Interested in the creative mind meet-up suggested in When Brains Collide? The first meeting is scheduled for Saturday, June 22, and the discussion will start off with the most basic of creative problems: “In a Rut.”
Artists, writers, musicians, performers…come prepared to discuss the project you’re working on and how it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Or, maybe you’ve felt uninspired to get started on anything?
Every creative person has been there at one point or another and sometimes all you need is a little nudge forward. Be prepared to also provide suggestions, encouragement and an open mind to the different ways that people work.
We will try to keep the meeting to one hour. So bring your coffee snobbery and your rutted self for us to commiserate, encourage and move each other forward.
If you go
What: When Brains Collide Meet-up
Date: Saturday, June 29
Time: 12 noon
Where: Cartel Coffee, 1 N. 1st St. (corner of Washington and 1st St.)
Subject for the next meeting: “Things Don’t Work”, technological, media and computer problems in a work in progress.
Symphony Hall and the Orpheum Theatre are Ballet Arizona’s usual performance spaces, firmly in the heart of downtown. Occasionally, however, the troupe ventures outdoors for its free annual Ballet Under the Stars community performances and, for the second year, Topia at Desert Botanical Garden.
“The lighting and staging are better this year,” says Artistic Director Ib Andersen, a Balanchine protégé known for his appealing choreography. He created Topia last spring, crafting an instantly popular work on a large-scale outdoor stage for a production completely unique to the Valley’s environment.
Unusual aspects of Topia come from not only the open-air surroundings but also the sheer size of the endeavor. The 80-foot stage is considerably wider than Ballet Arizona’s typical indoor venues, generating logistical challenges of scale. It’s also set at ground level, a fundamental difference from the troupe’s elevated staging for Ballet Under the Stars.
“I wanted the dancers to be level with the audience and level with the desert,” describes Andersen, “so everything is a part of the ballet.” His concept incorporates the flora and fauna of the Garden in a show very specifically designed for its exact location.
Topia begins at sunset, even before the dancers take the stage, while shadows move across the Garden and change perspective on the looming Papago Buttes. As part of Andersen’s design, geological characteristics become integral to the ballet’s scenery.
His lightweight, minimalist costumes also reflect the colors and textures of nature, although his original intention would have used far less fabric. “I wanted them [the dancers] to be naked,” Andersen explains, “but it’s impossible.” He laughs. “It’s distracting for the audience, and not practical.”
Andersen continues, “But the dancers aren’t complaining about the heat — they’re not too hot because they’re wearing so little.” The men wear flesh-tone briefs, while the female dancers are clad in gossamer tunics.
The music for Topia is nearly the entirety of Ludwig van Beethoven’s sixth symphony, the “Pastoral.” “Beethoven is difficult to choreograph,” says Andersen, “because it’s so complete on its own. It’s enough without the dancing.” He felt able to use Beethoven’s music, he explains, only because the Garden and the desert sky create such a vast, open backdrop, resulting in a production not constrained by walls or ceiling.
All photos courtesy Rosalie O’Connor and Ballet Arizona.
If you go:
- Ballet Arizona’s Topia:
Continues through Saturday, June 1 at Desert Botanical Garden
(Discounts available for Ballet Arizona subscribers and Desert Botanical Garden members.)
- Back in downtown Phoenix at the Orpheum Theatre:
The Spring Performance, featuring students from The School of Ballet Arizona
- Make plans to attend a free Ballet Under the Stars performance in September:
7 p.m. on Sep. 28 at Steele Indian School Park. Visit Balletaz.org for details
Many artists spend an inordinate amount of time thinking when, really, they want to change the world. They are something like maniacal world leaders but without all the guns, killing and domination. They are sketching, writing, researching, reading, watching, futzing. As mentioned a few weeks ago, this time alone to brood and develop can be incredibly useful and productive. But, sometimes, at some point, an artist might come to a point where she’s stuck and doesn’t know how to move ahead.
A good, complex work doesn’t usually get there by coming up with an initial idea and immediately executing it. You can’t say you came up with an invention by just talking about it. You have to actually go through the process of making the thing. In order to avoid artwork becoming gimmicky or only concepts that you throw around at a party after a few drinks, a little more work is involved.
There are a lot of these ideas that float around the community—a lot of “what ifs.” But “what if” these ideas and projects began to take form and “what if” there was a source someone could go to get out of a rut, hear some suggestions and be encouraged to move on to the next stage?
Enough Talk, More Action
I’d like to propose a series of discussion/brainstorming sessions for the downtown Phoenix area. It’s been my experience that sometimes, people just need a little push. This could be by sitting back and letting someone talk out an idea or by bombarding them with questions. Call it a selfish act but I like to see interesting things happening around me. I like being part of them. I like to think and help others work out ideas.
Each month topics will rotate from something like text-based works to art using technology to creative computer hacking to new approaches with sculptural materials. People interested in participating will sign up or congregate via a website and then be prepared to talk for five minutes in front of a group about the project. The focus of the meet-up is to talk more about the work and less about ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to the area, an undergrad at ASU or an experienced artist with national exposure—the point of the group is to use the collective power of each other’s brains to come up with a solution or suggestion on where to take the work next.
Think of this less as social networking and more as project developing. There are plenty of outlets in Phoenix for social meet-ups of like-mindeds. The art openings on First and Third Fridays end up being a place where artists and other creative people can mix and relax but when can we sit down and discuss the details and the ugly truth of actually making a work possible? Somehow, maybe, we’re holding back.
This can be a venue to voice new work that an artist isn’t so sure about—something that functions outside a comfort zone. Artists who usually work in paint but have been toying around with the idea of a web-based project could come to a meeting and solicit suggestions from others who regularly and fluently work with the web.
