Tag Archives: interactive

Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, 2012

Love women? Love comedy? Then what better place to see both than at the first annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, which took place from June 6-10, 2012 at Stage 773 in Chicago, IL.

The female version of the long-running Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, CWFF was started by Jill Valentine, Stacey Smith and an awesome crew of mostly other females. Broadened to encompass a wide range of comedy styles, including sketch comedy, stand-up, musicals, one-woman shows and improv, the festival packed in 400 female performers from all over the U.S. for days of solid, bitch-talking, knee slapping, crazy female hilarity at its best.

The following account is my own experience as an out-of-town solo female performer, for which I performed as my alter-ego old man character Buoj iz Jeb, who has a knack for taking his clothes off in: Buoj iz Jeb Summer Swimsuit Edition 2012. Ahem, more about that in a bit.

Tech:

I arrive at the theater after a walk from the red line Belmont stop on a sizzling hot Chicago Saturday morning with a suitcase full of bathing suit props and a homemade man-suit.

Stage 773 is an impressive local theater joint, just down the street from the center of Belmont with its hip vintage clothing stores, funky bagel shops and fancy supplement joints.

Stage 773 breathes the sketch comedy scene that Chicago is famous for. Upon entering the theater, the first thing you come upon is a bar: something that all theaters should strive for if they haven’t already.

Audience + Alcohol = good, fun theater.

Brimming with three unique performance spaces, Stage 773 seems to have it all.

I leave my suitcase and man-suit in the green room of the Cabaret space, an intimate, small-stage performance space with glossy red theater couches and chairs at mini-tables. I am in love. What better place to peel off one swimsuit after another than for a beer-and-cocktail toting audience, to the beat of woozy Hawaiian music and sexy techno? Chicago, I have arrived. Or, better yet, Buoj iz Jeb has arrived.

Pre-audience. The place was packed later in the day!!

Panel: “Being Funny is Serious Business: A 360* Perspective of Women Doing It”

Sitting out in the lobby waiting for the Saturday, 2pm panel to start, I observe the crowd. A small group of mostly beautiful women, I’m impressed by the laid-back, friendly vibe. Jill Valentine greets me like an old friend: I admire her adorable bleach-blonde hair and pink-and-black striped tights. The ladies filter in wearing summer dresses and their free performer passes, along with a few men in jeans and t-shirts. The theater is a cool, welcoming environment off the sweltering Chicago concrete street.

The general style/air of most of the women present is creative, expressive and confident. One group of four practices a cheesy Chicago song while taking candid shots of themselves, while others participate in animated conversations. This much is clear: To be a funny woman requires confidence. And the willingness to fail.

In the Cabaret space the panel discussion begins. A group of successful and inspiring women sit at a table on the stage. They include (from left to right): Panel host Brian Posen (Executive Producer – The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival), Susan Messing (co-founder of Annoyance Theater and Improv Master), Ana Belaval (WGN News), Beth Kligerman (Director of Talent – The Second City), Marisa Paonessa (President/Agent), and Charna Halpern (co-founder of iO) . The panel discussion put the entire CWFF into context, and offered a unique perspective Chicago comedy scene.

 Here are some of my favorite quotes from the panel:

Question: What is comedy?
Answers: “Everything you relate to that makes you laugh.”
“You know it when you see it.
“It doesn’t have to be cruel, but risk-taking.”
“Throw it in the middle of a room and paint it red. If you fail, you fail.”
“Dealing with pain: humor & sarcasm (i.e., it’s personal).”

Question: Why now an emphasis on whether or not women are funny?
Answers: “It fluctuates.”
“We here in Chicago don’t talk about it that much.”
People are funny.”
“People just need something to fucking focus on again.”
“There are women in comedy, stop saying there aren’t.”
“They want funny women, Chicago’s where it’s at.”
“Women are dominating now (i.e. women are smarter).”
“In general, there is a bigger variety of people/colors onstage. Which is good.”
“We can play just as dirty as they can.”

