~ installations ~

“Digitized Figures” installation combining video, text and live dance reaches funding goal, debuts in two weeks

If you can get to Brooklyn on October 14th, 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd, or 23rd, the Digitized Figures performance and installation at the Gowanus Loft sounds like an event not to be missed. You may remember my post back in August about the Kickstarter campaign. They just updated it today to announce that they’ve met their goal (44 backers pledged $5,133), and tickets are for sale. As the Facebook event page describes it:

Digitized Figures is an immersive installation created by Sarah Rose Nordgren and Kathleen Kelley that incorporates video, text, and live dance to conjure a richly textured and fluctuating landscape. The installation elements surround and interact with the viewer, inviting them to play in and co-create the performance environment. Digitized Figures is totally immersive experience that you roam through, interacting with the text, the projections, and the dancers.

For more information, see the Smart Snow website. The next-to-most-recent update to the Kickstarter also goes into some detail about the interactive aspect:

As we are moving forward with the show, we are currently in the process of building interactive touchscreens designed by Krista Anne Nordgren. These touchscreens will allow the viewers to choose words and directives that change the dancer’s movements.

When they get instructions from the touchscreens, the dancers interrupt their regular looping dance structure to respond to the audience’s prompts. There are three dancers, three touchscreens, and an infinite number of possibilities for how the dance can be built by YOU the viewer. You build the poem, you build the dance.

It sounds wild.

Kickstarter to support video, dance and text installation “Digitized Figures”

Last summer I shared a video called Portlet from the on-going collaboration between dance and video artist Kathleen Kelley and poet Sarah Rose Nordgren—their Digitized Figures project. Now they’re preparing the world premiere of an interactive installation, and they’re asking for a little help.

The Campaign

Hello All! — We’re Kathleen Kelley and Sarah Rose Nordgren, a dance choreographer/media artist and poet who make up the collaborative team Smart Snow.

This campaign is raising money for a new performance installation that we’ve been developing for the past two years. Digitized Figures will have its world premiere at the Vanderbilt Republic’s gorgeous Gowanus Loft in Brooklyn, NY, and will be performing this fall 2016 from Friday October 14 – Sunday October 16 and Friday October 21 – Sunday October 23. (See the Facebook event page for tickets and details!). 

Your support is absolutely crucial to making this ambitious new work possible. Our $5,000 Kickstarter goal reflects only about 25% of the funds it will take to present this piece at the Gowanus Loft. Your contributions will go directly to covering the project’s production needs which include (but are not limited to):

  • renting necessary equipment such as projectors, monitors, and speakers
  • hiring our production team (technical director, stage manager, production assistants, projection designer)
  • paying our dancers
  • hiring a costume designer
  • supporting our press, publicity, and marketing efforts

Whether you can contribute $1 or much more, we are incredibly grateful for your support in bringing Digitized Figures to fruition!

The Work & Collaborators

Kathleen Kelley and Sarah Rose Nordgren have been collaborating formally and informally for 17 years, ever since they met each other at a party in high school and recognized each other as artistic soul-mates.

Since then, Kathleen has gone on to perform internationally as a dancer and to produce many live performances and dance films, and Sarah Rose has become an award-winning poet and writer. However, this will be their first large-scale performance and video installation they’ve produced as a collaborative team!

Digitized Figures will be the culmination of years of conversations and shared ideas between the two artists. As women working at the intersections of art and technology, both Kathleen and Sarah Rose share an interest in the mirrored relationship between technological and evolutionary processes, and the “natural” and the “human” inside of digital spaces.

In our commitment to create art that pushes the forms of dance and poetry into new technological territories, Digitized Figures introduces a completely new form which we call “choreographed text.” This form, in which text moves and “dances” across the screen, invites the viewer into a new relationship with language itself, presenting it as digital material saturating the performance environment.

