Musings From Inside Midtown Window:
13 Performances in 13 Days
There is a ground level window -- imagine an oversized exhibition cabinet trimmed with a large gold frame -- on East 47th Street next to The Roger Smith Hotel in Midtown East. With gallant certainty it sits wedged between an unassuming Brownstone and Snafu Bar, the infamous local drinking institution. There is something 'Alice in Wonderland' about it -- passing it on this otherwise tame Midtown street, you need only glance over for a fleeting moment to feel like you have fallen into a weird and wonderful rabbit hole.
In actual fact, it is a Roger Smith Hotel space dedicated exclusively to the introduction of emerging, unrepresented artists each by a person, who is their champion, a proponent of their work.
Season 1 of The Introducing Series saw 14 artists presenting one piece of work in the window over two weeks. This was followed by Season 2, which comprised of 13 performance based artists presenting their work in the space for one day each consecutively; this selection of introductions was made by the five producers of Rooftop Dance.
As the coordinator of this series, I was aware that we were taking on a beast of an endeavor; the vigor it required to produce, participate and witness, the fervent pace and the sheer moxie it required. For us, it perfectly embodied the vitality, the raw and brazen beauty of that fleeting New York Minute.
In the same way that we shared this experience with 4,000 people on the daily live stream, we watched passers-by finding themselves unexpectedly captivated by the performed vignettes. Jon Burklund, one of the participating artists also noted how people passing the window would power walk past, glance over, take a few steps back, whip out their smart phone, take a picture and continue on their way -- the most contemporary way to capture those fleeting moments and save them for later.
What was most intriguing though is perhaps the experience of the artists, existing in a 5ftx6ft box for 12 hours. The paradox of, on the one hand, being sectioned in a space shielded from the world by glass and walls, and on the other, being so completely exposed to the audience through that same glass pane, and three cameras.
We have invited Rooftop/Groundfloor Producer Sarah Roser and Isabella Hreljanovic, and three of the artists to report on their experience in The Window at 125.
Season 2: Participating Artists
Lindsey Dietz Marchant, Amanda Szeglowski, Deborah Lohse, Ilona Bito, Sarah McSherry, Jillian Sweeney, Mariana Valencia, Tony Carlson, BoomBat Gesture, Annette Herwander, Walter Dundervill, Kirsten Schnittker
Musings From The RoofTop/Groundfloor Producers
We, the five producers of RoofTop Dance were looking for a Brooklyn rooftop to house our summer performances -- but on the way our search led us to The Window (of opportunity, so to speak) at 125 at the Roger Smith Hotel. Though the tiny street-level window was almost the exact opposite of RoofTop Dance's usual summer home on a spacious Bushwick rooftop, it fit perfectly with our mission. Partnering with the Roger Smith Hotel as part of their Introducing Series allowed us to present artists with a unique performance opportunity, and challenged us to consider the audience in a way that was immediate and unexpected.
It was important to us to curate artists (rather than already-made works) that would be engaged and challenged by the restraints of the space, the 12-hour performance duration, and the hyper-visible nature of the installation. Encouraged to address these constraints according to their own interests, the 13 artists explored a wide range of approaches, styles, and contexts. We were also interested in how the unsuspecting audience of Midtown passers-by would react, and what would come of having performance inserted into their neighborhood and commute.
For us as producers, part of the excitement in watching this series unfold was seeing questions and contentions often discussed within New York's experimental (and often insular) dance community arise and seek resolution in immediate minutia, as interactions between performer, passerby, audience and hecklers played out on repeating 10-second timelines.
Musings from Tony Carlson
The format of our installation day was centered on the idea of a completely visible building process, a performance that exhibits the making of a performance. We followed a fairly simple structure of "Improvise, Build, Perform" over the course of four "rounds," each round producing 15 minutes of built material.
We planned to, by the end of the day, arrive at a total of an hour's worth of material and, thus, will have fashioned an evening-length performance over the course of 12 hours.
Frankly, I anticipated the space to be less a "limitation" than a hindrance; what I thought would be a claustrophobic experience became, instead, a dense, enriched, and nourishing one. As our bodies moved through the space, the heat began to build, the room perspired, and everything took on a dewy, gelatinous, and amniotic feeling. The windows fogged up, and our sweat made touch slippery.