Question: Is there a different between women & men funny?
Answers: “No.”
“Men laugh at men things (i.e. peeing in the bathroom). 

Question: How do you judge funny?
Answers: “It’s instinct, taking risks. You just know. Some are just natural.”
“A good team player, a wild one.
“Is it good writing, is it timely..”
“There’s so much talent.”
“How are they improvising, writing, acting, are you funny? (i.e. was there laughter in the room?)”

Question: How do you stay successful?
Answers: “What is success?”
“Go with the flow. Embrace different opportunities and enjoy it.”
“We get to make up shit. That’s successful.”
“There’s never a 3-year plan, just keep loving what you’re doing.”
“It keeps feeding itself.”
“In Chicago, it’s one big community.”

Question: Words of the wise?
Answers: “It’s Chicago, they don’t come here for stick-figure models.”
“They want you to succeed (i.e. are desperate for someone to go onstage and have a good time).”
“Try it all, go with your gut.”
“Put it out there in any shape or form (youtube, etc.- not tv or stage only).
“The more you relax yourself in the moment (as opposed to tensed up and ‘ready’), the better.”
“Failure: something better could happen (one door closes, something else opens).”
“Be nice!”
“Don’t look to your right or left (i.e. put your blinders on); don’t compare yourself to others.”

Performance:

I got so wrapped up in my own performance after that, that I didn’t write anything about it, and in fact would prefer instead just to show you the pictures and video clip below and let you judge for yourselves. The performance took place at 6pm in the Cabaret Space on Sunday, June 10. There was an audience of approximately 20 people, and the bill was shared with Chicago performance artist, Becky Poole. My performance lasted approximately 28 minutes. I will say that it was a LOT of fun:

Buoj iz Jeb Summer Swimsuit Edition 2012:

Video Excerpt (5 minutes of a 28-minute performance):

Images:


A Few Final Thoughts:

I’m so glad I participated in this event. It was fun, laid-back, and full of great women and amazing performers. Furthermore, in addition to performing and watching other performances, I also had a great time people-watching at the Chicago beach 🙂

Advertisements

Inspiring Art Installations

I’ve been working for the past couple of weeks on an art installation, and through the process have gained new respect for artists who create interactive environments for their audience to explore and respond to. Below are some of my faves:

 

Ernesto Neto

Griya Kulo: Thousands of Pigeon Feathers

Cakeland in Oakland

Leandro Erlich: Swimming Pool

For Use/Numen: Tape Installation

Pipilotti Rist: Video Installations

Maurizio Cattelan

Louise Bourgeoise

The Creepy Hamburg Water Woman

David Cerny: Look into the Abyss

Spencer Tunick

And now, off to finish mine!!!

Image Links: (for some reason I’m having trouble connecting the link, so I’m afraid for most of these you’ll have to copy and paste until I figure it out.)

http://vectroave.com/2010/07/ernesto-neto-art-installations/ (Ernesto Netohttp://forum.xcitefun.net/cakeland-sweet-art-installation-oakland-t40631.html Art Installations)

http://www.griyakulo.com/art-installation-with-fluid-concept-features-of-thousands-pigeon-feathers/art-installation-with-fluid-concept-features-of-thousands-pigeon-feathers08/ (Art Installation with Fluid Concept)

http://forum.xcitefun.net/cakeland-sweet-art-installation-oakland-t40631.html (Cakeland- Sweet Art Installation- Oakland)

http://slicemagazine.blogspot.com/2009/04/wtf-art-installation.html (WTF? Art Installation- Swimming Pool)

http://www.dezeen.com/2010/06/17/tape-installation-by-for-usenumen-at-dmy-berlin/ (Tape Installation)

http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/12/20/great-art-outdoors-on-buildings-in-moscow/ (Great Art, Outdoors, on Buildings, in Moscow)

