the last Coding Lab for a while as the Motion Bank researchers step back to assess all they have learned and derived from this and previous gatherings. So it is a special thing to be involved in. It also marks our first official collaboration with the incredible Design Media Arts program at UCLA. We have been eager for some time to work with students and faculty in this unique program and Design Media Arts professor Casey Reas is one of the leaders of the Coding Lab.
The Labs have an open door policy. Members of the public can drop in throughout the week from 10 am to 5 pm. Days are loosely structured for maximum creativity but begin with a sort of roundtable discussion with all participants sharing a thought, idea or possible working project. But who knows?
On Saturday all will gather at 4 p.m. to share some final thoughts, showcase any presentations or new material, and in general just celebrate the art of making.
On the other end of the artist-centric spectrum is our ongoing commitment to a master artist and solo performer—Canadian puppeteer and theater maker Ronnie Burkett.
I vividly recall, in some of our earliest meetings with Kristy after taking her post here as our leader in 2011, she expressed a desire to greatly increase the visibility of Ronnie in the U.S. He is a beloved and well known creator and performer in his home country and other parts of the world, especially Australia, where Kristy spent four years as curator/director of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. But, he is (was) less known here in the states.
In the 2013-2014 season we gave Ronnie his L.A. debut, with his masterfully dark narrative work Penny Plain. His performances here were met with enthusiastic response from the local theater community, comprised of arts lovers many of whom had never experienced his work, and the local puppetry community, which, we discovered quickly was already rife with avid Ronnie Burkett fans.
The following season, we were all very excited to have Ronnie back on the program, this time for a longer run and with a wildly different work of theater–the raucous and tender variety show titled The Daisy Theatre, created and again performed by a solo Burkett, (with a little help from a few audience members). It is equal parts witty and wicked, naughty and nostalgic and it could only have sprung from Burkett’s mind. The Center is a co-commissioner of The Daisy Theatre and as such we have an ongoing commitment to its success.
The same week The Daisy Theater opened at the Actor’s Gang space in Culver City, artists Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov were in rehearsal for another theater work The Old Woman, which would take place here in Royce Hall over the weekend, concurrent with The Daisy Theatre’s nearby engagement. We took this as an opportunity to introduce Mikhail Baryshnikov to Burkett’s work and to the artist himself.
Kristy Edmunds snapped this Instagram shot of Ronnie showing the performing-arts legend how to move one of the show’s most important and poignant character’s–Schnitzel.
We are very proud this season to collaborate with the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City as they become home to the New York debut of The Daisy Theatre. Performances open Sept. 30 and run through October 10. Kristy Edmunds will be on hand for opening night to cheer on one of our favorite artists. If you have friends or family in the city, tell them to head to BAC and catch this show. They won’t regret it.
BAC is the realization of a long-held vision by artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov, who sought to build an arts center in New York City that would serve as a gathering place for artists from all disciplines. BAC’s opening in 2005 heralded the launch of this mission, establishing a thriving creative space for artists from around the world.
This is an important moment in Ronnie’s life as a performer. We’re thrilled and more than a little envious of the New York audiences who will have so many chances to experience The Daisy Theatre.
So, from the experimental confines of a campus collective to the high-concept solo masterwork performed against the glittering lights of the city that never sleeps–we take a moment to revel in our artist-centric nature.
Last week, we enjoyed a very special moment with one of our upcoming artists in residence, Somi.
The acclaimed East African vocalist & songwriter celebrated the release of her most-recent album Lagos Music Salon, which was inspired by an 18-month sabbatical in Nigeria. We gathered for an intimate performance, free and open to the public at the W Hotel in Westwood.
Even though invites went out well in advance, it felt like an impromptu cocktail party. Crowded and casually hip, the audience sunk into couches, clustered along the the walls. The music, too, felt relaxed and improvised, seemingly effortless. African rhythms that would have been danceable in another, higher-strung context, were soft and seductive. Somi, barefoot in soft yellow dress, was like the embodiment of the perfect summer night outside. Somehow, the evening seemed like a farewell to summer, one last unhurried moment before autumn descends with all its attendant responsibilities.
More than once, I thought how perfect it would have been if the whole scene were transported outside, Somi’s lovely voice rising into the warm, clear night, starlight drifting down to us.
Get a glimpse at the wonderful evening via the gallery included below. Stay tuned here and on our soon-to-be-unveiled new website for more information on events and activities with our 2014-2015 artists in residence.