Meetings would stay on track with a moderator to make sure that everyone can be heard and no one monopolizes the time (we know how artists like to talk). Guest artists, curators and writers will be invited to participate in the discussion in an effort to bring in an outside voice with a different perspective. The direction of the conversation would be constructive, direct and candid. Be prepared for someone to cry. I’ve seen it happen before… or perhaps I was the one doing the crying.
If this sounds like something you’d like to participate in some time in the near future or if you feel that a meeting like this will help push creation in Phoenix to a new level, please “like” this article, use the comments section here to voice your support or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some name suggestions for the group: Clash of the Artists, What Happens When Brains Collide (WHWBC), P-Art-Y (you decide what the P and Y stand for), We Make Artists Cry, Combustion, ThinkAct.
You may have noticed that increasingly downtown Phoenix galleries are opening their new exhibitions on Third Fridays. This Third Friday (tonight) brings a much-anticipated show at Modified Arts, featuring new work from 3CarPileUp, a downtown Phoenix artist collective since the 90′s, featuring originating members Randy Slack, David Dauncey, and James Angel. For 14 years, 3CarPileUp has presented the Annual Chaos Theory exhibition featuring over fifty local creatives.
As a part of the 3CarPileUp exhibition, local film and video artist Perry Allen (a periodic contributor to DPJ) will premiere his new animated work, “Town of Product.” In 2012, Allen was awarded an Artist Project Grant Distinguished Merit Award (that’s a serious mouthful!) from the Arizona Commission on the Arts to create this piece, which premieres tonight.
“Town of Product” is an animated installation using still image advertising from the 80s to create 24 hours of life in a suburban town, complete with people that move down streets, peek in windows, and shop; breezes that ruffle trees, in world that interacts. Perry Allen digitally animated the project to reflect this 24-hour cycle then sped it up to screen in 24 minutes.
“There was kind of an interesting documentary element to the project,” said Allen. “I put out a call to my network of friends and contacts looking for examples of print advertising and people started sending me all these magazines from the 80s. I didn’t start with a focus on that time period, that’s just what happened.” The ads that Allen used came from the leading mainstream, pop culture magazines of the time – such as Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Vogue and Cosmopolitan, to name a few.
Every element of the town comes from the ads Allen discovered in the magazines: houses, trees, people, cars, and buildings. “There’s no storyline,” says Allen. “It’s more of a meditation on time and place, on our consumer culture and suburban lifestyle as it looked thirty years ago.”
To make it even more interesting, Allen was inspired by a conversation with Kimber Lanning to project the video onto the windows of Modified instead of an interior wall. In this way, the installation will be visible from both inside the gallery and to the people passing by on Roosevelt Street. Should be pretty cool!
The exhibition runs through June 7.
If You Go
Where: Modified Arts, 407 E. Roosevelt
When: Friday, May 16 through Friday, June 7
For more info: 602-462-5516 or Facebook
This is definitely it. This is the last of it. A few cool soft breezes at night with the windows open will taunt you in your memory a week from now. Soon we’ll be closing the blinds and hissing at the sunlight like trapped vampires. It goes by many names but I like to call it “underwear weather.” More traditionally, it’s called summer. And, as every good Phoenician knows, summer begins in May.
Years ago, it used to be that once May rolled around, all of the art spaces in downtown Phoenix that didn’t have functioning A/C or swamp coolers would shut down for the summertime and stay closed until re-emerging in October. Now, considering the vast amounts of Facebook event invitations I’ve been getting, this tactic is no longer the case. Either art spaces have suddenly come across a windfall of cash or people in town are more willing to brave sweating together in a small room for the sake of seeing art.
While venues like Lawn Gnome, The Trunk Space, Frontal Lobe and Crescent Ballroom seem to have plans scheduled deep into the beast that is high summer in Phoenix, I see this time of year as having an additional advantage.
All good work needs time and focus to develop. With a self-imposed sun and heat quarantine, the summertime in Phoenix is the perfect time to think, read, write, develop, plan and scheme all of the ideas there was no time to focus on while friends were luring you out the door for beers on a patio or a hike in the mountains. The winter weather here can be blissful but is really not conducive to hours of concentration. I find myself staring longingly out the window and cursing our American workaholic existence.
When staring out the window means being blinded by a high noon reflection of the sun or witnessing a sweaty individual finding a sliver of shade to wait for the bus, the prospect of hiding indoors seems much more inviting. Living in such a unique environment, we must take advantage of the odd variances of this place.
Starting right now, you have five months to work on your grand plan. Instead of going stir crazy and disgusted with the sight of four walls, an entirely new project could be born. Most of the time, people don’t discover the benefits of focus and development. It can be ugly. Starting off is always a struggle of the conscious as it battles to defeat the beginnings of any idea. But this time, with fewer distractions, instead of saying no to the idea, you can say yes.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that philosophy is useless in the practical world without action that could take the form of writing or spoken words. Simply by stepping forth with the ideas in your head and putting them in to reality, we change the make-up of our world and begin participating in life.
So, although you might be sitting in your dark cave space, blinds closed, fan on, a/c set at 82 degrees so you don’t break the bank, and limiting contact with the “outside” world, you may ultimately be taking a greater part in it.
Once September or October approaches, emerge from your cool dark place and share your results with the city. If all works out, we should see some pretty amazing and weird work and maybe even some projects that expand on the conceptual groundwork that was created the previous year. Summer is the time to hibernate, develop and grow. Take this time to walk around in your underwear and see what’s possible.
Frontal Lobe, Go Joe show, May 24
Lawn Gnome Publishing, Sole: No Wising Up, No Settling Down Tour, June 18,
The Trunk Space, event calendar for June
Crescent Ballroom: Sea Wolf, June 17, Melvins, July 12