http://www.thisistomorrow.info/default.aspx?webPageId=1&catId=188&pageNumber=1 (Contemporary Art Magazine)

http://artobserved.com/artists/maurizio-cattelan/ (Maurizio Cattelan)

http://morrisonworldnews.com/?p=12735 (Sculptor & Artist, Louise Bourgeoise)

http://www.lolgallery.com/the-creepy-hamburg-water-woman-photos/ (The Creepy Hamburg Water Woman Photos)

http://diannaspostcardsfromtheedge.blogspot.com/2010/08/look-into-abyss.html (Look Into the Abyss)

http://danielleandkait.blogspot.com/2010/11/spencer-tunick_10.html (Spencer Tunick)

http://www.shanelavalette.com/journal/2010/05/30/spencer-tunick-installations/ (Spencer Tunick: Installations)

Die Tomato, Die!!!

Last night I performed a piece, Die Tomato, Die!!! at the Performance Laboratory, which is a bi-monthly performance event I co-curate at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit. The theme for this month was Death.

I performed Die Tomato, Die!!! for the first time last April in a seminar in grad school, then titled Tomato Smashing. Here are some pictures from that performance:

It was a successful performance, and I made a lot of discoveries by doing it. One of them was that smashing tomatoes with a hammer was more difficult than I thought (they roll off the table, especially if they’re not ripe enough). Another, that the juice sprays everywhere, including on the audience, who in that particular space space (an empty studio space) was in close proximity. As they were sprayed with squirts of tomato juice, my peers grabbed a plastic sheet on the floor that just happened to be there, and used it to protect themselves from the bursts. There were plenty of  yelps and squeaks as I worked away with my hammer. It was hard to be serious even though I was trying to be- I really didn’t know what would happen, and everything was unfolding in the moment.

The performance was aimed to be an exploration of the RED BLOB, which has been a theme I’ve been experimenting with in my work over the past year. I’ve done all kinds of experiments around the idea of what the red blob might represent, without wanting to define it too specifically as one particular thing. In the tomato smashing context, the tomato represents food and cooking (and a female doing it), there is something quite gorey about it as it is smashed, and it has an interesting context in a performance, especially with me, as the performer, smashing it. Usually it’s the audience members who throw the tomato at the performer…

So, with all these things in mind, I recreated this performance last night at the Performance Laboratory for The Death Show. And it went really well! In the context of death and horror (two other themes I’m working a lot with right now), I wanted to continue with the seriousness of the piece, choosing atmospheric ‘scary’ background music. I chose a costume that was a bit more ‘glamorous’ than the previous one, and was a red color just a bit deeper than the tomatoes, but would be partially hidden behind my white apron. I also added a timer, that I set to 10 minutes long, which is the duration limit for each piece at the Performance Lab. I added rubber gloves, which accentuated the horror effect and made a lot of people laugh in nervous anticipation. And lastly, I handed out plastic bags to the audience members in the first row, who were in close proximity to my table. Oh, the anticipation!!!! AND, I waited to enter for added suspense- just the audience staring at those shiny red tomatoes and a hammer with plastic bags on their laps, waiting for something to happen….

Here are pictures from the performance:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I have to say, this is definitely one of the most satisfying performances I’ve ever done in my entire life. There is something so incredibly liberating about covering an audience in tomato juice. And even though it was a serious piece, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of participation, and a continuous dialogue between me and the audience. This is still a work-in-progress, and I plan on continuing to develop it for more future performances. I feel so thankful to have the Performance Laboratory as a continuous forum to try things out and experiment. I couldn’t have asked for a more willing and accepting audience, one willing to get covered in tomato juice for the sake of good and experimental art. I don’t know if this would happen everywhere… it would certainly have to depend on the context, and the space that I performed it in.

