"Artists Respond to the Gulf Oil Spill" Short devised performances on a Brooklyn rooftop created in response to the Gulf Oil Spill. Photo by Yunlu Shen.
This month's featured organization Hybrid Theatre Works is an international collective of artists that focuses on breaking artistic and cultural boundaries through the creation of work that is a hybrid of disciplines, cultures, and fields of study. Hybrid Theatre Works creates interdisciplinary devised work, develops new international plays, and community based projects. IAP and NYFA Program Associate Michon Ashmore interviewed co-founder of Hybrid Theatre Works Tracy Cameron Francis.
Tell us about your background as an artist and how you, with your co-founder, were motivated to start your organization Hybrid Theatre Works.
I have a degree in both international relations and theatre, as does my co-founder. After college I chose to pursue theatre directing as a career as opposed to going into government because I strongly believe that the arts, and particularly live performance, are one of the best forums for building cultural understanding, investigating conflicts, and engaging with each other and the issues of our world. Additionally, both I and my co-founder were raised by immigrant parents so we felt ourselves split between two cultures and two worlds. That was where the name of our company initially came from - this hybrid sense of identity and culture - though it has also come to represent our artistic aesthetic of mixing disciplines in our work. We wanted to create a place where artists who grew up in different cultures, or those who had newly arrived to the U.S., could find an artistic family that would embrace and celebrate these differences.
Was there a key moment or event that triggered your passion to use your organization to not only support international artists, but also to see the organization as a way to be a peace-building entity? Are any of the plays you produce centered on this theme?
From the beginning our mission in starting the company was to utilize the arts for cultural diplomacy and peace-building. All of our work, whether script based or devised, either investigates social or political issues or helps to build bridges between cultures by having people from different countries and backgrounds collaborate together to create the work. The first project we did was as resident teaching artists at The International Center in New York, where twice a week for several months we met with a group of recent immigrants of diverse countries and ages with varying English-speaking skills. This project showed us the power of theatre to connect people from around the world despite linguistic and cultural differences. The project culminated in an original show created with the participants based on their own experiences and stories focused on the theme of “home.”
One of our ongoing programs is the Artist Response Forum, where we ask artists from different cultural backgrounds to create a short performative response to a recent world event or relevant social issue. The aim is to shorten the response time between world events and artistic response and to present diverse perspectives on the issue through the performances. Some past performances examined the Gulf oil spill on a Brooklyn rooftop, green card marriage at the W hotel, and hunger, which was a walking tour through the East Village that doubled as a food drive.
We believe that one of best forms of cultural diplomacy is through a person-to-person connection and artistic collaboration. While we are always happy when we can facilitate this type of connection in person, it isn’t always logistically possible so we often turn to technology. One of my favorite events that we have done was called “Global Spotlight: East Africa,” where we paired East African playwrights with U.S.-based directors to develop new plays over Skype. These were then presented at LaMama’s Culture Hub simultaneously to the live audience in New York and to the video conferenced audiences in Kenya and Uganda. My favorite moment of this event was a call and response that occurred between the U.S. and Ugandan audience showing the power of theatre to connect cultures, even between continents.
IAP and NYFA Program Associate Michon Ashmore interviewed multi-media artist and two-time NYFA Fellow José Carlos Casado to find out more about his artistic practice, recent projects and his experience as an immigrant artist. José Carlos uses technologies to create art involving video, 3D animation, photography and sculpture. His work has been shown in multiple solo and group shows internationally and has won numerous prizes and recognitions, including a grant from Picasso Foundation, a scholarship from LaCaixa Foundation, and MIT's Leonardo Excellence Award.
Tell us about your work. What motivates you to use technology to explore the art world?
I use technology because it's the easiest tool to navigate the blurry line between what's real and what is not. I am endlessly amazed by what people decide to believe in, and how for another person that belief might be far from their reality. I use technologies to create my own unreal worlds, but they are very much based on what I consider truth.
In that way, art is my sort of therapy to understand the things I like and dislike in this world. I do it as the only way I know to calm my nonstop spinning head. I do it because I cannot not do it. My work has many layers, but certain themes are constant: one of them is always political, usually an ironic interpretation of what I find outrageous; things I don't understand, which are often related to the human, mostly male-generated, obsession with power and/or violence.
Also, technology is an infinite (sometimes exhausting) field with endless possibilities, with discoveries and advancements every day, and that means a continuous research and learning experience for me. It's a playful tool I can use to create new and unique experiences. I like the shock of the new. I revisit certain themes that interest or challenge me, but visually, my work is very diverse. If sculpture is the best way to explore an idea, I'll make a sculpture. If a performance is best, then that's what I'll do, and if I need to change the style of my last creations, I won't hesitate twice.
My work is most of the time an accident that happens in the process of researching and experimenting. It's not normally what I was looking for when I started, it's a single happening that surprised me, which I will then develop for months. But then it all clicks, and becomes something I am satisfied with (or as satisfied as my tolerance will allow).
You have had a successful collaboration with Swatch, participating in a residency at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai and creating “OFF” for the watch brand’s 30th anniversary. What insights have you gained through this experience?