As the late-blooming summer starts to fade, we begin to look forward to spending more time with this luminous performer. Somi will be in residence at CAP UCLA in February, 2015 to connect with L.A.-based African artists working across disciplines. Activities will include salons/ateliers, performances, and workshops. Collaborating with a number of campus and community partners, Somi will interact with students, scholars, community members and artists exploring themes of transnationalism and cultural identity.
There’s much in store.
Shots from “Somi: The Lagos Music Salon” Thurs, Sept. 18 at W Hotel Westwood. By Phinn Sriployrung.
The art-making never stops. Not even for the holidays. And, that is as it should be. While we took a much-needed pause to reflect and celebrate with loved ones, we’re delighted to be fully back in the swing of things this week, including hosting one of our fabulous artists-in-residence for the second time this season.
The ever-luminous Sussan Dehyim and her collaborators are currently installed in the Royce Hall rehearsal room, putting the finishing touches of a work-in-progress viewing of “The House is Black,”a multimedia performance and film project inspired by the works and life of Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s most influential feminist poets and filmmakers of the 20th Century.
This highly anticipated 45-minute preview will take place on Jan 19th at Freud Playhouse as part of Sussan’s creative residency at CAP UCLA. She was in residence in November 2013 and we’ve been proud to support Sussan and her collaborators thus far with the time and space for this emerging project. We now invite you to directly support her as well and get a glimpse of what’s in store from this eclectic and engaging new work. Visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-house-is-black for more information on how to get seats to this performance.
Sussan has created a series of non-linear poetic tableaux inspired by the poems of Forugh Farrokhzad. The audience travels through a visual, sonic and theatrical journey into the heart of Fraough’s prophetic vision where her most intimate; soulful and provocative moments leap of the page and onto the stage. Her message is as poetically and politically relevant today for the women of Iran and the world as it was fifty years ago when she died tragically at the age of 32.
“The House is Black” features original score composed by Deyhim and the Golden Globe winning composer Richard Horowitz, featuring brilliant special guests, creates a cinematic musical landscape for the piece. The composition will include influences routed in Persian and Western contemporary classical music, jazz and electronic music with an elaborate sound design component. Archival images and scenes from Forugh’s documentary The House is Black and Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1965 interview with Forugh, along with Deyhim’s original film and visual projections, will create the backdrop and provide a window into the life of Iran’s most controversial poet and filmmaker.
In October we were also proud to host an in-progress showing of another engrossing music and multimedia project from another CAP UCLA artist-in-residence–the interdisciplinary artist and curator Ellina Kevorkian.
In “Some Dreams Contain Dead Time,” Ellie explores the porosity of time and dreams through video and music influenced by the works of Symbolist painter Odilon Redon, 19th-century Spiritualist photography and Victorian fairy paintings.
Ellie took us on a journey of the mind…while our bodies remained seated in the muted darkness of the Royce Hall stage, we watched Ellie’s impressionistic video work—a series of ghostly vignettes treated with splashes of color and Ellie’s own paintings and punctuated by a gloriously eerie and provocative score of vocalizations from Coloratura-in-exilio Juliana Snapper and electronic loops of virtuosic cello, created in the moment by composer/musician Skip vonKuske.
November was a busy month for residencies. The fantastically talented multi-hyphenate artist DBR (a.k.a Daniel Bernard Roumain) was joined by a group of aspiring young musicians from the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. By all accounts it was a love-fest between DBR and these incredibly inspiring students who workshopped a new composition from the acclaimed composer/violinist/bandleader, who is known for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form. DBR is assiduously morphing a new phase of his already impressive career and we’re incredibly proud to be a part of it.
Another young composer was firmly ensconced on campus this past fall—Mohammad Fairouz, also working with students. Just before we broke for the holiday campus closure, Mohammad and the UCLA Philharmonia presented a gorgeous program of original music devoted to the concepts of peace, unity and multi-cultural religious understanding. We co-presented the concert, titled “Symphonic Poems and Prayers.”
We worked closely with Mohammad on the extensive program notes for the piece. He was eager to make sure his libretto was represented in multiple language texts—Arabic, Hebrew and English. Over the course of working on the notes, we talked a lot about his time here and he was clearly moved by the great spirit of generosity he experienced from the faculty and students he worked with. It’s wonderful to interact with an artist who’s on a total high because they have found their creative pursuits at UCLA incredibly uplifting and rewarding. That’s important to us. It’s an important part of what our residency project is all about.