You can read a review of the Performance Laboratory’s Death Show on the Midwest Theater Review: http://midwesttheatre.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/detroits-performance-laboratory-journey-to-the-interdisciplinary-fringe-a-review-by-edmund-lingan/

For more info about the Performance Laboratory, please visit our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Performance-Laboratory/139602749441643. I co-curate this event with collaborator Carrie Morris. It takes place at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit (CAID) every other month, featuring short works by artists and performers that explore what performance is, and what it can be.

Art That Brings People Together

Unfortunately, 9/11 divided people just as much if not more than it brought them together. On the 10-year anniversary of the tragic event, of course we want to honor those who died and the families who lost them; remembering that sad day when all hell broke loose in New York and across the world. However, as so much of the alternative media is discussing in relation to the ten years that have passed since that day, a lot else has happened. And I’m sure you’ve already heard that it ain’t all good. Rather than try and sound overly smart myself, I’m just going to quote a few articles I’ve read over the day that have struck home for me.

The first is from Al Jazeera English, in an article written by Mark Weisbrott titled “The Decade of 9/11: war without end”:

The most important way that 9/11 changed the world, as tens of millions of Americans understand, is that it provided an over-arching theme and a rationale for the kinds of military adventures, invasions, bombings, interventions and atrocities that our government had previously carried out under other pretexts. For half a century the “war against Communism” served this purpose.

From OpEdNews, in an article written by Abdus-Sattar Ghazali titled “American Muslims ten years after 9/11”:

Alarmingly, the post-911 America has become less friendly to Muslims to the extent that they have probably replaced other minorities – Hispanics, Native Americans and Afro Americans – as targets of discrimination, hate and prejudice. Many American Muslims have a story of discriminative treatment ranging from physical attacks, a nasty gaze, casual comments to work place harassment, burning mosques and the Quran. Muslims have witnessed the ever-growing marginalization of their communities. According to a PEW survey released on August 30, 2011, forty-three percent had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The survey also said that 52 two percent of Muslim Americans complained that their community is singled out by government for surveillance.

And from USA Today in an article by Harriet Baskas titled “How the airport experience has changed since 9/11”:

Outside of sending men and women to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, no aspect of Americans’ way of life has been changed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as much as their travel — especially air travel. Many Americans say government air security requirements intrude in their lives in ways that not only inconvenience them, but also invade their privacy, humiliate them and even change the ways they behave.

Rather than dwelling too far on all the negatives, I’ve decided instead to look at the role of art as a medium to bring people together. Often referred to as participatory art, interactive art, and social practice, this style of art often brings art into public spaces, encouraging participation and interaction between people who might not usually come together in everyday circumstances. Here are a few examples of some of my favorites:

Improv Everywhere’s “Say Something Nice” project. To read more about their project, visit the post on their website at: http://improveverywhere.com/2011/08/22/say-something-nice/

French street artist JR’s “Inside Out” project. Visit his website here: http://jr-art.net/

Spencer Tunick’s crouching nudes in Mexico City (http://www.thecreatorsproject.com/en-uk/blog/creativity-bytes-a-guide-to-participatory-art)

Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (http://www.whatisparticipatoryart.com/)

Nick Tobier’s mobile hot chocolate tent (http://playgallery.org/stories/nick_tobier/)

Rose Petal Pool by Rounder (Joanne Jovinelly/Figment) (http://radioboston.wbur.org/2010/06/04/cambridge-river-fest)

Cardboardia. (http://cardboardia.info/)

Do you have more info or links to art that brings people together? Please share them below!!! Thank you.

Article Links:

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/2011910151711228528.html (Al Jazeera English, “The Decade of 9/11: war without end”)

http://www.opednews.com/articles/American-Muslims-ten-years-by-Abdus-Sattar-Ghaza-110905-979.html (OpEdNews, “American Muslims ten years after 9/11”)

http://travel.usatoday.com/experts/baskas/story/2011-09-07/How-the-airport-experience-has-changed-since-911/50300998/1 (USA Today, “How the airport has changed since 9/11)