Archive for June, 2006

Not All Who Wander Are Lost*

Monday, June 26th, 2006

What’s the best way to travel to a festival? Or, how do you carry the festival spirit with you wherever you go?

I think our friend Olivia has the answer. She stopped by the other day driving one of the most festive cars on the road. She’s been in Argentina for the last year. She’s on her way to an art course in Italy and Greece. Aside from immediate jealousy of her nomadic life, what we really envy is her car.

Olivia has transformed her car into an ever-changing, anyone-participating, creativity-traveling show.

On the outside, she has created magnets of different sizes which can be rearranged, added, deleted, painted, or written on. Inside, the roof has been transformed into an evolving poster board of images.

It’s hard to resist making up your own poetic lines and figures. In fact, Olivia can be quite disappointed if you don’t add to her communal creation.

Artistic, fun, inviting to all — what could be more festive, or a better way to make an entrance at a festival?

Consider this the festival-smile of the week! Be sure to honk and wave when you see her drive by.

- Bill Reichblum

*Slogan from one of Olivia’s bumper stickers.
Olivia Car 1
Olivia Car 2
Olivia Car 3

Interview: John Clancy and Nancy Walsh

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Photo: John Clancy and Nancy WalshJohn Clancy and Nancy Walsh are the Executive Artistic Director and the President of Clancy Productions. They are also both founding members of Present Company, the producing organization of the New York International Fringe Festival. They have both produced, directed and acted in numerous award winning productions. In this interview John and Nancy talk about the genesis of the New York International Fringe Festival, the evolution of fringe as an artistic and economic model, and why they love being in festivals.

 Interview: John Clancy and Nancy Walsh [14:47m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

No Use Crying Over Spilt Milk

Monday, June 19th, 2006

If you were running a Conservative government and found out your Arts Council had given a $9,000 grant to a performance artist to offer samples of women’s breast milk, what would you do?

Surely, there are many such governments that would use this example of performance art as the end of culture, civilization, or at least the grant making process. Not so in Canada.

The Canadian Council for the Arts has awarded Jess Dobkin the funds to create “Lactation Station” on July 13 at the Ontario College of Art and Design Professional Gallery. Audiences will be able to sample the milk in the “spirit of wine tasting.” [The government has no need to push this off to the Health Ministry: The milk, provided by six different women, will undergo the same screening and pasteurization as a Vancouver breast milk bank.]

The government’s response: The Arts Council operates at arm’s length and it would be inappropriate to interfere.

Of course, it hasn’t always been this way for Right-honorable Canadian administrations. There was quite a lot hue and cry for the funding of “30 years of Crap in Contemporary Art” — yes, that kind of crap. Or, the time a grant of $1,300 was given to Mexican artist, Israel Mora, for his work at the Banff Centre: to ejaculate into glass vials as part of “an international artist exchange agreement.” [And I thought it was only hockey that got the Canadian juices flowing?]

The Canadian Arts Council is charged with funding artists who have “a positive message for Canadians.” What could be more positive than reminding us of our natural connections, our earlier innocence, and to try something we’ve never had the chance to taste (literally) before? And, it’s free!

Jess Dobkin puts this work in the frame of her ongoing artistic explorations and events:

We are living in a time when the dominant culture is systematically working to eradicate our rights and silence our self-expression. I believe in art as a force for change, and as a necessary document of our experience in these times. I believe that voicing our truths and asserting our realities through the creative process is integral to our resistance and survival.

So, let us praise the Canadian patience, openness, and humor. All chant together: “A chacun son gout!”

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Jeffrey Lewonczyk

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Jeffrey LewonczykJeffrey Lewonczyk is Associate Director of the Brick Theater in Brooklyn, New York. The Brick is known for its innovative productions and also hosts several festivals, including The Sellout Festival, which runs through July 2nd. In this interview Jeff talks about how the festival themes are developed, what his favorite productions are, and how this festival and the Brick Theater interact with the community around it.

 Interview: Jeffrey Lewonczyk [13:57m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

To Boo or Not to Boo

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Le scandale du jour of this week in the festival world took place at the Spoleto Festival — and all from a single “boo!”

The South Carolina, US. festival presented Bill T. Jones’ Blind Date. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company’s work has long been noted for its high level of artistic accomplishment and political engagement. Through visceral images, spoken text, and heightened physicality, Bill Jones, the choreographer, has been at the forefront of American dance for thirty years.

At Spoleto, Jones presented Blind Date, which “explores patriotism, honor, sacrifice, and service to a cause larger than oneself - values all but lost in our modern world” (according to Jones). Reports vary as to how supportive the applause was that greeted the performance. What was uncontested was that, as the applause was dying down, there was one loud “boo.”

For a work about politics, for a new piece, and for a large audience (some of whom gave a standing ovation), one little boo from the balcony is not such a big deal, right? Well, it was to Bill T. Jones. Jones became aware of the booing after he left the stage from the curtain call. He rushed back on stage and angrily demanded for the boo-er to present himself, and “come down here and tell me what you did not like.”

The “boo-er” did identify himself, and after some more tense prompting from Jones, reportedly said he thought the performance pretentious, repetitive, and not informative about the issues addressed. Jones’ barked back, “I’ll stay out of your politics if you stay out of my art!”

Nice, huh? Perhaps in the heat of the moment Jones forgot some of the etiquette of a live performance: the man had already paid for his ticket and remained for the whole intermission-less performance — sort of hard to “stay out” of the art. Even more to the point, the work was meant to be challenging — so why jump on a single audience member who reacts honestly to the challenge? Is it now a given that if you present work that is “political,” on the edge, and about current events, the only acceptable reaction is to stand and applaud?

Don’t you think that if you make art that challenges an audience you should embrace pushback, not resent it, or (as happened as the event unfolded) question the viewer’s motive and political affiliation? The boo-er did not interfere with the performance or its acceptance by others. He waited until it was over and booed - for this he was attacked from the stage?

I am certainly not encouraging audiences at festivals to begin to boo at any chance they get; but, I believe that if we create genuine art we want to spark reactions — we want to engage audiences, not attack them for having a different point of view.

At a later public session with Jones at the festival, the boo-er showed up and they engaged in a dialogue about the work and their individual actions. The boo-er is a real dance fan who goes to many events - he just really didn’t like this one. Jones said that he overreacted and everyone made up.

That’s a nice ending, but it still leaves a bitter taste. Maybe it gets too comforting when one only receives accolades for their work. Maybe, it says something about the work itself. Maybe we all need to push ourselves — artists and audiences — to rebel against banal, empty, self-congratulatory, precious and politically correct art. In other words, do the sort of work that earned Bill Jones his reputation.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Mary Lou Aleskie

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Mary Lou Aleskie is the executive director of the Arts & Ideas Festival in New Haven, Connecticut (USA). Previously, Mary Lou has been the President and CEO of the La Jolla Music Society, programming orchestras, ensembles and dance companies as well as the summer music festival, La Jolla SummerFest; executive director of Da Camera of Houston for chamber and jazz music; general manager/manager director of the Alley Theatre in Houston, Texas; producer of the Saratoga International Theatre Institute (SITI); and an artist manager with the Helen Merrill Agency.

We spoke earlier this week, just days before the beginning of Mary Lou’s first festival with Arts & Ideas. Mary Lou talks about her approach to the festival, including the intersection between the festival’s art programming and the ideas panels, the economic impact of the festival on the region, and what a producer worries about in the days before a festival begins.

 Interview: Mary Lou Aleskie [12:37m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

World in Balance

Monday, June 5th, 2006

What’s the biggest story of the week? The story that best captures our global culture, our place in the cosmos, in the historical continuum of humanity? The story that receives the most play, online hits, and cocktail chatter?

Could it be the new discovery of an intact ancient ecosystem in Israel that includes eight previously unknown species? These lake dwellers are inside a cave that has been completely insulated from the outside world for millions of years. Isn’t that amazing?

Could it be the new solution to what caused most of life’s extinction on our planet millions of years ago — and created Australia at the same time? The discovery of the world’s biggest meteor crater in Antarctica leads scientists to understand how 95% of life was destroyed. The impact caused the future Australia to be pushed away from the ancient continent of Gondwana. The meteor hit 250 million years ago and was far more damaging than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. Isn’t that something?

Could it be the news that the Arctic circle was once a tropical paradise? Recent core samples reveal that 55 million years ago the North Pole had an average temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 Celsius). Obviously, we have much to learn from this about the effects of what were then naturally-caused greenhouse gases. In the least, it’s worth thinking about, since as a member of the scientific team conjectured, mosquitoes would have been the size of our heads. Isn’t that significant?

No, it’s the preparations for the World Cup!

To help add some balance, last week we posted all the performing arts festivals in Germany taking place during the World Cup. There are obvious connections between these two endeavors: beauty (it is the most beautiful game), collaboration, and national pride. However, in the performing arts we should celebrate that this pride never slides over to an antagonism for the foreign. In fact, one of the great aspects of international festival going is the acceptance of other nations and cultures through their art.

You can learn more about the history of the relationship between fans and the beautiful game at Hamburg’s Ethnology Museum: “the biggest culture project to FIFA.” Or, for an example of friendly and mutually appreciative competition, there is the World Beer Cup. (Beer and the World Cup do seem to go together, for better for worse. Still, knowing the winners provides you with practical information for new experiences at the games.)

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if all the fans equally applauded great plays, no matter who made them, just as they do at festivals?

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Lia Rodrigues

Monday, June 5th, 2006

This year the IN TRANSIT festival, held annually in Berlin, turns its attention toward Brazilian art and culture. Lia Rodrigues Dance Company presented Incarnat, a contemporary dance piece based on Susan Sontag’s essay Regarding the Pain of Others – about the ambivalent pleasure experienced in watching war and violence. The company used no other props than the bodies of the dancers and no other music than the sound of their own breathing, voices and footsteps.

Following the performance of Incarnat, in The House of the World Cultures, Lia Rodrigues talked about performing arts, war, and violence. Rodrigues also explained why her company decided to live and rehearse inside a favela in Rio de Janeiro, how the experience of performing in Berlin was, and what the reaction of the audience is when confronted with such “staged” violent images.

The International PEN Congress is currently taking place in Berlin, and its theme is “Writing in a World Without Peace”. What can you say about dancing in a world without peace?

There was never peace. So, I don’t know, our history, in all times, is war. So I don’t know what kind of peace they are talking about because there is no peace, never. I work in this world where there is no peace, there is always war, and this is very important for the empires, the war is business so they need war.


Incarnat 15
Incarnat 16
Incarnat 19

Photos: Lia Rodrigues Dance Company (Incarnat)