Both Jasmine and I are still students, and so our choreographic work is often structured around the prompt of a guide, fulfilling needs of an assignment, or merely for practice's sake. This is, of course, not bad or otherwise unproductive work. But to be given the opportunity to create merely for the sake of creating, and to manage to bring with it, our own kind of, even amateur, sophistication, was so heart-filling.
Musings From Ilana Stuelpner, Boom Bat Gesture Performance Group
As a group of multi-disciplinary artists who devise theater pieces collaboratively, we jumped at the opportunity to throw our obligations away for the day and devote 12 hours to improvising, experimenting, and playing together on display for all to see. As source material we used content and ideas we had already been working with for the past year in our on-going performance piece, Screen Eyed Baby Ice. That work focuses on the preservation and manipulation of the creative impulse through person-person and technology-person filters, incorporating movement, sound, and spoken word in its textural palette.
Over the course of the day we became acutely aware of the variety of experiences of the random people who walked past The Window. Some watched for minutes, some for seconds, and some didn't notice us at all; we had no control over the time-frame or experience of the audience, as we do in a theater setting.
Because our complete 12-hour composition was impossible to fully communicate to the passerby through his random encounter, we relied on the eye of the Internet to fossilize every moment of the day via the three live-stream cameras. Even though the online audience was just as transient as the one on the sidewalk, the idea that someone could have been watching us from 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. without our ever knowing forced us to consider the arc and development of the whole day, each moment leading, somehow, to the next. Even just the presence, the imposition of the Internet itself created a pressure to compose for, and address this invisible audience throughout the day.
Our time in The Window at 125 was exhilarating, exhausting, and curious. Many questions were raised, many answers withheld, many coffees consumed. We are excited to continue expanding and performing Screen Eyed Baby Ice and to begin work on new projects using new material we created while participating in Rooftop/Groundfloor. Our day at the window allowed us to consider not only the different ways we can work, but also made us wonder about the different ways an audience can work.
Musings From Mariana Valencia
The window's color and size is where I began: black. I wore a black sweater with stringy piles of Black shredded fabric at the sleeves. I also wore Black pants and sneakers (not Black). I placed on the windowsill a Virgin of Guadalupe figure about eight inches tall made of black clay. I bought her in Oaxaca, Mexico in a village where they make things out of black clay. I sat four little cows carved of black stone beside the Guadalupe. They all looked out and I looked within the limits of the space daring to look directly at people only a few times that day. I looked out once when I saw my old friend pass by, and a couple other times when some people I know waved. I smiled at children when they responded to my dancing. A lot of them were Japanese. I was in a Japanese part of town. I also ate ramen and sushi in the window. I drank water from a black and white checkered cup. I read a book with a Black cover (blue letters) about black radicalist performance. The book is written by Fred Moten and it's called In the Break.
In that black window with all those black things happening I wanted to be unseen and seen at the same time. I was not standing out of the color, I was working inside of the color. I made a couple of trips to the Japanese Market a few doors down, I also ate from the halal truck across the street. Three hungry meals in 12 hours. Four hour-long Black "performances" in 12 hours. My favorite part was when the window fogged from the heat my body was producing during these performances. It fogged from the bottom up and made me less seen.
The Introducing Series at The Window at 125
The Window at 125 is a repurposed exhibition space currently running The Introducing Series. It is a Roger Smith Hotel Special Project
The Introducing Series is an initiative that creates occasions for emerging artists to be formally introduced by an advocate of their work and champion of their future career. Artists will come from a spectrum of disciplines, including visual artists to performance artists, writers to musicians, film-makers. The series' constant is the principle of an introduced artist, the variable element is the appropriately diverse composition of each event. www.rogersmithlife.com/the-window-at-125
Founded in 2010, RoofTop Dance is dedicated to fostering an adventurous artistic community by providing performance makers, long-time art lovers, and first-time audiences alike with opportunities to share performance. RoofTop dance is produced by Anna Adams Stark, Edward Rice, Isabella Hreljanovic, and Sarah A.O. Rosner - learn more about the organization at www.RoofTopDance.com.