Mohammad also shared a fun anecdote when I asked him if he was enjoying the sunny respite L.A. has to offer.
He said he was surprised to run into DBR on the streets of Westwood one day, an incident that usually only occurs in the two artists’ home base of New York City.
“What are you doing here?” he asked DBR.
“I’m working with CAP UCLA,” DBR replied. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m ALSO working with CAP UCLA,” Mohammad said.
And that my friends, brought a great smile to my face. That’s the idea. Let’s bring great artists together into this space of ours and see what kind of creative energetic wavelengths emanate from them.
More to come on the residency front. Read more about who will be around in the coming months and how to get involved.
‘In Residence’ will be a periodic feature of this blog as we check in on the activities of our residency artists throughout the season. For more information on the complete list of artists who will be working on projects at UCLA thanks to space and time residencies with CAP UCLA visit: cap.ucla.edu./artinaction/residencies
Heidi Rodewald, who you may know as an essential creative half of LA.’s own “afrobaroque” rock band Stew and the Negro Problem, is branching into an exciting new creative direction that we are incredibly proud to be a part of. It’s always intriguing to get a glimpse into an artist’s process, and last night Heidi and her partners Donna Di Novelli and Kevin Newbury shared some of that with a handful of high profile CAP UCLA donors and staff, offering insight into her new musical project and playing a few recently recorded demo tracks from the work-in-progress.
The three have been closeted together here at UCLA for the last week, living in the dorms and working on their upcoming stage project, “The Good Swimmer,” an ambitious, melancholic and thought-provoking pop requiem that explores kinship, heroism and grief as told through the experiences and sorrows facing a family of lifeguards in the early days of the Vietnam war. The storytelling is based on “found texts” including The American Red Cross Livesaving Manual, the story of Antigone, The Army Guide to the Culture of Vietnam, and quotations from ancient Vietnamese warriors The Trung Sisters.
Di Novelli has been extracting song lyrics from the texts and Rodewald is setting them to her distinctive brand of pop-rock. When paired with Rodewald’s haunting and riffy compositions, the initial randomness of the varied texts alchemizes into a kind of erasure poetry that, even when heard in a sparse room with just our imaginations as a guide, created a compelling visual of what this unique stage work will look and feel like when it comes to life as early as next year.
Rodewald is no stranger to applying her substantial rock sensibilities to the stage. She has embarked upon this new project with obvious relish and the seeming effortlessness that comes from being simply a quintessentially cool L.A. chick. She said she especially liked the challenge of working with found texts.
“I like homework assignments,” she joked. “I’m from rock bands and it is so interesting to work with something like this. I give myself the assignment of ‘I’m gonna make this sound like a pop song.’”
Di Novelli first encountered Rodewald’s work when she saw the Tony-award winning “Passing Strange”(which Heidi wrote and performed with her longtime musical partner Stew) on stage at the Public in New York in 2007.
“I thought, ‘I have to work with this woman,” she said.
Kevin Newbury, erstwhile “Good Swimmer” director said he jumped at the chance to get involved.
“It’s a unique piece that has something to say, in a way I haven’t seen before.”
Newbury said the staging will be simple and versatile, letting the dialogue inspired by the found texts, the unique lyrics and constant original music that will underscore the entire piece drive the theatricality of the work.
Next the team is planning to do an intensive workshop with actors—they are intrigued by the prospect of seeking out performers who are the same age as the 17 through 19-year-old four main characters of the piece, knowing the natural vulnerability those performers might bring to this deeply nuanced libretto. (There will also also be a small greek chorus of female lifeguards clad in the iconic red bathing suits of the ‘40s and ‘50s).
Heidi, Donna and Kevin said it was an invaluable experience to have the time and space carved out at UCLA to simply be together as a team, try things out, shed ideas that aren’t working, investigate new directions—all with no pressure to produce anything beyond their own investment in the creative process.
That’s what our residency program is all about, giving safe harbor to new or risky ideas, investing in the possibilities and aspirations of an artist, and manifesting new ones.
Keep your eyes and ears pealed for more from this team as “The Good Swimmer” continues to take shape.
We thank Heidi & Co. for giving us a glimpse at their work in an exciting and nascent stage and look forward to hearing more from them in the future.