We created the text, video, and choreography for Digitized Figures over a period of months through our artistic correspondence, sending lines of poetry, movement, and notebook sketches back and forth between New York and Cincinnati that eventually became the three core videos in Digitized Figures. Along the way, we’ve had the chance to present bits and pieces of the installation as a works in progress at various venues in Cambridge, MA, Brooklyn, NY, Iowa City, IA, Cincinnati, OH, and Montclair, NJ. We’re so excited to take what we’ve learned from these smaller showings and finally create the fully realized version of the installation with the addition of interactive video, four live dancers, and a completely new component that allows viewers to impact the performance through the use of tablets.

What a fascinating collaboration! Click through to read the rest, view all the images, and of course to donate if you can.

The Art of Poetry Film with Cheryl Gross: “Affects of Gravity”

Poet Chris Tonelli sent me this article regarding his collaboration with Boston-based performance artist/activist Andi Sutton.

A brief explanation of the video poem: Tonelli and Sutton collaborated on a piece that involved replacing a voiceover on a ride in an amusement park. They substituted Chris’ poem for music that is ordinarily played over loudspeakers. The ride chosen was the Gravitron, which is based on centrifugal force. “The Sculpture In The Memory” is the name of the poem.

Chris recorded the voiceover, which substituted for the music normally used to attract customers and sell tickets. This was a three-day event.

Affects Of Gravity allows the masses to experience high art without the stigma or fear of appearing ignorant. The fact that music is usually played on rides in amusement parks is indeed part of the attraction to the ride, but when replaced by Chris’ poetry, a third aspect is created. This reaches a population that would ordinarily shy away from anything highbrow such as installation art, therefore allowing the average person to gain an elite cultural understanding at least for a brief moment. I’m sure if people were listening, they would realize that the poem is about the Gravitron experience. But for most people the original intent was to enjoy the actual ride. This is the reason why people frequent amusement parks. The sound continues to remain a backdrop.

Sutton’s video in my opinion is perfect. It captures the gritty atmosphere of a seedy amusement park. There is an air of sleaze and perversion that is amplified, which personally leads me to a place my parents warned me about. For me it is nostalgia at its creepiest. I suppose some people would equate this to a fear of clowns.

This is a wonderful performance piece and I love it when artists think outside of the box. By incorporating the two genres, poetry and installation, they have created a fresh experience and perhaps gained a new audience as well.

I emailed Chris and asked him to further explain the project. These are his words:

I was giving a reading at the Plough & Stars (I think) in Cambridge and Andi was in the audience. And she approached me after the reading wondering if I wanted to collaborate on something based on the poems that I had read…13 weird poems (a chapbook called FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE GRAVITY AND OTHER PEOPLE, Rope-A-Dope Press) told in the voice of Gravitron, the carnival ride. The bizarre thing about that is, the poems were based on an art installation I’d experienced at MASSMoCA, not an experience I had at a carnival.

Anyway, what we settled on was replacing the typical pop music that would be played inside the Gravitron with a recording of me reading the poems. This was at the Topsfield Fair…Massachusetts’ big state fair. So we asked the operators how much we’d need to pay them to do this (how much they thought it might cost them in ticket sales), we priced the cost of a bus to get people we knew out to the fair (in case NO ONE at the fair wanted to ride it), and applied for a grant from MIT for like 3K and got it! So I had the poems recorded, we went to the fair and made the switcheroo, and Andi filmed it…capturing the responses of the riders, etc. Her thing as an artist is confronting people with art, not in a typical art setting, but when they aren’t necessarily expecting it, out in public.

Here’s a review of the project. An excerpt:

[W]e were prepared to pay more attention to the poetry than the kids around us. And they were all kids, talking loudly, full of sugar and giddy with a day at the fair. They could not have cared less about the poetry and sound recordings, and Colin even noted how they seemed to be trying to drown out the sounds by stamping their feet.

Yet, when the ride started to spin and there was nothing but the whir of the motors, the sound of the recordings and the pull of gravity, something seemed to change. Tonelli’s voice, the voice of the Gravitron, spoke with authority. The machine demanded our attention, pulled at us and spoke to us at the same time. For that brief period, the length of one midway ride, our small group of artists and children understood the Gravitron in a way that I doubt any of us will understand any other carnival ride.