I have been honored to be part of Early Morning Opera’s ABACUS since it’s 2012 premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. This week, our team embarked on the New York premiere of the work at one of the most prestigious venues in the country: the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
BAM published the following interview between Paul Abacus and enigmatic artist Banksy on the BAM blog:
Paul Abacus is a Japan-based international presenter of ideas, and has become well known for his perspective on the workings of contemporary persuasion, particularly the presentation format itself. A disciple of polymath Buckminster Fuller, Abacus is a leader of the movement to dissolve national borders. His live presentation ABACUS was last seen at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and will be at BAM from September 24—27.
We asked Abacus to sit down with us for an interview. He sent us this instead.
At the request of the artists, the following interview was conducted in a double kayak circling Governor’s Island, and has been edited to fit your screen.
BANKSY: Paul, I haven’t seen you in person since Sundance. You look about five years older, but that’s good. Now you probably look your age.
ABACUS: You look like hell too.
BANKSY: Thank you. I just want to make sure we lay out the scene for folks. It’s a beautiful day in late summer in New York and we’re in a double kayak in spitting distance of the Statue of Liberty. I am in front, because Paul is better at steering. We are accompanied by Paul’s standard entourage of videographers, but the giant panda Dr. Bang—my favorite of your friends—is not here? Why not?
ABACUS: He can’t swim.
B: That’s a shame. So we are surrounded by your friends riding in an armada of bright orange canoes stenciled with panda heads, which are very fine stencils if I do say so myself.
A: And you’re wearing linen overalls, which I wouldn’t have expected.
B: Let’s get right down to it: what’s your real name?
A: Paul Abacus. What’s yours?
B: Banksy. Great, now that we’ve settled that, let’s continue. Why did you disappear after the 2012 Sundance Film Festival? It seemed like you were on a roll.
READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.
When she moved to LA from NYC two years ago, dancer and choreographer Jennie MaryTai Liu was ready to be part of the exhilarating LA performance scene. Her piece at LAX, ACTRESS FURY, is co-presented with Show Box LA, and follows an actress in a dressing room as she grapples with her desire for glory. It incorporates text and narrative from three distinct characters – the mythic warrior Ajax, the dancer Vaslay Nijinsky, and the abstract painter Bridget Riley. By tapping into these three highly ambitious figures, Liu lets “dramatic threads unfurl through dance to reveal an anti-strategy about being female and an artist in the wake of third wave feminism.” She co-created the piece with performers Hannah Heller and Alexa Weir, and together they are Grand Lady Dance House.
Why did you move from NYC to LA?
I was tired of schlepping around New York everyday out of the year, moving from rehearsal to rehearsal to menial job, hauling props and computers and tupperwares of food. I was beginning to feel trapped in the mindset that NYC is the only place in which it is possible to be a working performing artist. I basically stopped envisioning my future there. I was attracted to LA for the same reasons everyone is and has been forever – the light, the mountains, the space to build art and life, and a less saturated cultural market to experiment and create real community within. The typical thing people say is that compared to NY, LA has less cultural infrastructure like venues, grants, places to rehearse, and so although life is easier here, you have to work harder to make anything happen. You have to create what you want to see in LA. I think that’s true of NY but there is a longer history of people creating spaces, companies, and festivals like LAX, and so it’s harder to get close to the source and it’s easy to be absorbed in the vast history. Since moving here I’ve been lucky and persistent enough to get my body and my work close to many of the people making things emerge here, maybe not for the first time ever, but for the first time in a while, perhaps. People’s efforts stand more prominently in relief.
Does your piece incorporate text? What is your relationship between writing and dance?
By nature my collaborators and I are pretty chatty, and with ACTRESS FURY we tried to tap into the culture of our rehearsal room by not stopping talking throughout the entirety of our piece. I try not to write a word though— all the text is stolen from some source and then manipulated in some way to suit our needs. Using words we are able to bulldoze our way through a lot of dense theatrical content, but the meaning we’re trying to make lies in the shifting between textual worlds. Our strategy for moving through language is dance-like. It is important to me that people listen to the words— there is story, but there is not a story. The audience member who will enjoy the piece most will love words and hearing them, but will have the capacity to experience them as texture, rather than truth.
Tell us about Ajax, Nijinsky, and Bridget Riley — why them?
Ajax, the great mythic warrior; Nijinsky, the first international ballet star both dealt with shame and insanity, which is essentially the cracking open of the ego. This interplay between self love and self loathing; knowing who you are yet being totally selfless, is central to the pursuit of acting, which is the vehicle through which we’re exploring the nature of existing in the world. Bridget Riley was one of the first female abstract painters who created painstakingly detailed images that look like they’re from another planet. All three of these characters are super-human-creators dealing with their base humanity, although Bridget Riley is the only one who stays sane and diligent, and is because of this our totem and godmother.
Jennie MaryTai Liu’s work has been seen in New York at Dance Theater Workshop, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, HERE Arts Center, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and The Bushwick Starr. She has shown small works at PS 122, Movement Research at the Judson Memorial Church, the American Dance Festival through Hollins University, the 41st Congress on Research on Dance, as well as internationally in Vienna, France, and in her native Hong Kong.
She has been awarded residencies from the Bogliasco Foundation, Yaddo Arts Colony, The Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and received grants from the Multi-Arts Project Fund and the Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Program. She was a resident artist at HERE Arts Center (2009-2010), and at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (2009-2010).
