Tools for a New Movement – Chicago Reader

On September 24, Toolbox @ Twenty opens at Hyde Park Art Center (HPAC) to celebrate Seldoms 20th anniversary with an exhibition and performances as part of a large-scale collaborative experience between dancers, visual artists and the exhibition space alternative visual arts. Curated by Seldoms Founding Artistic and Executive Director, Carrie Hanson, in collaboration with HPAC Exhibitions and Residency Director, Allison Peters Quinn, Toolbox @ Twenty teams Hanson with multidisciplinary artist Edra Soto, Damon Green with sound artist Sadie Woods, Maggie Vannucci with painter Jackie Kazarian, and Sarah Gonsiorowski with textile artist Jacqueline Surdell to create new works. For six weeks, the Seldoms will offer six free live performances, followed by conversations with the artists.

Toolbox @ Twenty
24/09-11/13: Mon-Thu 10am-7pm, Fri 10am-4.30pm, Sat 10am-4pm, Sun 10am-1.30pm; performances Sat 9/24 1:30 and 3:00 p.m., Thu 10/6, 10/20 and 11/3 6:00 p.m., Sat 10/15 1:00 p.m., Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell, 773-324-5520,, theseldoms .org, free

The Seldoms was founded in 2001 by Hanson, choreographer Susan Hoffman and visual and performance artist Doug Stapleton. “The name Seldoms, we found it in a body photography book,” recalls Hanson. “The original Seldoms did a tableau vivant style performance in 1800s London – we just liked the name.” Under Hanson’s leadership after the first two years, the Seldoms retained an interdisciplinary focus, occasionally again collaborating with Stapleton, who helped facilitate the first Toolboxlaunched in Glasgow in 2017.

Visual art is “in the DNA of what we do,” says Hanson. “It’s usually not the starting point, but we’ve always paid attention to set design and extending the idea through video and animation. One of my favorite projects, Land of March [2010], was born out of a collaboration with artist Fraser Taylor. He’s in Glasgow now, but taught at SAIC. He collaborated with a videographer and made marks directly on film. I responded to Fraser’s article and his practice of tagging. Bob Faust has worked with us on just about every project since The power goes [2014]. For rockcitizen [2016], my piece about the 1960s, I thought I wanted something psychedelic that changes shape and form. He started thinking about stretchy materials, and he thought, “What about bras? So we asked someone to sew 208 bras together to create what he called “the brascape!”

Hanson turned to Toolbox as a way to reinvigorate one’s own creative process. “I had already been doing choreography for a long time, feeling stale and knowing that I was working with a formula,” she says. “So what can we do to disrupt this?” She has developed a method that begins with a conversation about the process with a visual artist. Together they decide on a single word, usually a verb, to describe the process. By using this word as a “tool” or prompt, the dancer then creates a new movement.

“The outcome is less important than the dialogue,” says Hanson, who taught the method in his composition classes at Columbia College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where students expanded the process to include any kind of practitioner. . “One of my students interviewed a PhD student in ethnomusicology who was working in Mongolia with shepherds. The shepherds sing for their sheep. So that translated into something the dancers could do together: people pair up, one vocalizes or generates a sound, bangs their fist on the floor, slaps, rubs their hand on their knee or whatever either, and the person listening improvises and moves. It makes you think in a different way.

While primarily used to spark new ways of thinking about movement, the tools they found sometimes find their way into the Seldoms’ final choreography. “We used ‘the elevator’ quite often,” says Hanson. “’Lift’ comes from Fraser Taylor. He makes impressions: he paints a surface, then lays down a piece of paper and presses it, then lifts it from the plate. You can make several impressions and the paint becomes lighter and lighter. A lift – in our translation – you have to do two things: you have to reverse it (if the ‘plate’ starts on the right side of the body, you do it on the left side), and you do it several times – and each time you do it decreases a bit. In a way, some of these tools have pretty strict rules!

“When we started this in Glasgow with five artists, trying to translate, it was very exhilarating. I wanted to not only reinvigorate my practice, but also think about the evidence. I’m guilty of it like everyone else. says, “This dance is about that,” and you look at it, like, “I don’t see that.” I see you gave it a title, a costume, sound elements, all those things that tell me more that it’s on topic, but I don’t see it in the movement. I want to push the movement to be as explicit and carry as much content as possible, so that the choreographers don’t always rely on the speech, decor or environment to give meaning to movement.

For Toolbox @ Twenty, Hanson worked with Quinn to select the four visual artists, three of whom have collaborated with the Seldoms in the past and all of whom have exhibited work at HPAC. “I had been to the first collaboration with Fraser Taylor, an artist we’ve shown in the past,” Quinn explains. “I remember being amazed that the dancers incorporated the artist’s work into their movements. I was interested in how this process works. It felt like a new way of thinking about a creative collaboration where both people have agency. [In Toolbox], the dancers don’t react directly to the work you see; they respond to the artist’s gestures and process. The first time the dancers will see the work is next week when they will rehearse in space for the performance. It’s crazy but so exciting!

Toolbox also created an opportunity for HPAC to rethink curatorial, their exhibition space, and the parameters of collaboration. “With this project, we made sure there was enough space in the gallery to make room for the bodies and to make distinct changes between the pieces,” says Quinn. “It’s not a group show where we’re talking about a consistent theme or something in everyone’s work – everyone’s work is so different!”

Looking back on 20 years of the Seldoms, Hanson says: “I feel both lucky and responsible for this house that I have built, where people can come in and congregate, and we invite different people at different times to spend time. I like that our creative processes take a year or two. I feel good that the ensemble members, even those who have left, have been like family. I feel loyal when I find people I want to work with. I feel this combination of fortune, responsibility and gratitude. It’s really about collaboration. These are these other artists with whom I had the chance to work.

About Debra D. Johnson

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