While I was excited by Swatch's invitation, I have to say I was not convinced at first and took some time to accept. Being my first collaboration with a major company, I had doubts: Is this what I want to do? Does it fit with my work as an artist? Then I realized they were giving me complete freedom, and I started to see it as another medium to explore. Swatch was not asking me for just any watch; they wantedmywatch, and then it was easier to accept and to create the watch since it became part of my regular process. It turned into a small canvas for the series I am currently working on.
It has also been a good opportunity for me to think about time, not only generally about the passing of time, but literally about seconds and minutes. Also, about the many people I would be reaching. Visual artists don't have that chance very often, as exhibitions are normally seen by hundreds not thousands, unless you are The Artist, who I am obviously not. It wasn't only creating the watch, but also the concept and that gave me opportunities to add a limited edition watercolor and an Augmented Reality project that users can see by downloading an app for their Smartphones. So like everything I do, the watch became complex and turned into something else; it's now amini showI am proud of. It has taken me out of my studio as well, something I believe artists should do more often!
OFF was launched at the 55th Venice Biennale with a big presentation and press conference. Being part of the Biennale with this little piece has been a dream, and now I just hope to come back soon with a bigger work!
Thanks to this collaboration, I am also doing solo shows in Shanghai and Madrid in the Fall. So far, I am happy I accepted their proposal and I’m still figuring out where this project will take me. It's exciting!
|7.10. 2013. Second meeting of the Mentoring Program at Queens Museum of Art featuring Mentee Barbara Rubin's presentation. Photo by Giada Crispiels.
Highlight: Mentoring Program for Immigrant Artists 2013
After an extremely competitive process, New York Foundation for the Arts is pleased to announce the mentees for 2013. Twenty-three artists from multiple disciplines were selected.
Martita Abril, Performing (Mexico); Santina Amato, Visual (Australia); Franca Barone, Visual (Argentina); Gianluca Bianchino, Visual (Italy); Pablo Carpio, Visual (Spain); Heejung Cho, Visual (Korea, S); Isabelle Garbani, Visual (France); Hidenori Ishii,Visual (Japan); Jain Kwak, Visual (Korea, S); Grace Lee,Literary (Korea, S); Hyunji Lee, Visual (Korea, S); Jaqueline León, Literary (Mexico); Lucia Pedi, Visual (Italy); Javier Peñalosa, Literary (Mexico); Liesl Pfeffer, Visual (Australia); Alfredo Plot, Visual (Argentina); Barbara Rubin, Performing (South Africa); Laetitia Soulier, Visual (France); Anita Sto, Visual (Italy); Rica Takashima, Visual (Japan); Oded Tzur, Performing (Israel); Octavio Vazquez, Performing (Spain); Ezra Wube, Visual (Ethiopia).
For a full list of Mentees and their Mentors with websites, please click here.
An exhibition at NYFA featuring the participants will be on view September 27 - January 16, 2014, with the opening reception and live performances coinciding with this year's Dumbo Arts Festival. NYFA thanks our funders Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, The New York Community Trust and the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation for their generous support of the program.
Mentoring Alumni Corner: News and Updates
*Featured Image: Liene Bosquê (Mentee 2012/Mentor 2013) is included in a group show curated by Melissa Levin, if color, then also dimension; if flatness, then texture, etc. The exhibition is on view through September 29, 2013 at Building 110: LMCC’s Arts Center at Governors Island, NY. Open Saturdays and Sundays, 12-5pm. For more info click here.
Randy Gener (Mentee 2011) is organizing a theatre event with the Filipino American stars and crew of “Here Lies Love,” the immersive musical event by David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim. They will gather for an afternoon of drinks and conversation with the public on Saturday, July 20th, from 1 - 3pm at the Ugly Kitchen restobar (103 1st Ave., New York, NY). For more info click here.
Eva Nikolova's (Mentee 2011/Mentor 2013) work was selected by Roberta Waddell, Curator of Prints Emerita at the New York Public Library, to be featured in Manhattan Graphic Center's Third Annual Juried Show. Exhibition is on display now through August 18th at 250 West 40th Street, 5th Floor. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 20th from 6:30 - 8:30 pm. For more info click here.
Neil Rolnick (Mentor 2011/13) will be performing at Galapagos Art Space, 16 Main St, Brooklyn on August 8, 8pm. Neil Rolnick vs Matt Marks. Two classical composers with a penchant for pop will duke it out. Featuring a brand new mash-up of Everly Brothers tunes from Neil, and Matt's Shame Remixes. Neil will be joined byTodd Reynolds and Vicky Chow, and Matt will have Kathleen Supové, Courtney Orlando, Mike Gurfield and Domenica Fossati on board. For more info click here.
*Featured Image: Liene Bosquê, Castello Plan, 2013. Plaster and vynil. 8 x 96 x 122 inches . Photo by Farideh Sakhaei.
DRUM CASKET USA
Tour Launch Party at The Pine Box Rock Shop
August 1st 9PM
Drum Casket USA is an interactive sound installation and performance piece.
The designed interaction is centered around artist Amery Kessler’s invented instrument, Drum Casket.
More News & Views
Installation view of Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions 1966-2013
Hunter College Times Square Gallery, NY, 2013
Photo: Louis Chan
Opening: Friday, March 29, 6-8pm
MINUS SPACE is delighted to announce the exhibition Sanford Wurmfeld: Light & Dark. This is the New York-based artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and it will feature a suite of new paintings investigating the extremes of light and dark value in color painting.