As a performer, she has had the pleasure of working with Big Dance Theater, Faye Driscoll Dance Group, Nellie Tinder, Witness Relocation Company, and Cathy Weis Projects. She has collaborated with director/filmmaker Simon Liu on multiple projects including ‘Ditchwork’, which won ‘Best Experimental Short’ at the New Jersey International Film Festival, and which will screen at various festivals nationally and internationally throughout 2012-13.
Her first short dance-film ‘Scout Hut’ screened at Chez Bushwick Presents at the Center for Performance Research in May 2012. She continues to make short video works alongside researching her next live performance, which will premiere at The Bushwick Starr in the spring of 2014.
She trained in theater as an undergraduate at the Experimental Theater Wing at NYU, and received her MFA in Dance from Hollins University.
interview by Will Arbery
portrait by Amanda Jane Shank
MORE LAX: liveartsexchange.org
Live Arts Exchange (LAX), a contemporary performance series featuring some of the most innovative artists and independent companies in theater, dance, music, and cross-genre performance is back for its second year of programing, kicking off with a launch performance event curated by NICOLE DISSON this Thursday, September 11th at The Bootleg Theater. Disson, producer of THE SERIES, a multi-disciplinary production and event previously set Upstairs at Ace Hotel Downtown LA and on the rooftop of The Standard Downtown LA, has invited over forty artists to perform for one night only for the LAX ARRIVAL themed event.
Over sixty artists are involved with LAX, from intermingling communities in contemporary dance, theater, experimental animation and more. Phil Soltanoff, Holcombe Waller, Actress Fury, Rachel Ho, Meg Wolfe and Zoe Aja Moore are some of the artists featured at this year’s festival.
THE SERIES at LAX ARRIVAL alone will feature well over forty artists as the point of departure for the rest of the festival and a particularly impressive roster of musicians, dancers and installation artists. AXIOM will be this year’s featured contemporary dance company co-directed and choreographed by Denna Thomsen & Zak Ryan Schlegel, with ten dancers performing pieces throughout the evening.
HENRY WOLFE will be offering a teaser from his new album Asilomar in lead up to his release performance event the following evening at The Lilian Theater in Hollywood, a production Disson worked with Wolfe to produce. Composer and sound artist ELLEN REID will be staging an excerpt from her new opera Odysseus, that premiered by the LA Based wild Up Ensemble. Multitalented musician Oliver “OLIWA” Newell will be performing an electronic sound installation in collaboration with video artist KEITH SKRETCH, whose projections will be featured throughout out the evening, alongside work by photographer AUSTIN IRVING.
Additional musical performances by songstress ALEX LILLY (Touche, Zero Desire, Living Sisters), DRUG CABIN (Nathan Thelen’s band who will be perming songs from their bradn new album Yard Work) and electronic pop-duo ROYAL AUDITORIUM (who will also be debuting a selection from their yet to be released EP).
Disson will be performing some theatrical musings alongside actor MICHAEL DUNN with text by poet MANDY KAHN (whose new book of poetryMath, Heaven, Time was just released) and puppeteer SUSAN SIMPSON performs AUGUSTINE SEPTEMBER: Artist in Residence (co-founder of Automata) will be featured, in addition to installations by artist DREW DENNY and poet JACQUELINE SUSKIN in lead up to the launch of her new book Go Ahead and Like It (at Dilettante on 9/18).
“I am extremely excited to be bringing THE SERIES back to LAX for to launch such a tremendous festival and to be featuring a group of LA based artists who’s work continues to inspire me to create more opportunities for community-driven events such as this one,” explains producer Nicole Disson. Inspired by rule-breaking productions of surrealist theater and experimental immersive contemporary dance, THE SERIES is part show and part event, with performances continually moving around its venue of choice, all the while blurring the line between performers and audience members.
Tickets for the THE SERIES at LAX ARRIVAL are $20 all 18 and up are welcomed. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LiveArtsExchange.org
Tickets are now on sale for ABACUS. Created by Early Morning Opera and Lars Jan, this profound avant-garde video performance piece is part of the BAM Next Wave Festival, September 24-27.
You can order tickets here. They’re going fast.
Previously seen at Live Arts Exchange (LAX), REDCAT, and the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Section, ABACUS will finally make it’s New York premiere as part of the celebrated Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Performances will take place at BAM Fisher September 24-27, 2014.
ABACUS is a baroque presentation delivered by invented public persona Paul Abacus (who may or may not be the hyperbolic alter-ego of Lars Jan himself), as he leads the audience in a lecture (reminiscent of a TED talk) about the future of national borders, the workings of contemporary persuasion, and our evolving relationship to the screens in our public and private spaces, not to mention our pockets. In style, this one hour, direct-address presentation assumes a TED-talk feel fused with the grand gestures of megachurch media design, all while utilizing emerging technologies and stunning visual effects generated in real-time by custom software and the wireless live feeds of two dancing Steadicam operators.
Video, scenic, and software design by Pablo N. Molina
Visualization software and data narrative design by James N. Sears and Jonathan Cousins
Music, sound, and software design by Nathan Ruyle
Lighting design by Christopher Kuhl
Produced by Miranda Wright / Los Angeles Performance Practice
Paul Abacus: Sonny Valicenti
Steadicam Operators: Nicholas Konow and John Luna
Commissioned by EMPAC / Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY